I’ve shopped at enough stores lately to air a gripe that’s near and dear to my heart: bin merchandising.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love bin displays. I like that idea that with no fixture cost to the produce manager, a heaping bin of fresh produce can be wheeled from the back room to anywhere in the store and be an instant hit and literally a vehicle to drive increased sales.

My only complaint? Maintaining that full, fresh look. Without follow-through, bin displays tend to quickly lose their appeal.

I see it all the time with bin melon displays. The day starts out fine, bins are heaping over with “the look.” You know, the certain “it” that attracts customers in the first place. Fully-stocked and well-signed bins convey that the item is fresh (like it just arrived from a field or orchard) and economic (large, full displays in any form shout abundance, conveying that the item is a value to the shopper). As the day wears on? The bins sell down, and the effect wears off. Quickly.

If properly stocked, bin produce displays more than justify display space.

However, “if” is the key word and the source of this produce scribe’s, um, grumpiness. I see many bins amount to not much more than giant empty boxes that customers navigate around, rather than slow down to shop. 

Getting back to the melon bin display, it doesn’t take that many purchases to sell down and get to the point that a customer must want a melon very badly to practically stand on her head (or crawl into the bin) to select one.

If properly stocked, bin produce displays more than justify display space.

And it isn’t just melons. Consider that any commodity marketed in bins (be it wood orchard bins or high-graphic cardboard types) can have its moment in the limelight, promoted in volume according to seasonality, supply and price point.

A long time ago I wrote about viewing a produce department using “customer eyes.” How does your customer perceive your department? A shopped-down bin may be the equivalent of the half-full glass to you. The customer’s point of view? It’s half-empty, no matter how optimistic you think they may be.

That customer will walk past the depleted bin display, just as when they walk past any neglected display. Customers want fresh. They want plenty to choose from, as if the display were, in their eyes, new.

So, no matter what, have a plan to rotate new, full bins out regularly. Or dummy-up the bins so they are easy to rotate and don’t hold as much product. Bins offer great produce sales potential, but only if used properly.     

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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