Pear Bureau NorthwestThese seven steps can get you on the road to display contest success. The next time you consider entering an upcoming produce display contest, remember one musical title: “Get Ready.”
The Temptations sang this message back in 1966. Take heed now though, because when it comes to current display contest opportunities, the list reads like an all-star cast in the fresh produce business: The Pear Bureau, Well-Pict, National Mango Board, National Watermelon Association, Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee, National Apple Month, Vidalia Onion Committee, and of course the granddaddy of all contests in February, the Idaho Potato Commission’s Potato Lover’s Month and retail display contest.
If that isn’t enough to get a produce manager interested in display contests, consider this: Produce display contests are good, not only for the department, but for the whole store. When one department goes above and beyond the usual work routine, the excitement can be contagious. If the produce department is building a massive display of apples for a contest, it’s only natural that the grocery manager will want to get in on the action and line the base of the display with apple cider. Or the floral manager will volunteer to place a trellis as a backdrop filled with silk autumn leaves. Perhaps a few premium pies from the bakery can be worked into the display. Of course, all these items are welcome, assuming that the apples remain the prominent display feature.
Display contests can also provide a great team-building opportunity. This is a good time for a produce manager to get input from the members of the crew and perhaps discuss some of the plans beforehand. Or contests can be a good period to work on training the new assistant produce manager or others on the crew. If the trainer/produce manager is a former contest winner, the credibility is extraordinary. But even without this as an impetus, display contests are a positive action that can spur all sorts of exciting results — not the least of which is increased sales and profit.
The question remains, how to prepare and follow through with the challenge to not only enter, but win a prize-winning display contest?
1. Think — Theme. One produce manager created a Hawaiian luau theme for a pineapple contest. He used a large lobby area, built some makeshift palm trees, and in the middle of the pineapple installed a large, working water fountain that he borrowed from a neighboring nursery. He accented the display with other tropical fruit such as mangoes, papayas, and used several Hawaii-related items from around the store to finish it all off. Your display doesn’t have to go to these extremes to suggest a theme. Some themes are natural: berry patches, pumpkins with scarecrows, apples in bushel baskets. The sky’s the limit. Use your imagination.
2. Think — Massive display. If you don’t have enough space to build a large display for a contest, take a hard look around the store. A large display doesn’t necessarily have to remain in the confines of your department. Many times a produce manager can take over the usual chip or pop display area if he can sell the store manager on the benefits of the contest. Many a creative manager has built whole-truckload displays, lining up pallets of melons or bins of product up against the store’s exterior walls. Other times, a contest can be a practical merchandising maneuver — combining the contest with a push for a holiday or ad period. Keep in mind that to impress a judge, the display should convey abundance, with at least enough merchandise to qualify, and have the dimensions of height, width and depth to stand out.
3. Read (and follow) the display contest rules. The first thing a panel of judges will do when sorting through piles of entries is to eliminate those with obvious flaws. So take the extra time to clear this initial hurdle. Some produce contests require a minimum amount of cases in the display. Others shippers require that only their product is used (and you certainly do not want to have any competing labels in the display photo). Many times the contest rules require a secondary tie-in item or two, or ask that entries include all paperwork (you might be surprised how many entries (nice displays, too) get rejected because the judges only received a blank entry form or no return address from the sender). Worse is getting rejected because the display information was sent in beyond the deadline. Before you build your display, take steps to ensure you are prepared to follow the rules. Take no chances. This may require that you order supplies or tie-in merchandise well ahead of time.
4. Keep it functional. Don’t lose sight of your creative display-building ideas. But keep in mind that judges will notice if your display is shoppable — or not. Can the display be shopped from several angles? What’s true for everyday display function also works well for a display contest. Your display should be inviting to the point that customers find it easy to shop, which includes details such as available bags, great signage and even a nearby scale, if needed. Plan to bring plenty of product a day or two before your build your display so that is it absolutely fresh. Schedule enough labor for the job, and consider building the display in the early morning or even during an overnight shift to devote complete attention for the project.
5. Easy on the Eyes. In the example of the large pineapple display, the produce manager was careful to flank each side with equal linear footage for complimentary tie-in items. For example, if your contest space is thirty feet across, consider putting your primary item dead-center, say twenty feet, leaving five feet on either side for a color-break item(s). Think of the display like good landscaping: It’s easy on the eyes, with elements of color, size, and varying textures to bring out the best in the display. Envision, for another example, a row of spring-related items: Asparagus and artichokes split with a lemon display for color and seasoning suggestion, or a cluster setup of ripe tomatoes, flanked with fresh or potted basil and an elevated platform of those same lemons or garlic. Above all, plan for the focus to be on the star commodity, neatly stacked and culled.
6. Tie-ins are a typically a must-have. Again, you should refer to the rules of the contest for this important step. Often, a supplier or commodity board will partner with another produce (or non-produce) item for the contest. Ensure that you plan to use the correct item or items. Even if this isn’t a requirement, it’s a typically a good idea (or even a practical necessity) to include other items in the display for the contest. Just make sure these make sense, such as the garlic-with-tomatoes suggestion. To contrast, you probably would not pair those same bushels of garlic with, say, an orange display.
7. The all-important photo — A great fresh produce contest display needs a good quality photo to attract the judge’s eye. If you aren’t a good photographer, chances are good that someone in your circle of friends is at least competent. Complete your display before the store opens, if at all possible, when things are quiet and you have time to make last-moment adjustments to the display. Take photos from several different angles, and make sure the lighting is good to avoid poor exposure or shadows. Take note to clean up even minor details ahead of time. You don’t want to turn in a photo that shows a broom in the way or have a camera bag or water bottle in the shot. Once you’ve determined which photos are just right, send everything promptly either by email or snail mail so the judges can see your creativity at its very best.
Good luck, and remember: “Get Ready!”