BREAD FIXTURES ARE ON THE RISE

The sales boom in crusty breads nationwide has spurred other chains, too, to add new fixtures designed precisely to highlight those products.Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., for example, is testing a self-service bread dispenser at one of its newest stores.Here's how the dispenser works: Loaves of crusty breads, covered by a sneeze guard, are set on a slanted platform of vinyl-coated

The sales boom in crusty breads nationwide has spurred other chains, too, to add new fixtures designed precisely to highlight those products.

Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., for example, is testing a self-service bread dispenser at one of its newest stores.

Here's how the dispenser works: Loaves of crusty breads, covered by a sneeze guard, are set on a slanted platform of vinyl-coated steel tubing. When a lever-action mechanism is depressed by a customer, an individual loaf slides onto a narrow table at the front of the fixture. The customer then bags the loaf and pays for it at checkout. A gravity-feed feature slides another loaf into place immediately.

Joanne Gage, vice president of consumer affairs at 91-unit Price Chopper, said the merchandising equipment is "still being evaluated." She declined to reveal how the test is going so far, because of what she called "competitive reasons."

A bakery executive at an East Coast chain said his company is taking advantage of wood shop-arounds with removable shelves to display European-style bread and rolls. The company also sells the breads and rolls from an in-line service counter.

"The shop-around display gives us the opportunity to get more sales. You put them in the middle of the aisle, and you're hitting the customer from all sides," said the executive, who asked not to be named.

"We're trying to establish destinations within the department. If you have one display dedicated to a product [instead of in a lineup of other products], it says 'buy me.' Also, the flexibility of these fixtures is good. You can work the rack so it always looks full," he added.

"You may have gambled and got long on a product. If that's the case, you can mass it. Or, you don't want to put 200 packs of rolls out on a table the week before Super Bowl, but a few displayed nicely lets people know you have them. Then you can build a big display of them for the weekend," the merchandising executive explained.

Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas, dedicated a fixture of five wood shelves, each 8 feet long, to crusty breads behind the service counter at its newest store in Highland Village, Texas.

Each of the natural-finish shelves is lighted, according to George Timms, director of bakery operations. "We'd do this in other stores where the market would make it appropriate," he said.

Bagel sales success at Steele's Markets, Fort Collins, Colo., prompted the retailer to add two-sided, mobile bagel merchandisers, said Barb Harner, bakery director.

The merchandising fixtures are made of oak. They feature Plexiglas compartments with lids, and each compartment holds three or four dozen bagels each.