QUARRYVILLE, Pa. — Ferguson & Hassler Supermarket here recently tripled its apple sales volume with its own “Local Apple Festival.”
The company has done something similar with good results for the past five years, but this year, it expanded the effort and produced record volume sales — just over 15,159 pounds during the two-week promotion. That's compared to 5,087 pounds sold in the two weeks prior to the promotion.
Huge displays of colorful apples caught customers' attention, and not just visually. An aroma of fresh apples wafted throughout the front of the store, causing customers to comment and to reminisce about earlier times, company officials told SN.
“You would have thought you were standing in the middle of an orchard. People told us that,” said Tim Hassler, co-owner of the single-unit independent.
“And I heard them talking about how important apple season was when they were growing up. They talked about the pies their moms or aunts made.”
The number of local varieties were increased this year, and space devoted to the apples was boosted by at least 30% from last year's promotion, Hassler said.
“We had 12 varieties this year, all from two orchards just 20 minutes from here. That's five more [varieties] than last year. I think it was a good [growing] year. The apples look great.”
A total of 68 feet of 6-foot-wide display, and six bins in the middle of the aisle, piled high with apples, dominated the produce department the last two weeks in October. Different varieties were alternated, creating ribbons of color, and point-of-sale signs, planted all over the displays, said, “68 cents a pound” and “Healthy to the Core.” Hassler explained that the company used an across-the-board price to make it easier for cashiers, since the local apples didn't carry a PLU code.
“We wanted to make a big deal of the price anyway,” Hassler told SN. “It was an attractive one, and we did manage to make a profit. Not much, but some. While some of the varieties cost us more — 72 cents a pound — others cost 60 or 64. So it averaged out that we made some money.”
Customers told associates they liked coming to the store instead of having to drive to different orchards — where the price would have been higher, too — to get the freshly picked varieties they wanted.
Ferguson & Hassler's apple promotion got prime space — three-quarters of the front page — in its ad circular for those two weeks. Banners, too, provided by the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Board, were draped over the aisles.
“Healthy to the Core,” the slogan on banners and signs, is a Pennsylvania Marketing Board slogan.
If the over-the-top displays and aroma didn't catch customers, then a day-long demo did.
From 8 in the morning until early evening, company employee Paulette Butler gave customers a taste of Waldorf salad, made from her own recipe.
“I used vanilla yogurt and Craisins instead of the usual mayonnaise and raisins. Most people liked it a lot,” Butler told SN.
“I used Stayman apples. They're tart enough to contrast with the sweetness of the yogurt and Craisins and they hold up well. Customers wanted my recipe, which I had printed out. In fact, I ran out of them and had to make more copies.”
That Butler is an employee of Ferguson & Hassler is a big plus, she and Hassler agreed.
“People have gotten to know me. They're comfortable talking to me, and they're not afraid to ask questions,” Butler said. “I enjoy the interaction and they seem to, too.”
She works in other capacities in the store during the week and demos product in different departments on the weekend, Butler said.
“Customers tell their friends to be sure and go see what Paulette is demoing this week. They say they get ideas for entertaining.”
Sales during the promo were at least as good as projected.
“All the apples sold well, but we sold out of Golden Delicious. It was Cameos [a variety added this year] that they commented most about,” Hassler said.
“They're both tart and sweet and have a nice, good crunch. I think they appeal to just about everybody's taste.”
Hassler said the company is entering its apple display efforts in two contests this year — The National Apple Month Retail Display Contest and a similar contest conducted by the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Board.