MOBILE FREEZERS MAKE EXTRA SPACE AT STORES

An "off shelf" merchandising program for frozen foods is building incremental sales for a tight department, according to some retailers who are using portable cold cases.The program uses portable coffin-case freezers that contain 10.5 cubic feet of selling space to bring additional merchandising to an area with traditionally fixed square footage.Units have been installed in about 1,500 stores in 17

An "off shelf" merchandising program for frozen foods is building incremental sales for a tight department, according to some retailers who are using portable cold cases.

The program uses portable coffin-case freezers that contain 10.5 cubic feet of selling space to bring additional merchandising to an area with traditionally fixed square footage.

Units have been installed in about 1,500 stores in 17 chains, including Abco Foods, Acme Markets, IGA stores in Arizona, Vons Cos., Lucky Stores, Winn-Dixie Stores' Raleigh division, Kroger Co. divisions in Detroit and Nashville, Village Supermarket in New Jersey, Big V Supermarkets in New York, and several divisions of A&P, Montvale, N.J.

The cases are used primarily to hold promotional items on a two-week rotation, with one manufacturer's products at a time in the case. Manufacturers who have used the service include Green Giant, Ore-Ida and Gorton's. The units are stocked and serviced by a third party, Superfridge, based in Guilford, Conn. The program has been available since 1991.

Cardboard signs advertising the product of the week are on the units' sides. The cases have a switch that allows them to be run either as frozen or refrigerated cases for the dairy department.

Jim Healy, program manager for the Super Fresh Food Markets division of A&P, Florence, N.J., said the division uses them to sell "just about every category" in the frozen food aisle. "They work very well because it is incremental display space in a case that is very tight," he said.

"They can be placed wherever the store needs them. Sometimes they'll put them in the back by the bakery, sometimes they'll be by the deli or the meat department. It brings a little bit of attention to a section that unfortunately people can walk by at times," he said.

"As long as an outlet is available they can be moved pretty easily," he added.

Super Fresh has also used the units for private-label products.

"The times when we can get the units for our own use and put in private-label or Master Choice items, it makes a real nice gross-profit dollar," Healy said.

"It gives us a lot more flexibility than what we normally would have, and it helps to draw attention to the department," Healy said.

Big V Supermarkets, Florida, N.Y. is "very pleased" with the Superfridge units that it has in 15 of its 31 stores, according to Jim Casey, manager of corporate communications. "We did experience an increase in sales [because of Superfridge], and we feel that any sales increase, no matter how small or how large, is significant," he told SN.

"Frozen food and dairy space is somewhat restricted due to the inherent refrigeration needs, so anytime we can increase sales space it's always beneficial," he said.

Ed Field, operations manager in Phoenix for the retail ad group IGA, said Superfridge is in over a dozen of the 22 Arizona stores using the IGA banner.

"Most of the smaller stores do need the Superfridge units simply because they lack frozen food space and it gives them an opportunity to have an extension of the frozen food case," he said.