BAGEL ITEM FILLS BREAKFAST HOLE FOR SAGE'S

BOSTON (FNS) -- Sage's Market here is bursting out of old-fashioned department barriers and rethinking product placement with an eye to where consumers expect to -- and need to -- find products by creating a grab-and-go breakfast section within one of the operator's Charles River Park units."First we started with items of high quality," said Ed Murphy, store manager. "And we put them in a place readily

BOSTON (FNS) -- Sage's Market here is bursting out of old-fashioned department barriers and rethinking product placement with an eye to where consumers expect to -- and need to -- find products by creating a grab-and-go breakfast section within one of the operator's Charles River Park units.

"First we started with items of high quality," said Ed Murphy, store manager. "And we put them in a place readily acceptable and accessible to consumers. Often there is not just one, single place" in which to find a product.

As the operator initiated the breakfast section in the deli, items from other departments of the store were considered for inclusion in the new section. However, all these items had to be secure sellers, warranting multiple-location placements within the 6,600-square-foot unit. In the process, traditional department boundaries were thrown aside. "Imagination is the only boundary," said Murphy.

"We integrate items the way our consumers think and apply marketing concepts to product positioning. We have a wine section and wine in the grocery aisles. We have bread in the bakery and also half and quarter loafs in the front of the store on a display table," he said, citing other examples of the store's philosophy.

One item Murphy had always wanted to include in the deli's breakfast menu mix was bagels with cream cheese -- a morning daypart staple, if ever there was one. However, the retailer held off because of food-safety concerns attached to cream cheese sitting out, combined with fears of initial low volume.

It was then that a single-serve bagel product, produced by UnHoley Bagel here, prefilled with cream cheese at the manufacturer's facility, appeared. Prior to this, bagels had been available only in a multipack, take-home format in the freezer.

"We saw it as a great idea to market the bagels that way, as an individually wrapped item," said Murphy. "It's like running a demo every day, contributing to deli sales and perhaps contributing to crossover sales from one department to another."

All at once, the retailer's food-safety concerns were quelled. "It is a clever concept," said Murphy. "At our markets we like to carry unique, high-quality items. It is our hallmark."

The resulting merchandising solution for the grab-and-go breakfast section includes the prepackaged, individual bagel offerings along with coffees and self-service juices, doughnuts and pastries in two 8-foot multideck refrigerated cases. The bagel item is priced at 69 cents each.

"The refrigerated case is a natural merchandiser for the bagel item," said Murphy. "The food-safety issue was resolved, the product itself provided a nice visual. Now the item has a home in two locations and we have established consistency of placement with the customers."

One reason the breakfast-case facing of the bagel item really works for this retailer is that the vendor supplies the individually wrapped items within a case-ready tray. Without additional labor, the item can be restocked and rotated with ease, Murphy said. Additionally, the packaging provides the product information, so again there is no labor required for servicing customers.

"It's not easy to start any new product in any department of the store," said Murphy. Starting the breakfast section has not been without its challenges, particularly in the reassignment of space in an already crowded refrigerated case in a small urban unit.

Specifically, Murphy said he had to have an item that was already familiar to customers, yet possessed a high-convenience factor.