Strawberries are retail favorites

02/11/2014 10:04:00 AM
Tom Burfield

It was only January, but 22-store Nob Hill Foods, part of the Sacramento-based Raley’s Supermarkets chain, already was featuring California strawberries on ad.

Strawberries with stems attached, like these from Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, Calif., are especially popular for holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day.Tom BurfieldStrawberries with stems attached, like these from Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, Calif., are especially popular for holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day.“We’ve been having nice weather, so we’re already getting some good-looking strawberries,” said Manuel Rodriguez, produce manager for a Salinas location.

“Usually, we have a nice end cap,” he said, about 5 by 4 feet.

For Valentine’s Day and to a lesser extent for Easter, the store offers giant stem berries and chocolate dipped strawberries.

“They’re kind of pricey, but they’re worth it,” Rodriguez said.

Typically, the stores sell strawberries for $4.99 per pound, but during peak season, buy one, get one free offers are common.

Strawberries are on ad at least every other week during the summer, he said.

Rodriguez sees a 7% to 8% sales boost when strawberries are on ad, he said.

“This is a high volume store,” he added, “so that’s a lot of money.”

During the winter, the typical strawberry display at the five Buffalo, N.Y.-based Dash Markets Inc. stores is about 3 to 4 feet wide, but during peak season, produce director Patrick Ferrara more than doubles that to 8 feet.

“People love that fruit,” he said. “It’s a growing category.”

People are becoming more conscious about what they eat, he said.

Regular price is $2.99-2.50 per 1-pound clamshell, but they’re often featured at two for $4 on ad or buy one, get one free, depending on availability.

“We like to mix it up a little,” Ferrara said.

The stores sometimes have organic strawberries, as well.

Strawberries easily rank among the five top-selling items in the produce department for the three Modesto, Calif.-based O’Brien’s Market locations, said produce clerk David Christensen, who helps do some of the buying for all three locations.

May and June are the top months for strawberries, he said, and Mother’s Day is a major strawberry-eating occasion.

During the local strawberry season, the company is fortunate to a have a source that provides strawberries to each store straight from the field.

“They don’t even go through a packing shed,” he said.

During the summer, stores display 60 to 100 containers on a 4- by 4-foot table, and when they’re on ad, they’re often merchandised just outside the main entrance, where shoppers find it hard to resist the pleasant aroma, he said.

Regular price for a 1-pound clamshell during the summer is $2.49, Christensen said. When they’re on ad — at least once a month — they go for 99 cents.

Strawberries are a good item to merchandise near blueberries, Ferrara said.

He also cross merchandises strawberries with shortcakes and whipped cream so shoppers “can grab everything right there.”

The stores usually have 1-pound clamshells on display, and Ferrara also brings in 2-pounders when they’re available.

Sometimes at Nob Hill Foods, Rodriguez also sets up displays in other parts of the store, like by the entrance or in the bakery department, where the berries are cross merchandised with pound cake.

Rodriguez also cross merchandises strawberries with pound cake and whipped cream in the produce department.

Shoppers tend to pick up strawberries more often when they see all the ingredients for strawberry shortcake in one spot, he said.

He also merchandises them with other kinds of berries in a berry patch display.

Recently, Rodriguez discovered that he can bump up sales by 3% to 5% by putting out a bowl of washed berries next to the display for sampling, so the stores plan to do more sampling for strawberries and other produce items.

Shoppers at O’Brien’s market have plenty of choices when it comes to pack styles.

Besides the usually 1-pound clamshell containers, during peak season, the stores offer a 2-pound size, the old-fashioned pint baskets and even loose strawberries.

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