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PRICE CALLED TURKEY SALES' BEST RECIPE

Retail meat executives from markets around the country this Thanksgiving confirmed that when it comes to holiday turkeys, the single most significant factor is whether the price is right.Although several chains interviewed by SN did attempt to promote other items, such as spiral sliced or bone-in hams, turkeys still reigned supreme. Many stores reported record sales of the birds.Coppell, Texas-based

Retail meat executives from markets around the country this Thanksgiving confirmed that when it comes to holiday turkeys, the single most significant factor is whether the price is right.

Although several chains interviewed by SN did attempt to promote other items, such as spiral sliced or bone-in hams, turkeys still reigned supreme. Many stores reported record sales of the birds.

Coppell, Texas-based Minyard Food Stores' success with turkeys this year was almost entirely attributable to one supplier's advertising campaign, according to Arley Morrison, vice president of meat and deli operations.

"The Jennie-O people came in town and did some advertising on TV, plus dollar coupons, and it was just amazing," Morrison told SN. "We thought we bought enough turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it was enough only for Thanksgiving alone. It just blew our minds."

Jennie-O birds were sold for 38 cents in Dallas, Morrison said; but Minyard also carries Swift's Butterball brand turkeys, which retailed at 68 cents a pound. Morrison reported "excellent sales" on these as well.

"We probably had double our sales on the cheaper brand of turkeys," he said.

"We don't do any turkeybucks and we don't do 19-cent turkeys with a $200 purchase. We just try to give our customers the very best price that we can for the holidays and that seems to work for our stores."

In one area of the Midwest, price competition on turkeys was particularly fierce but with good results, a retail meat executive told SN.

"Turkey sales were exceptionally good, because of low prices," the retailer told SN. "I think all of us in our marketing area achieved our desired sales, because we really drove our biz. The competition this year was very aggressive -- all of our competitors had 27-cent turkeys.

Aside from the success with commodity turkeys, fresh turkeys also sold well, he noted, as did auxiliary items such as oysters.

At Jitney Jungle Stores, based in Jackson, Miss., "We just get down and dirty on price," one meat executive told SN.

In many of the chain's marketing areas, meat managers waited to see what the competition was doing before setting sale prices; but in most cases the prices weren't much of a departure from last year's, the meat retailer said.

"It was a real good holiday for us, the pre-Thanksgiving week was great too. The basic overall price on turkeys would have been probably 47 to 58 cents a pound," he said. "We had real good movement all around."

Unlike some of the other chains interviewed, Jitney Jungle had notable success with hams as well this year.

"We do awful well with having a full page devoted to hams. It seems like the customers go right for it," the merchandiser said.