Proper product placement.

I was speaking to a friend who used to oversee liquor store locations. He mentioned butting heads with store managers who insisted that a mainstream, common product like Budweiser be positioned right in front of customers as they walked into the store.

My friend’s opinion was contrary. He said regular Bud shoppers would gravitate to where you merchandised the popular beer. He described it as the “milk” of the beer industry.

I suspect you know what that means.

In any grocery chain, staples such as bread, eggs, and, of course, milk are placed in the furthest sections of the store. Grocers know that by doing so, shoppers are compelled to walk past hundreds of other displays even if all they have on their list are those few staples.

Customers are tempted by the other offerings, and buy they do.

Think of the produce department as a separate store within the store. What single item do shoppers similarly gravitate to on a regular basis? What is the “milk” of the produce department?

If you said bananas, you’re right. Even though I’ve touched on the importance of marketing bananas over the years, what makes them vital is how they can be the trigger for other produce purchases.

However, that’s only if the customer is exposed to all the other wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve seen produce managers display bananas in the front of their department, which looks fine — only to witness shoppers grab a bunch as they ricochet away, never venturing near any other produce.

Like the liquor store owners, as much as I want to show off my No. 1 fruit, I want the customer. I need the customer to consider everything I have to offer. 

Some produce managers argued that I wanted to “bury” the bananas. Hardly. I wanted them to be visible from either the front or rear of the department. I directed that the displays be extra-large, having most of the day’s inventory on the sales floor. Right smack in the middle of the produce department.

This wonderful yellow banana-magnet draws in shoppers better than anything.

Once in, it’s an ideal opportunity to wow your customers, assuming you’re likewise prepared. Impress them with multiple abundant displays that shout color, flavor, menu ideas and variety to spice up their meals, and provide the freshest quality so they’ll come back again.

It’s your chance to greet them and make small talk as you offer a sample or suggestion. Impress them with an immaculately clean department, freshly culled with no out-of-stocks. All of this ensures maximizing your sales, which in turn generates steady gross profit while limiting shrink.

The humble banana is more important than we know.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected].


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