COPPS ADOPTS A CENTRAL THEME

APPLETON, Wis. -- At its 78,000-square-foot superstore here, Copps Corp. has made the frozen food department a center of shopper attention -- more specifically, the center of the store.The supermarket, which opened this summer, has a 5,000-square-foot frozens section, the largest frozens department in the 18-unit Copps superstore chain. The Stevens Point, Wis.-based retail and wholesale company also

APPLETON, Wis. -- At its 78,000-square-foot superstore here, Copps Corp. has made the frozen food department a center of shopper attention -- more specifically, the center of the store.

The supermarket, which opened this summer, has a 5,000-square-foot frozens section, the largest frozens department in the 18-unit Copps superstore chain. The Stevens Point, Wis.-based retail and wholesale company also supplies 38 independent supermarkets.

Having the frozen food department in the center of the store is a first for Copps. "Customers have easy access to it," said Kathy Yaeger, the store's frozen food manager. "They can go from frozen to any other department, if they choose to shop it first or last. It's a lot easier for the customer."

Changing consumer demographics influenced the placement and size of the frozens area. "For Copps stores overall, the frozen departments have grown in size and increased in sales," Yaeger said. "Frozen food offers that convenience. And we envision continued sales growth in that area."

In-store merchandising plays a key role in marketing the department. The store makes much use of sampling, end displays and cross-merchandising, Yaeger said.

"We have built-in demo stations," she said. Located at each end of the frozens section, the stations are L-shaped counter units set in line with the coffin cases in the center of the department. "We have been able to increase our sales and distribution by featuring in-store specials, in addition to our corporate ad items, and allowing the customer to sample a wide variety of products.

"We have a demo service that we use. Just in frozen, we do 11 demos per week," Yaeger said. "We're just trying to get new things out there for people to try that maybe they normally wouldn't have purchased."

Along those same lines, racks seated on the entire stretch of coffins contain various grocery and general merchandise items that tie in to frozen food purchases. The display helps the store snare extra sales and draw shoppers' eyes onto the frozens cases, Yaeger noted.

"They set a lot of space aside on the tops of the coffin cases. There are grocery items, such as ice cream cones and toppings, and impulse-buy items from general merchandise, including ice cream scoops, straws, dishes, pitchers for juice, pizza cutters and pizza pans," she said. "It brings in extra money for general merchandise, but it also benefits total store sales."

Promotional displays are a linchpin in frozens, Yaeger noted. "We use end bunkers for advertised specials and for items we're featuring in-store. We find that a display definitely draws a customer to the product. It has a large impact on frozen sales, whether it be an item the shopper normally buys or an item that's being introduced.

"I try to set up my displays so that I'll have, for instance, a vegetable, a potato and maybe an entree item in a display. You try and set up your display so it's like a meal plan," she added.

The store's frozens department encompasses about 1,900 stockkeeping units. It has 236 feet of open multideck freezers and 108 running feet of coffin cases. A self-service freezer containing bagged ice also is in the section.

Copps prefers multidecks and coffins in its stores rather than glass display cases because they're easier to stock and maintain and are more convenient for shoppers, Yaeger said. "With the doors, you have to fumble, trying to hold the door open while taking the product out. Also, the doors tend to fog up once opened, and then the customer can't see anything in the door at all." Opened doors also can impede shopping cart traffic, she added.

Multidecks provide better product presentation than the coffins, but product temperature requirements, size and packaging determine which display an item goes in, Yaeger said. Items in the multidecks include fruits and vegetables, dinners and entrees, potatoes, pies and whipped toppings, while goods in the coffins include ice cream, frozen yogurt, rolls, juice, bread and dough.

"It's easier to have your ice cream in the coffins, where you can stack them rather than lay them on their side when your cases are going on and off," Yaeger said. "You don't want to have that product thawing and freezing."