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Feature Story
 

Fine-tune
your fall preparations
         
by Monica Humbard


Supermarkets share ideas for having profitable autumn sales, whether your displays are indoors or out.

Your customers’ thoughts soon will be turning to fall, a time of football, tailgate parties and harvest celebrations. You can capitalize on this season with the right kind of merchandising and product selection. Take a look at the successful displays on these pages, and find ideas for your own stores.
 

Outdoor display draws a crowd
Most floral departments constantly struggle with having enough room. But when fall comes around, many take advantage of the vast space just outside the store entrance, building massive displays filled with fall mum plants and pumpkins.
But the abundant display space comes with a challenge. The floral employees must maintain it and service the customers who visit it while still staffing the indoor floral department as well.
In early September last year, Logli Supermarket No. 750, in Rockford, Ill., constructed an outdoor fall display that extended from one entrance to the other. It featured yellow, burgundy, bronze, pink, lavender, rust and white potted mums; pumpkins; cornstalks; and straw bales.
Dianne Kozel, floral manager, received more positive comments than ever before about the display. “I was surprised at how many people took the time to seek me out to tell me how great it looked,” she says. “Even men came back to our department to tell me how great it was. Customers were still talking about it in the spring.”
Ms. Kozel says fall promotions are important to floral departments because they move a lot of product at a traditionally slower sales time. She explains that many customers are busy getting kids ready to go back to school at this time and often have less discretionary money to spend. The season also doesn’t have any major floral holidays.
Here are Ms. Kozel’s recommendations for a successful outdoor fall display:
MAINTENANCE Check these displays constantly, condensing and filling in holes as items sell. Ms. Kozel stresses the importance of watering and deadheading (removing broken and faded blossoms).
SIGNAGE Unfortunately, employees usually don’t have the time to staff outdoor displays regularly to answer customers’ questions. Ms. Kozel recommends grouping like items and providing separate signage for each area. This allows customers to easily distinguish between different pricing for different sizes of similar products—such as potted mums. Plus, she says, this makes displays more appealing.
As an additional clarification for products and pricing, a scarecrow in Ms. Kozel’s display carried a sign that listed all featured items and their prices.
ADD-ON SALES Don’t settle for traditional fall sales. Enhance sales with add-ons. For the first time last fall, Ms. Kozel’s store sold straw bales. She says they were a great add-on. In addition, at the base of the display, the bales added texture, and their color enhanced the products.
The Logli display also included cornstalks, which not only gave the display height and interest but also extra sales. Ms Kozel upgraded some of the stalks with ribbon and corncobs. She says this didn’t require much extra time but yielded great upgrade sales.
DISPLAY TIP Sometimes a simple display technique can enhance sales. Ms. Kozel usually tips some of the potted mums on their sides for better “visual value” and “showier impact.”

ATTENTION GRABBER (above) Life-size scarecrows drew customers’ attention to Ms. Kozel’s fall display. Each body was made from a cross of wood cemented into a papier-m‚chÈ container (used for funeral flowers) or a cut-off milk carton. After stuffing the scarecrow with bubble wrap, she dressed the body in old clothes. The floral department saved the excelsior from tulip shipments and used it as “straw” coming out of the arms and legs. A milk carton served as the head. Ms. Kozel sprayed it a neutral color and sealed it with an acrylic spray. She used a marker to draw on the face and topped it with a straw pot cover for a hat.
“We’re always looking for something effective but inexpensive,” Ms. Kozel says. “Everyone wanted to buy the scarecrows. I shared how I created them so customers could make them, too.”
While Ms. Kozel had fun putting together this fall display—and sales for 14-inch mums tripled from the previous year—it was a challenge to keep the display full. “A very good problem to have!” she says.

