How does the average produce department manager regard the top-selling produce item? He takes it for granted.
Often under-regarded, nothing else in the produce aisle requires anywhere near the same amount of preparation and care as bananas. On the same token, no other item consistently sells so well either. According the The Packer’s 2013 Merchandising Guide, bananas lead all produce categories, providing nearly 6% of a produce department’s sales.
Here are three areas to focus on with bananas, to ensure you are doing everything possible to maximize sales and care for this No. 1 produce item:
Ordering & Receiving
Bananas are sold according to a color range from stage 1 (solid green) through stage 7 (full yellow with brown flecks). Typically retailers strive to have stage 3.5 to 4.5 on display: fruit that is breaking from green to yellow, to full yellow with green tips.
Order only enough until the next delivery: This maxim is true when ordering all produce items, but especially so with bananas. The easiest thing to do is over-order bananas, thinking you will need ample safety stock. However, all it takes is a couple of days of slower-than-anticipated sales, or consecutive days of overripe fruit, and the excess inventory can quickly back up and create a problem. Consider also, if you get backed up on overripe fruit, banana sales plummet.
Know the rotation: Always rotate new deliveries using the FIFO method (first in, first out). Note: Bananas can be an exception to the FIFO rule. If newly arrived fruit comes at a riper stage, always push the riper fruit first to minimize shrink.
Storage & Handling
Avoid temperature extremes: Bananas are subject to problems if stored too cold (chill damage discolors the skin) or too warm. Always store bananas in a cool but not cold area (58 F, or 14.4 C, is ideal).
Handle with care: When handling bananas, take care to avoid damaging the fruit. Even dropping a case just six inches can cause bruising and shorten banana shelf life.
Heat advisory: Bananas continue to generate their own heat following the five-day ripening cycle at a shipping or distribution center. Immediately upon arrival at the store, release this heat and vent-stack to slow the ripening. To do this, remove the banana carton lids and pull the packing plastic back, then air-stack the cases, alternating case ties on the pallet to allow for greatest air circulation, which will help dissipate the heat. Work quickly, but always handle the fruit with care.
A high-demand, high-impulse item: Bananas are a year-round favorite for many reasons, including consistent quality, availability, affordability and convenience.
Center stage: Consider merchandising bananas in the center or deep within the produce department. Bananas are such a strong item that customers will naturally seek them out. The theory goes that as bananas draw customers in, they will be more likely to shop the rest of the produce department. Its not unlike what grocers seek to achieve in added sales by placing key commodities such as eggs, milk or bread in the far reaches of a store. Give the banana display a highly visible profile so shoppers can spot the familiar fruit from several angles.
Go big: Build the display as large as possible. Some produce managers build their display using their entire daily inventory. To do so, build a display with a spillover — this helps sales by creating an abundant look. It also makes it easy for clerks to stock the base, full cases as the display sells down while helping to keep the back stock area clear of inventory.
Build wide, not deep: Strive to stock bananas no more than one-layer deep to avoid bruising, and gently stock fruit onto a padded-base display.
Ripe with choices: Whenever possible, offer both green and riper fruit for sale, side by side, and let your customers decide which color stage they prefer. You will sell more bananas overall when selling both color stages, as some shoppers will buy bananas for immediate consumption, while others will buy greener fruit to last throughout the week.
Cross-merchandise: Tie in specialties and tropical items such as pineapple, mangoes and coconuts alongside bananas to complete the theme and enhance sales.
The more the merrier: Multiple banana displays generate added sales. Some popular areas include placement of additional, smaller banana displays in the dairy or cereal aisles. Make sure clerks make it part of their stocking routine to keep these secondary displays frequently culled and stocked for best results.
Bananas deliver in many ways, and with a little TLC, they can help a produce department go from average to great. And are the leading and keystone item, hands down.