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Avoiding the Freeway Effect

An interesting topic came up during this morning’s retail produce manager panel “From the Front Lines: How Produce Managers Connect With the Supply Chain.” Mike Clay, a produce manager for Save Mart in California, noted that he had been making an effort to place fruits and vegetables that were on special in deeper locations of his department. The displays were still obvious, but if shoppers wanted to find them, a simple fly-by wouldn’t do. They’d need to walk into the department and take a quick look around. Hopefully, by taking those few extra moments, they’ll spot something else they need.

Similarly, Tim Millett, a produce manager for Lin’s Marketplace in Utah, said that his department had established a policy of analyzing customer traffic patterns, and once per quarter, moving key items around in the department in a deliberate effort to disrupt those traffic patterns.

Lots of retailers do this. Trader Joes moves popular grocery products around their stores frequently. And, as panel moderator Harold Lloyd pointed out, clothing retailers often rearrange everything at least once every two weeks. But Millett’s comments are a good reminder of what those tactics accomplish. As he mentioned, if a shopper heads straight to their regular spot to grab their regular item and it’s not there, then it encourages them to interact with department staff to find out where the product has been moved. Also, it increases the chances that the customer will see something new.

Otherwise, “you can get the freeway effect,” he said, with shoppers rushing through.