Tailgating display is a winner
As fall approaches, it’s time for you to get customers into the season by introducing products for decorating their homes. “When you reintroduce the fall theme after summer, everyone likes to see it,” says Jamey Barnett, produce manager at Publix Super Market No. 792 in North Port, Fla.
The challenge, however, is the lack of floral holidays on which to pin your fall promotions and displays. Therefore, floral departments must get creative. Mr. Barnett’s Publix location has had success with floral merchandising for what are considered nonfloral selling events. At the start of last year’s football season, the floral department experienced successful fall sales by featuring potted ‘Pelee’ mums, cut Gladioli and cinnamon brooms in a tailgating sales event.
The display went up in the store’s lobby in September and remained for two weeks. Mr. Barnett says his store tries to get a jump on fall merchandising each year because it competes for sales with a nearby farm’s fall festival.
When tying into fall events such as football, Mr. Barnett has the following recommendations.
LIMIT OFFERINGS Pick three or four floral items to contribute to the display. If you try to include more, it takes away from the display. In the tailgating display, the focus was on the ‘Pelee’ mums, cut Gladioli and cinnamon brooms.
GO SEASONAL Choose items that are identified with the season, such as mum plants and cinnamon brooms. If you want to highlight something new, limit your offerings to one new item and a few other well-known products.
PRESENT FRESHNESS Display only the freshest products, and don’t be afraid to toss expired items. Customers have to believe products will last. A dead potted mum in your display does not give them confidence. Mr. Barnett suggests guaranteeing products—such as your cut flower bouquets —and posting that guarantee on your signage.
SHOPABILITY Make sure all products featured in the display are accessible to customers. Even if a display looks fantastic, if shoppers can’t easily retrieve products from it, it won’t be effective.
SIGNAGE Because such a display probably will be in another department and staff won’t be on hand to answer questions, make sure pricing is visible and clearly understandable.
LIMIT CLUTTER You normally want to display add-on items with related products to increase sales, but do not do so in such a display. Refer to add-on sales possibilities—such as vases for cut Gladioli—in your signage and direct customers to your department to purchase them. While there, shoppers may find other items to purchase.

Display captures fall’s color, scents
When you are located in Florida, fall doesn’t just happen without some help. The change in seasons is not as obvious as in other parts of the country. You have to create the “fall” atmosphere for your customers, especially when many are Northern transplants who are used to seeing the fall colors emerge naturally.
Even those stores located in areas where fall occurs naturally may find that Mother Nature doesn’t always present herself right on time every year. You may have to start setting the mood in your department before the first leaf falls.
Cathy Lillie, floral specialist for Publix Super Market No. 493 in Oviedo, Fla., says it is important to incorporate all the colors and scents associated with the season into fall displays. When she helped set up a fall display in the front lobby of her rural store, she concentrated on helping her customers get “into the swing of things” for fall.
She featured a scarecrow surrounded by bouquets of seasonal flowers, potted mums, cinnamon brooms, pine cones, croton plants and pumpkins. The display’s colors—browns, golds and oranges—combined with the scent of cinnamon to put customers in mind of fall.
One plus for Ms. Lillie was the display’s location. Although the floral department is located toward the back of the store and is not very visible when customers walk in, the display was set up in the front lobby in front of the deli/cafÈ, where customers typically gravitate when they enter the store.
Ms. Lillie credits some of the success of the display to the fact that, for her older customers, it brought back memories of roadside stands where farms sold excess crops. She says products in the display sold well. In fact, she had to refill the fall bouquets several times. A customer favorite was the Alstroemeria bouquets.
TRANSITIONING The display stayed up from mid-September until right after Thanksgiving. Therefore, Ms. Lillie faced the challenge of transitioning it from early fall through Halloween and into Thanksgiving.
Early in the season, she played up football because of the success of an area college team. She added balloons that were custom-printed for the local team, a new product for her store.
For Halloween, she switched to ghost balloons and incorporated Halloween plush, caramel apples and pumpkins. As Thanksgiving approached, she replaced these with turkey balloons, Indian corn, gourds, plants decorated for Thanksgiving and cornucopia floral arrangements.
FLEXIBLE MERCHANDISER The design of the merchandiser itself helped it transition through the season. At the base, Ms. Lillie placed several pallets covered in burlap. Around them, wooden crates created different levels for positioning product. When turned on their sides or upside down, they became tables. When turned right-side-up, the crates could hold products inside them. Ms. Lillie also used round bean crates covered with red Mylar film to hold the orange-cinnamon scented pine cones, cinnamon brooms, gourds and miniature pumpkins. As Thanksgiving approached, she turned the bean crates over and placed arrangements on them.
LIGHTHEARTED FUN The most effective displays usually provide customers with a bit of entertainment. Ms. Lillie added some fun by pulling the scarecrow out of storage and naming him “Nardo” after the assistant produce manager. She says the customers “got a kick out of it.”


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