Photo by Ashley Nickle

Bananas are your No. 1 volume fruit item for a reason – actually, for several reasons.

They’re a yellow beacon visible from many points in the produce department. They’re convenient and available year-round, a favorite for seniors, children, and all the X-Y-Z generations in between. Not to mention, bananas are the least expensive fruit in the store.

Here are a few thoughts on merchandising this remarkable, profitable category.

Handle with care

Ensure your banana program is always fresh with consistent sales by ordering only what is needed until the next delivery from your distribution center. Upon arrival, inspect the bananas for color. First-in, first-out (FIFO) applies to most produce items, but when bananas arrive at a higher stage, it’s best to put those on display first to avoid excess shrink.

Before they are shipped to stores, bananas spend about five days in a warehouse ripening room, a process that includes ethylene gas, humidity and temperature control. On a scale of 1 to 5 – starting at green and progressing through all yellow and speckled – bananas ideally arrive in the 2-2.5 range.

Upon arrival, bananas should be air-stacked at room temperature in an open, alternating tie pattern with the plastic within pulled back in each case. This allows for air flow to slow down the ripening.

Take care to ensure bananas are handled gently from receiving to stocking. Even a case dropped six inches can result in bruising.

Avoid temperature extremes. Bananas’ ideal holding temperature is 56-58⁰ F.

Bananas should be gently stocked on the display. Any rough handling will result in bruises that will deter sales and create unnecessary shrink and lost profit.

Product placement

Merchandise bananas in a prominent center location that can be seen from either the front or rear of the produce department with bold signage. This will draw customer traffic – meaning shoppers will walk past many of the other produce items you also have on display on their way to the produce staple.

Give bananas plenty of space. The bigger your store volume, the bigger your display should be.

Allocate enough space so that the banana inventory on display ‘turns’ at least two to four times per day.

Keep bananas stocked at no more than one layer – avoid the temptation to stack multiple layers.

Keep your display neat and clean and discard bruised or unsightly fruit. Have a mark-down section apart from your regular display; keep this at a minimum so your full-price display sales aren’t diminished.

Does your display generate its fair share of ‘singles’ from shoppers separating larger hands of bananas? Try moving the singles to the kids’ fruit giveaway station. Or, move singles to the fast-lane checkout displays, to the bagel counter, or to the delicatessen, and sell per-each to clean up. Or assemble small bundles of singles with bands or tape and sell at a slight discount.

Singles are inevitable, but when simply piled up on the main display, they detract from an otherwise nice banana presentation.

It’s a good idea to store backup inventory under or adjacent to your banana display (and out of the back room) in the original shipper cartons. Then as the display sells down it’s easy to quickly re-stock.

About those stages …

Preferred banana ripeness is very subjective. One customer may want full color, 3-4 stage bananas; another may want their bananas more on the green side to last a few days longer at home on the counter. As much as possible, stock both riper and greener fruit side-by side. This will generate sales better than just pushing the riper bananas.

Other varieties and cross-merchandising

Yes, there are several varietal bananas that your customers may not even know you carry, such as plantain, red, burro or manzanos. Display these near or within your ‘regular’ cavendish bananas (conventional and organic). This helps build your store’s variety reputation while selling some of the lesser-known, specialty bananas.

Try working varietal and your regular banana display near the tropical fruit set. Bananas look great and boost overall sales when combined with items such as pineapple, papayas, mangoes and kiwi.

Bananas also cross-merchandise well with non-produce items such as dairy or cereals. A secondary banana display always helps increase sales. Ensure these secondary displays are maintained, however. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ can be troublesome, so make this a part of your regular stocking routine.

Bananas are a chain’s calling card. Nearly 70% of consumers regularly purchase bananas, so it’s worth the effort to keep this category in prime condition, as it ties in with your overall department’s reputation.

Bananas are hip, popular with everyone – kids to grandparents.

Give them a hand. They’re quite a-peeling, you might say.  

 

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