CLEMENTINE DISPLAY CONTEST SWEETENS SALES

NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- A "house" formed by creatively arranging 548 five-pound crates of Spanish clementines has earned Genuardi's Family Markets, here, the grand prize in the second annual "Darling Clementines" display contest sponsored by LGS Specialty Sales, a Bronx, N.Y. importer of the newest trendy fruit.Tony Gambone, Genuardi's produce manger, explained that the house was built upon a wooden frame

NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- A "house" formed by creatively arranging 548 five-pound crates of Spanish clementines has earned Genuardi's Family Markets, here, the grand prize in the second annual "Darling Clementines" display contest sponsored by LGS Specialty Sales, a Bronx, N.Y. importer of the newest trendy fruit.

Tony Gambone, Genuardi's produce manger, explained that the house was built upon a wooden frame with a roof structure, and included a fully furnished dining room in which clementines were served for lunch.

To be eligible to participate in the contest, supermarkets were required to use a minimum of 50 cases of the "Darling Clementine" brand fruit.

At Genuardi's Family Markets, the vivid display spurred sales of more than 2,700 crates of the fruit in one ten-day period. "It was a huge success that remained in place for more than four weeks," Gambone said.

Luke G. Sears, President, LGS Specialty Sales, cited the importance of the displays. "The clementine season goes from November through February. Our contest runs for the month of December, because it's the midpoint of the season, so the fruit is at its peak, which makes it the best time to introduce it to customers."

According to Sears, clementine sales in the United States for 1999 totaled about 86,000 tons -- up from 45,000 tons in 1998, equalling an increase of more than 90%.

"More parts of the country are now selling clementines. It used to be mainly the Northeast," he noted. Sears said that the familiar five-pound crate packaging is a very effective attention-getter, and added that about 75% of clementines sold in the United States are packed that way. But it's the giant, colorful in-store displays that really hit the mark, he said.

"Even small or mid-sized stores can set up strong displays. An endcap with even just 30 or 40 boxes, a couple of times a year, really helps sales," he said.

Sears initiated the contest in 1998, offering a total of just three prizes. Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets won took top honors in the first competition. "We were so impressed by the tremendous creative effort the first time out that we added three more prizes in the second contest," Sears said.

As Grand Prize winner, Genuardi's was awarded a cash prize of $3000. Second and third prize winners received awards of $500 each. Those awards went to a Franklin Square, N.Y., location of Waldbaum's, Central Islip, N.Y, where the store's produce manager, Joe Bitoni, reported that their harvest-themed display yielded sales of 250-300 crates of clementines each day; and to Seaway Foodtown #45, a Temperance, Mich. unit of the Maumee, Ohio-based chain. There, manager Vickie Kreger fashioned a tall, eye-catching display featuring a Santa-adorned chimney, which the supermarket used as a vehicle to promote Christmas product cross-merchandising.

The three new award slots carried cash prizes of $200 each. First prize went to Richmond, Va.-based Ukrop's Super Markets' Colonial Heights store, where a huge boat made of crates of fresh clementines became the center of shoppers' attention. San Antonio, Texas-based H.E. Butt Grocery Co. took home Second Prize for their Texas-sized display at a store in Austin. H-E-B reported that chainwide clementine sales rose to an impressive 11,000 boxes. The contest's Third Prize winner was Defiance, Ohio-based Chief Supermarket's store #15 in Napoleon, OH. Like Ukrop's Super Markets, Chief Supermarket also adapted a nautical theme. Produce manager Peggy Shaver said that their display, dubbed the "S.S Darling Clementine," was a tremendous success. "Our sales increased 817% over the same two weeks in 1998," Shaver reported.

Many of the contest entrants, including Genuardi's, included sampling as part of their promotions. "That's very important," said Sears. "Once you get people to try [clementines] once, they'll become frequent buyers."

Genuardi's Family Markets' enjoyed a steady stream of customers entering their house-shaped clementine display to taste the specialty fruit. Gambone observed, "Constant sampling definitely increased sales." He added, tongue in cheek, "All tasting was on the house."