Time to get hoppin.’

Easter sales rank just behind July Fourth and Christmas. Fresh produce adorns every part of the big meal. It’s important to prepare a produce merchandising scheme now to maximize sales and profit margins. Here are a few notes from the holiday file.

First, secure prominent display areas now in the front lobby or on the outskirts of your normal merchandising area. You’ll need any available real estate to build multiple displays of key items.

Identify your power items and map out your plan. Pineapple is a traditional favorite for pairing with ham dishes and for fresh fruit trays and appetizers. Apples for Waldorf salads, citrus, bananas, grapes and pears, all move well too.

Cooking-vegetable sales will be exceptionally strong. Celery for dressing or vegetable trays, brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, green beans and cauliflower are traditional favorites. Potatoes will sell especially well for everyone’s favorite mashed recipe, as will sweet potatoes.

Salad greens will spike in sales. However, consider that “relish” vegetables sales will surge, especially for vegetable trays or for garnish. These include green onions, parsley, peppers, mushrooms, radishes, tomatoes, baby peeled carrots, snap peas, broccoli and cauliflower florets.

Strawberries are the hands-down favorite for desserts. Build a display large enough so that several customers can shop the display simultaneously. If there’s any item that justifies a secondary display, it is strawberries.
Communicate with your bakery and grocery counterparts. Tie-in and cross-merchandise items with the berries, such as dessert cakes and whipped cream to generate even more sales.

The surprise category for many produce managers is herbs. If you review your holiday notes from last year (you did keep notes, right?) you’ll recall that savory, sage, and thyme are popular for protein dishes.

Basil sells well for salads and pesto, and rosemary is a favorite for potato dishes and garnish. Some produce departments sell up to 10 times (or more) the normal amount of herbs for the Easter holiday.

Many otherwise slow sellers see a modest spike for Easter. Root vegetables, cabbage, garlic, sprouts and several specialty items such as horseradish are frequently part of grandma’s old recipes. It doesn’t hurt to have an extra case of these items on hand for the heavy shopping periods.

Incremental sales add up. One easy tip is to use the metal clip-strips (the metal spring-clips used in displaying general merchandise gadgets). Load these strips with the evelopes of dry dip or sauce mixes, and hang them  alongside the items they match up with, such as hollandaise sauce next to the broccoli and asparagus displays.

Finally, order with a confident mindset of quality and sales, expecting the best, not fearing the worst.

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