“When there’s a big spring holiday, retailers can be the most effective and have the best sales impact if they plan to promote a week before, the week of and a week after,” said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing for the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission. “They make that sales momentum and maintain it.”
Research conducted by the commission found that retailers who conducted three-week book-end type promotions around holidays saw an average of 12% more strawberry sales than retailers who only promoted one or two of those weeks.
Nationwide, strawberries account for about 4.5% of total annual produce department sales — or about $2.6 billion in 2013 — making them an important item, she said.
They rank eighth in sales among all produce items and fourth among individual fruit — behind apples, bananas and grapes.
Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Berry Farms Inc., Watsonville, said strawberries are a harbinger of spring, and some retailers like to be the first to market with big displays.
The late Easter also should help continue the holiday momentum into Mother’s Day without major breaks.
“Our goal is always to not just focus on the holidays but focus on that whole time period and try to encourage our partners to build those big displays and leave them there,” she said.
Although demand in the West has been good since the start of the California season, Charlie Staka, sales director for CBS Farms, Watsonville, said he expected pent-up demand as the East begins to thaw.
“As the winter has been very cold and retailers haven’t been able to promote as much as they wanted to do, I think it will be big,” he said.
The short period between Easter and Mother’s Day should prompt heavy promotions from retailers at the same time that all of the state’s production areas are hitting their stride, Staka said.
Louis Ivanovich, a partner with West Lake Fresh, Watsonville, had a slightly different perspective on the late Easter and said it created a challenge to maintain momentum from Valentine’s Day.
“Sometimes they can almost get tired of promotions and they will move to another item in the meantime,” he said.
As the volume picks up, many retailers will come on board with accompanying promotions, especially in the larger-sized clamshells, Ivanovich said.