PHILADELPHIA -- In-store bakery merchandising should be designed, from top to bottom, to create demand and spark a consumer's buying impulse.
That was the message Nancy Chagares, vice president of fresh foods at Jewel Foods Stores, Melrose Park, Ill., offered as one of a panel of experts that presented the crucial "habits" of successful in-store bakeries at the annual convention of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association here.
Chagares said a successful merchandising strategy is based upon five principles that, if combined effectively, can differentiate a particular in-store bakery from its competitors.
"There are a whole bunch of equations that you can put together in determining what that answer is, that will help you define what types of merchandising works for you," she said.
Starting with the product itself, Chagares urged retailers to look closely at their packaging. Not only should it be functional, it should also present the item as it is intended.
A customer who purchases an item and arrives home to find it either damaged, or simply not "what they thought it was when they bought it," is a marketing nightmare for the in-store bakery. "Chances are they're not going to buy that product again," and may even avoid purchasing other items in the bakery, she said.
Placement of the product in the store is extremely critical, yet it can be particularly challenging due to an excess of fixtures available on the market. Retailers can cut through the confusion by simply remembering to maintain consistency in placing the item in the same location week after week, and especially in high-traffic areas.
Customers may know where to find cereal or flour. But she asked, can they "walk into your store and find white bread, rye bread or your killer cinnamon rolls every day, so they're not confused and know exactly where to go?" The answer should be yes.
Once a reliable in-store location has been established, the next challenge to face is what Chagares called "display-manship," the art of maximizing the natural visual appeal of baked goods. She urged retailers to mass merchandise the product when it is conducive to stacking.
"You wouldn't want to take white bread and stack it up on a flat table because the product integrity of the bottom layer is going to be lost," she said. However, large displays are possible with items protected by packaging, and "I guarantee, you're going to get impulse sales out of that."
While impressive displays are profitable in and of themselves, sales can be even stronger if there is an well-timed tie-in with the product. Chagares said the goal is to "think logically" about the subject and use the store's vast inventory to enhance primary displays in which bakery products are included.
Chagares cited a recent Mother's Day promotion that merchandised cakes, floral and fragrance products together in an open case that was proven effective without being cluttered.
"Don't be shy about tying in other departments," she said. "Talk to the other department leaders and to your store managers to get their ideas."
The final strategy Chagares offered concerned signage. Aside from the legal requirements that vary from state to state, Chagares stressed that all information displayed on or near a bakery product should contain a clear product description and the actual price. In the minds of shoppers, the sign is very closely "associated with the product it represents," she said.
Signage should also be appropriate in promoting the bakery itself. Here, the idea is to give each message enough physical space so as not to clutter the department, displays and the mind of the consumer.
"It's extremely confusing," she said in discussing signage promoting freshness, price, hours and special promotions. "And while all of those are good messages, they need to be in the right spot that's appropriate for the consumer when they walk in to make the association."