Checkout errors can be costly

11/05/2013 04:10:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Courtesy Homegrown Organic FarmsHomegrown Organic Farms uses a wrap-around sticker on their organic produce to avoid issues at checkout.Getting a proper ring-through at the checkout counter is a concern for many organic suppliers and retailers.

“Those mistakes are considered shrink on the retail end, and it’s been a big issue,” said Scott Mabs, chief executive officer of Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, Calif.

However, the amount of error is largely related to the efforts of individual retailers.

“It’s dependant on the retailer, so the numbers are all over the board depending on what they do on their end as far as training,” Mabs said.

Roger Pepperl, marketing director of Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., said the issue isn’t limited to organics.

“The reality is that this is a problem, but it isn’t an organic program — it’s a PLU problem,” he said.

Pepperl said fuji apples are just as likely to be rung up as gala apples as an organic apple is to be rung up as conventional.

However, organic errors tend to be more noticeable.

“For every fuji that gets rang up as a gala, a gala gets rang up as a fuji, so when you sell a million galas, it isn’t as noticeable,” he said.

Organic sales are usually smaller.

“Because organics tend to be smaller numbers, it tends to alarm people at a greater rate,” he said.

In his time in the retail business, Pepperl said he had constant training sessions with checkers to make sure they knew they had 25 different kinds of apples on the shelves and that it is important to use the right number.

“You have to get people to not memorize the numbers, because that’s when things get rung up as a gala. Sometimes everything gets rung up as a gala,” he said.

Looking at stickers

Pepperl thinks having larger stickers on fruit isn’t necessarily the solution.

“Putting great big stickers the size of a silver dollar makes fruit unappealing. Consumers don’t want that.

“The products all have stickers already, so I think having training sessions with checkers is so important,” he said.

Having a clear, easy-to-read sticker is important, no matter how large it is.

“It’s important to have a PLU sticker that’s bold enough and strong enough for the cashier to identify the product as being organic,” said Ray Wowryk, director of business development at Nature Fresh Farms Inc., Leamington, Ontario.

Wowryk said Nature Fresh has the capability to use a barcode directly on the sticker, which can be a solution.


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