A massive pumpkin display at a Sprouts Farmers Market in Philadelphia (Photo courtesy Four Seasons Produce)
Labor Day signals the end of summer, and pumpkins signal the beginning of fall, so it is no surprise that many retailers planned to start with pumpkins right after that last warm-weather holiday of the year.
Creatively crafted pumpkin displays can help stores can capitalize on shopper excitement about the start of the new season.
“It adds excitement to the front of the building, gets people’s attention, and it’s the wow factor,” said Scott Bennett, produce sales and merchandising manager for Jewel-Osco. “Customers just like it, and they just buy more … We team up with floral and make some really nice, cool-looking displays outside so they get ideas and they can go after it in their own house.”
Mark Salahi, assistant sales manager for Albertsons, said the company tries every year to go bigger than the year before when it comes to pumpkins.
“We encourage all our stores to go with big, massive displays, obviously outside if they can,” Salahi said. “And one of the biggest things for us is stay in stock to Nov. 1. Our goal is to have one or two bins of pumpkins left on Nov. 1 because we don’t want to miss a sale. We don’t want to disappoint any customers,” Salahi said. “You’d be surprised how many people call you on the 30th and 31st at store level and asking you, ‘Do you have pumpkins?’ ‘Do you have pumpkins?’ so our main goal is to stay in stock through Halloween and have a couple of bins left on Nov. 1.”
Gustavo Cadena, produce manager for Grocery Outlet, suggested a long list of items with which pumpkins can be merchandised: from hard squash, Indian corn and gourds, to candy corn and costumes, to marshallows, yams and brown sugar.
“A great pumpkin display can drive sales in produce, floral and grocery,” Cadena said. “Cross merchandising helps with impulse buys and drive sales.”
Dave Rhodes, director of produce for Fresh Encounter, also mentioned the potential for pumpkins to provide lift across the store.
“We try to create a destination center for our customers to visit where we will have items like 6-count pumpkin and apple cake donuts around the display along with apple and pumpkin donut holes and pumpkin cake rolls as well,” Rhodes said. “We want to get as many departments involved as possible.
“The overall power of this display, maybe a customer came in to do her weekly shopping and to pick up a pumpkin, next thing he or she knows they have mums in their basket along with apple cider and donuts,” Rhodes said. “It is a win-win for all.”
Stores typically look to display pumpkins for decoration as well as for consumption.
“The large style jack-o-lantern pumpkin sell very consistently each year, but we sell lots of pie pumpkins as for display as well,” said Mike Pfannenstein, produce and floral specialist for Coborn’s. “Those display well inside and outside the house. Painted pumpkins are another item that sells well – great table decoration, or somewhere in house that may have fall décor.”
Scott Schuette, vice president of produce for Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, described pie pumpkins as the key item in the category for his stores.
“The pie pumpkin has become the top performer of the season,” Schuette said. “It is a multi-purpose item that is used for both décor and meals throughout two to three months. Five years ago, we used to procure pie pumpkins by the case and pallet. Today, we procure pie pumpkins by full bins and full truckloads. Pie pumpkins are where the dollars are at for us.”
Michael Schutt, produce lead for Raley’s, said jack-o-lanterns are the most popular item for their stores. Large are the top sellers, but jumbos have been growing in popularity.
“Our stores feature separate pumpkin displays based on pumpkin sizing, which helps clearly define pricing, making an easy shopping experience for the customer,” Schutt said.
Jeff Cady, director of produce and floral for Tops Friendly Markets, said carving pumpkins see the best movement, but stores merchandise also merchandise pumpkins for cooking.
“Pie pumpkins are generally displayed with our primary hard-shell squash displays,” Cady said. “Decorative pumpkins are found primarily in floral, but they are spotted around the store to drive the fall-time-of-year image.”
Brian Dey, senior merchandiser and natural stores coordinator for Four Seasons Produce, noted that pumpkins – along with being great for store experience – are often positive from a sales standpoint as well.
“They’re generally low-risk items for a produce department, and quite honestly, they’re good rings,” Dey said. “You can get anywhere from $5 to $10 for a pumpkin for the produce department.”
Salahi mentioned that greater interest in Halloween is driving the interest in fall seasonal items overall, including those for decorating, an area into which pumpkins fit well.
“Halloween is just becoming a bigger holiday year after year,” Salahi said. “The sales, not just for pumpkins but overall – costumes, more party, it’s just becoming a bigger event … It’s like, ‘I want to make a showcase in front of my house.’ More and more people are I think decorating, and it’s becoming more of like who can outdo the other person down the street.”
Because retailers can often utilize outdoor space for pumpkin displays, creativity is the only limit.
“Our stores have done a great job with creating the true old-school ‘farmers market’ pumpkin patch outside of the store at the customer point of entry,” Schuette said. “The displays are extremely large and colorful, making them a popular destination for families to use as a photographic backdrop to their pictures and selfies. Using straw bales, bundles of corn stalks, scarecrows, massive amounts of large carving pumpkins, pie pumpkins, heirloom pumpkins, mini pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn and all-season hard squash varieties makes up this exciting display.”
The possibilities really are practically endless.
“New crop, local grown Michigan apples, caramel apple dip, and shelf stable apple cider are all popular cross-merchandising items with pumpkins,” Schuette said. “Pie pumpkins have also done well being merchandised some key baking ingredients, such as brown sugar and ground cinnamon and nutmeg.”