HARVEST REDECORATING PUTTING ICING ON CAKE

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Harvest Foods here is upscaling the service and self-service cases in its bakeries to set the departments apart from others in the stores.The new black cases, with gold-slatted shelving and gold brackets, are aimed at creating the feel of a bake shop within the store, and at more clearly defining the department's distinct identity, said Jeff Ruple, director of bakery for the 57-unit

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Harvest Foods here is upscaling the service and self-service cases in its bakeries to set the departments apart from others in the stores.

The new black cases, with gold-slatted shelving and gold brackets, are aimed at creating the feel of a bake shop within the store, and at more clearly defining the department's distinct identity, said Jeff Ruple, director of bakery for the 57-unit chain.

The black-and-gold color scheme, with lighting over each shelf, is reminiscent of fixtures that might be used in an upscale, French pastry shop, Ruple said.

"It gives a rich, customized appearance and really sets off the department. We're across the aisle from produce, for example, which has all white fixtures," Ruple said. He added that the new colors go well with packaging and other fixtures in the bakery.

"For example, our trays are black. So is our plastic caterware, and our pie containers have a black base," Ruple said.

The new cases will be installed in new stores and in most remodels. The cases had their debut at a new store in Mountain Home, Ark., last summer. Before that, all Harvest's bakery cases had been white with white shelves.

In the 50,000-square-foot Mountain Home store, four cases -- each 6.5 feet long -- create an L-shaped bakery department that is the first element customers see upon entering.

Two refrigerated cases -- a service case that shows off decorated cakes and single-serving pastries and a self-service, refrigerated case that displays gourmet cakes and pies -- face the store's front. Each has three tiered shelves. Forming the corner of the "L" is a chest-high stand with a book showing decorated cakes designs. The next two cases, both service, form the beginning of the first traffic aisle. One case displays cookies; the other, doughnuts.

Next is a flat counter with a cash register. The register also adds to the feel of a separate shop, but it is not a new element for Harvest. A dedicated register in Harvest's bakeries is the norm, Ruple said.

"We think it's a necessity for customers' convenience. If they're running in to get a half-dozen doughnuts, they don't have to stand in line with customers who have a cart of groceries," Ruple said. Coffee also is sold at the bakery counter.

Bakery sales make up 2.9% to 3% of store sales there, compared with a 2.5% average for the chain. Still, Ruple said, it's difficult to determine whether the new cases have hiked bakery sales at the new store, because other factors like the demographics set the store apart from other Harvest units. The newest unit serves a large population of retirees who have been drawn to Mountain Home from other parts of the United States.