DEMOS

It's always fine to think of the strategic import of industry developments, but sometimes it's just as well to take a look at one of the basics of the business, which, when well executed, can make a real difference.A news article in this week's issue, on Page 25, is a good reminder of that. The article, which derives from a seminar at this month's Fancy Food Show in New York, is all about in-store

It's always fine to think of the strategic import of industry developments, but sometimes it's just as well to take a look at one of the basics of the business, which, when well executed, can make a real difference.

A news article in this week's issue, on Page 25, is a good reminder of that. The article, which derives from a seminar at this month's Fancy Food Show in New York, is all about in-store demonstrations.

Demos can be very important, increasing sales of featured products by huge multiples. The largest sales gains are obtained when the whole activity is seen as a selling forum, not just a product giveaway.

Demos are constantly featured by membership-club operators, but often are underused by conventional supermarkets. They shouldn't be. They provide a great way for expanding a store's franchise beyond basic products. After all, shoppers really can't be expected to buy some exotic specialty product, or, for that matter, any new product, if they have no idea whether they would like it or not.

But beyond that, a sampling program can greatly enhance the entertainment level of a store, and reducing the tedium of a shopping trip is always all to the good.

Demo programs are often considered to be vendor-based activity, but demos can also be pursued entirely by store personnel, perhaps to promote a private label, or in combination with vendor-sponsored personnel.

But regardless of the exact purpose of a demonstration, or what entity sponsors it, demo programs always present a challenge in terms of their planning and execution.So let's take a look at some of the practical tips offered by panel members at the show.

A demo program need not be excessively elaborate, but it does need to be well-planned. It should receive enough publicity to ensure there will be high interest in the event. One useful device is to make calendars with demo days plotted out, and distribute them as bag stuffers. They can also be posted around the store, which has the added benefit of keeping store personnel up to date on the demo schedule. Moreover, it's good to have a theme for the demo, such as tying it to a holiday or to a seasonal-meal situation.

The program needs to have someone in charge. At many organizations, this could be someone who is used to being on the floor and interacting with shoppers. The person in charge of the demo should have a backup. Others working on the project should be good at promotion and selling, since that's what the demo is all about. They should be familiar with the product being demonstrated, and be able to cite its salient features and how it's differentiated from similar product. And all this must be done quickly since the attention span of a shopper won't exceed a minute or so. Sell first, sample last.

Presentation counts. The product under demonstration should be near the demo station and readily available. At the same time, it's best not to have the demo at the front-end of the store, or in a location so highly trafficked that the setup is in the way. And, those involved in the demonstration should have some sort of special attire, setting them apart from others working in the store.