Data plays a huge role for grocery retailers already, and its significance will only grow as companies find more ways to collect and analyze information and more ways to apply the insights gained.

Steve Lutz, vice president of the Produce Marketing Association and founder of Perishables Group, which was bought by Nielsen, is a seasoned veteran in looking at the stats and identifying opportunities.

Many produce managers aren’t expected to examine the numbers as much as just implement the plan given to their store, Lutz said, but he noted that if he were a produce manager he would find two sets of information helpful.

“Store specific data would at least help me understand how my key categories were performing compared to the rest of the chain as well as the market,” Lutz said. “If there were substantial areas where my store was over or under it would be valuable to try to understand why.  It could be assortment, merchandising, zone pricing or simply lack of space dedicated to the products. 

“But the value of the comparison is simply to try to understand if there are easy dollars that are being missed that other stores seem to be getting,” Lutz said. “I would start with the major categories, since those drive the vast majority of sales, so a small shift can have a big impact.”

Consumer demographic indexes for key items would also be helpful so a produce manager can understand which items are most likely to resonate with his or her store’s core shoppers.

“Every produce manager I’ve met has a pretty good understanding of the type of shoppers that frequent his/her store,” Lutz said. “They know if it’s predominately young or older people, higher income or lower income, working class or white collar, white or some other racial group.  Knowing the categories/products that have high indexes for specific demographic segments would allow me to examine my merchandising and assortment to perhaps make changes to have a stronger product mix for the shoppers that cater my particular store.”


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