Leverage bananas’ allure to show off the department

03/02/2012 09:45:00 AM
Tom Burfield

It’s easy to get complacent when it comes to merchandising bananas — a top-selling item in most produce departments.

But rather than sitting back and letting the product move through its own momentum, successful retailers take advantage of the fruit’s popularity to lure customers by maintaining good-sized sets — often complemented by secondary displays — and promoting them often.

“Everyone buys bananas,” said Rob Perrottelli, assistant produce manager for Ancona’s Market, Ridgefield, Conn. “You’ll see more pounds of bananas than anything else.”

Ancona’s features bananas on ad every couple of months at prices ranging from 49 cents a pound to 3 pounds for $1, compared with a regular price of 79 cents per pound.

A low price catches the consumer’s eye, but the store typically experiences only a small sales bump.

“It’s a type of item that, even though they’re on sale, you can’t buy a lot extra because a lot of people won’t eat them when they get overripe,” Perrottelli said.

Shoppers usually buy as many as they can use in a week, he said.

Perrottelli merchandises bananas on a 4-foot table, and the store also offers some specialty bananas and organic bananas.

“More and more people are getting into organic,” he said.

Scale-free

There are no scales in the 158 stores that make up the Berkeley, Calif.-based Grocery Outlet chain, so the stores can’t sell bananas by the pound.

“We had to come up with a different way of selling bananas,” said Scot Olson, director of produce and floral.

The solution was the 3-pound bag, which is the No. 1-selling item in the produce department. Bananas are the No. 2 category, second only to packaged salads.

Shoppers who don’t need 3 pounds of bananas can buy singles at four for $1. The 3-pound bags are $1.99.

Stores typically display the fruit on a 6- by 3-foot end cap, which is covered with foam padding to prevent bruising.

Produce managers often use waterfall displays to get the fruit out of their back rooms, which don’t have controlled-atmosphere technology.

Olson also sets up banana tree displays, usually on the cereal aisle or close to the checkout register, to prompt incremental sales.

Many products can be cross-merchandised with bananas.

Ancona’s Market merchandises bananas with chocolate banana kits, banana cream kits, banana smoothie kits and strawberry smoothie kits, all of which are merchandised in front of the banana display, Perrottelli said.


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