Why Merchandising is Critical

Best practices in fresh potato merchandising

Published in the May 2012 Issue Published online: May 10, 2012 Don Ladhoff, USPB Retail Marketing Consultant

As part of our ongoing Training Tuesday series, the United States Potato Board recently conducted a webinar for the potato industry on the topic of merchandising. The key points from this session should be kept in mind as grower/shippers strategize their own marketing efforts to increase potato category sales.

Merchandising is critical to fresh potato sales, as it:

1) Makes the potato section more organized and easier to shop;

2) Helps define a retailer's offering and builds brand equity;

3) Provides an avenue for communicating with-and hence influencing-shoppers;

4) Drives sales of complementary products, increasing a retailer's overall basket ring.

Of the four marketing elements, merchandising holds the greatest potential for influencing shoppers and converting opportunities into added sales-especially when integrated with promotions.

Why is merchandising so important to fresh potatoes? USPB research has documented fresh potatoes are a highly planned purchase, with 91 percent of purchases intended before entering the store. Yet that same research found shoppers find the potato section uninspiring, rating potato sections low on being informative, motivating them to make a new purchase or providing new usage ideas. The implication of these two findings is that it is essential for a retailer's first priority to be on increasing consumption-the means for getting on the shopper's list-rather than focusing on impulse sales.

And what is the most effective way to encourage consumption? When nearly 1,500 consumers were recently asked, "What would motivate you to serve potatoes more often?" the No. 1 response was "new ways of preparing potatoes," given by 42 percent of respondents (USPB Attitudes & Usage Study, 2012). Effective potato merchandising has the ability to communicate with shoppers, suggesting new serving ideas that drive incremental consumption and sales.

Grower/shippers who want to increase the fresh potato sales of their retail customers should follow the USPB's Best Practices for Potato Merchandising:

Improve the merchandising elements you control directly (i.e. packaging, cartons) to maximize their merchandising impact;

Influence those merchandising elements controlled by the retailer, showing them information on the opportunity for increased shopper communication and providing recommendations for effective messaging: 1) Retailer's packaging, 2) Retailer's website, 3) Store signage, and 4) Store circular;

Invest in additional merchandising elements that can assist your retail customers in providing information and ideas to their potato shoppers (e.g. point-of-sale, kwik-loks, on-pack stickers, display units);

When providing recipes, emphasize the innovative and unexpected (e.g. potato tacos) over the usual (e.g. baked or mashed);

Be current, relevant and newsworthy-leverage recent positive potato PR or media mentions that support our merchandising goals.

Whether it is you or your retail customer communicating to shoppers about potatoes, adhere to the USPB's Potato Messaging Hierarchy:

1) Here is a new, delicious (and somewhat unexpected) way to enjoy potatoes;

2) Potatoes are a nutritious, fresh and naturally wholesome food;

3) Your family loves potatoes, and loves when you serve them;

4) There are many types of potatoes with qualities that excel in different dishes-try something new!

5) Potatoes are a terrific value that makes your family's food dollars go further.

Do you have questions or want to discuss how to improve the potato category merchandising in your retail customers' stores? We're here to help! Contact the USPB's Retail Program Consultant, Don Ladhoff, at don.ladhoff@uspotatoes.com.

For more information, and to see the complete USPB Retail Marketing Long Range Plan for Fiscal Years 2012-2016, visit www.uspotatoes.com or PotatoGrower.com, click on the "Extras" tab and select "USPB Retail Marketing Long Range Plan for Fiscal Years 2012-2016."

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