A FRESH LOOK

News & Solutions Special ReportEvery now and then it does no harm to step back from the onrush of events and see how a few companies are executing the basics of the business, especially if a basic execution provides a useful solution to a problem -- and fosters a sales upturn. In fact, let's step back to last week's Supermarket News and take a closer look at the Fresh Foods section. Fresh is among

News & Solutions Special Report

Every now and then it does no harm to step back from the onrush of events and see how a few companies are executing the basics of the business, especially if a basic execution provides a useful solution to a problem -- and fosters a sales upturn. In fact, let's step back to last week's Supermarket News and take a closer look at the Fresh Foods section. Fresh is among the sections that are always of great interest since it offers information about how supermarkets can be differentiated in the market.

Here's some of what was in that section:

The challenges from the Home Meal Replacement outlets continue hot and heavy, but these challenges are being met head on by Clemens Markets in Pennsylvania.

Clemens started a meal program called "Fresh Meals for You," and got the whole concept off the ground by giving away nearly 600 of the meals in the program's first week.

Some might doubt the wisdom of giving away products in such quantity, but I imagine that the large-scale use of the sampling concept will have a very quick payback.

In a talk to an industry group, the value of in-store product presentation was underscored. It was pointed out that sales increased at a Ukrop's Super Market location when a store worker known for his ability to chat with customers was assigned to a customer-contact Caesar salad station.

It was also shown, based on experiences elsewhere, that allowing shoppers to see a production process lends a theatrical atmosphere to a store. Candidates for this treatment include bread baking, sandwich production and the like. Good theater is good merchandising.

By the way, it was suggested that activity in a production area can be shown by means of a video hookup if a major store rebuild would otherwise be required to open a view.

It has long been conventional wisdom that a well- located perishables department can be used to forge a favorable store image. Rice Food Markets proved the wisdom of that while designing its Grocery World format. The format is intended to be price-driven, but Rice put produce first in the shopping pattern, unlike the practice at its conventional units. Sales increased. Image was also bolstered, especially since expanded meat and seafood departments are present too. This image development is especially important in the context of a low-price operation.

These three basic solutions are among numerous ones you'll find in these pages weekly. Everyone knows what these basics are, but seeing them executed well is a reminder that making sure they are followed is worth doing.

Letters to the editor and other comments can be sent using the Supermarket News web site at http://www.supermarketnews.com. Letters may also be sent to the mailing address at the top of Page 4. Letters may be edited for clarity and brevity. The web site also features weekly news updates, posted the Friday prior to publication, and a sample issue of the SN Group's weekly IS Solutions newsletter.