FOOD 4 LESS DOLE DISPLAY IS TOP BANANA

SALEM, Ore. -- A Food 4 Less here was able to move more than 34,000 pounds of bananas in a promotion that lasted less than a week, putting up impressive sales numbers in the produce department and breaking the record in the continuing contest for the largest retail banana display.Late last year, a Vons Pavilion unit in Arcadia, Calif., set a new record, which was broken this past March by Metro Food

SALEM, Ore. -- A Food 4 Less here was able to move more than 34,000 pounds of bananas in a promotion that lasted less than a week, putting up impressive sales numbers in the produce department and breaking the record in the continuing contest for the largest retail banana display.

Late last year, a Vons Pavilion unit in Arcadia, Calif., set a new record, which was broken this past March by Metro Food Market, an independent operator in Catonsville, Md.

At the Food 4 Less here two weeks ago, store personnel constructed a display of Dole bananas at 10 cents a pound, which pushed total weekly sales up about 12% in the produce department, and moved more than 525 boxes in almost three days, according to officials at the store.

"We set out to build the largest Dole banana display on the West Coast," said Bob Kennedy, produce manager at the independent operation. "At final count, after five days, we sold 863 boxes, with nothing thrown away. We've noticed in other banana display promotions there's usually a substantial amount of shrink."

Kennedy estimated that total store sales increased about 10% during the promotion as compared with a normal week.

Getting the word out and getting shoppers to see the display were the keys to the promotion's success, Kennedy said.

Kennedy contacted local media and sent out press releases to newspapers. The store also put out advertisements.

He also invited students from a local elementary school to a coloring book contest, which he said drew a good amount of participation.

The display stretched the length of an entire aisle, about 60 feet long and 6 feet wide, and was set up in the store's "Wall of Values" aisle, leading shoppers directly to the produce department from the entrance.

"You couldn't miss it," Kennedy said. "We had a big banner that said, 'World's Largest Dole Banana Display,' hung above it."

A television showing a number of repeating Dole advertisements was placed in the middle of the display. Dole's mascot, Bobby Banana, made an appearance at the store during the promotion, according to Marta Maitles, a spokeswoman for Dole Fresh Co., Westlake Village, Calif.

The display took 17 hours to build, said Kennedy, but the planning took much more time.

"We planned it for a month and a half, but we couldn't have been prepared for what happened," he said, referring to how quickly the bananas sold out.

Kennedy is already toying with the idea of constructing an even larger display next year. "We're thinking of trying to do 1,000 cases, now that we know we can do it," he said.