Did you see the bold proposition by retail guru Phil Lempert today?
Here is part of what he said in The Lempert Report today:
So we raise the question: Why risk disappointing customers, giving refunds and damaging the store’s image by attempting to keep as many fruits and vegetables in stock year-round? Shouldn’t supermarkets be more selective in what they try to keep on hand and manage consumer expectations with a simpler premise that is easier to deliver: Offer the best-quality produce at the best prices in season, and educate consumers that the rest of the year is hit-and-miss at sticking to high standards of quality and nutrition at reasonable prices.
Supermarkets could explore an example from McDonald’s, which has sustained a consumer following for its 30-year-old, on-again, off-again McRib sandwich. The Awl proposes a theory that the chain typically re-introduces McRib to the menu when pork prices are favorably low and the sandwich is more profitable. A deeper analysis could either help prove or disprove this. Yet the principle that a favorite food of consumers not be readily available 365 days a year intrigues us.
TK: Lempert is nothing if not thoughtful, but this concept of a supermarket with the "best quality produce at the best prices in season" is not going anywhere. What supermarket with any competition will "do without" the first cherries of the season in the vain attempt to only stock the best quality produce at the best prices?
How can a supermarket try to "educate" the consumer that the reason they are out of peaches, apples or nectarines or some other sought-after fruit is because - don't you know? - we only want the best quality produce at the best prices in season! Pay no attention to the store across the street!
It simply won't fly. Plus, what produce department manager will want to forego the big bucks of early season fruit?
The McRib doesn't translate to the produce department, unfortunately.
Rather than have a subjective measure - the best produce at the best prices, in season - I wonder if a retailer ever considered only selling U.S. grown produce. Would the patriotic impulse that beats in most all of us consider giving allegiance to a store that ONLY sells U.S. grown fresh produce? Given a big enough advertising budget, such a gambit may hold market appeal. Er, except when Gen X mom is looking for bananas. Fail!
Speaking of country of origin labeling, it will be interesting to see if our national produce organizations will take any particular position on what should be done about country of origin labeling. Given the World Trade Organization's dispute panel ruling, COOL is under fire. Find Packer coverage of the issue, along with 11 (!) reader comments here.
While the FMI is ready to scrap the law, I have seen nothing on the issue from United Fresh. PMA's response has been guarded so far. From PMA's Glenn Boyet:
“PMA recognizes there are alternative views regarding country of origin labeling. Right now, we are reviewing the WTO ruling with a keen eye on what it truly means to the produce industry.”
Check out the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group discussion of the topic here.
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