Cherries typically are the first summer fruit in supermarket produce departments each year, and retailers have found that they can boost sales and lure in customers by promoting the sweet, red fruit.
The very first cherries from California — usually the brooks — are priced too high to promote, but Dave Diaz, produce buyer for one of three Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Oliver’s Markets, still puts some on display.
They’re typically $9.99 per pound, depending on the fruit’s size. Diaz aims for 10 row or larger.
“Those are big cherries,” he said. “But you pay for them.”
Promotable cherry volume usually is available by the end of May or the first week of June, and that’s when Oliver’s jumps into the cherry deal with both feet.
“Every year I have a blowout sale on cherries,” Diaz said.
He puts two 3- by 3-foot bins of cherries near the entrance to the produce department and puts them on steps, creating a waterfall effect.
He advertises the sale with a full-page newspaper ad.
“When cherries are on sale, I can’t keep them on the shelf,” he said.
The promotion runs for about a week, then the store breaks down the display to a single bin.
Diaz repeats the promotion in late June, when the California deal winds down and the first cherries arrive from Washington.
He focuses on bing cherries unless they’re not available.
“Bing is king,” he said.
Cherries are an item that isn’t available year-round, and that’s good for promotions, Diaz said.
“Seasonality creates an excitement,” he said.
California cherries are popular in the South, as well, said Lou Jacobs, produce director for Remke Markets Inc., a chain of 13 stores based in Erlanger, Ky.
Remke stores merchandise cherries in displays ranging from 4 to 10 feet wide, depending on whether they’re on sale.
Sometimes stores will set up secondary displays to accommodate ad sales, he said.
Sweet red cherries sell the best, but the chain also offers rainiers.
Regular price for red cherries at Remke’s is $2.99 per pound. Sale price is $1.99.
Darrenkamps Food Market, Lancaster, Pa., has cherries on ad up to 80% of the time during cherry season, said Tom Oberholtzer, produce manager.
The store sells mostly sweet reds, but also offers rainiers.
During the peak of the season, the display ranges from 8 to 10 feet, and prices range from $3.99 regular to $1.49-1.99 on ad.
Graduation time is another big promotional period for Oliver’s, Diaz said.
“We ran one ad with grad caps tossed in the sky with cherries raining down behind them,” he said.
Oliver’s features cherries on ad three or four times during the summer for as low as $1.99 or $2.99 per pound, compared to a regular price of $5.99.
Diaz said sales increased tenfold when cherries were advertised for $1.99 a pound.
“It was crazy the kind of frenzy they created,” he said. “I ran out of cherries.”
He said he sold nearly 100 cases in two days. Cherries actually outsold bananas.
The store also promotes organic cherries, but Diaz can’t price them nearly as low as conventional product.
A pound of organic cherries sells for a regular price of about $8.99-9.99 per pound or on sale for $4.99.