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Hooking them in: weekly seafood advertisements can drive seafood sales.

If you want to understand your pattern of weekly seafood sales, look at your own shopping habits. All of us are food customers at one time or another, and as such, we're conditioned to choose many of our purchases based on media images, colors, and price points. Consider the evolution of supermarkets' weekly advertising vehicles. During the '50s and '60s, the model was black-and-white newspaper print. Later it was discovered that consumers reacted favorably to a few front-page splashes of color.

Then there was the "hot" fifth-week ad, which was all color. It cost a bundle to produce, and vendors were encouraged to participate by the offering of large advertising allowances and cash deal incentives to offset print and distribution expenses. The impact of these ads in terms of sales increases for merchants and vendors was significant. Today we have the weekly color circular that, like clockwork, is mass mailed to millions of homes.

But when it comes to seafood, customers buy with their eyes, ears, and noses. They react to fresh, heaping displays of colorful fish. The atmosphere must be free of any offensively fishy odors, and the counterperson or point-of-sale material has to speak to them.

A review of the Labor Day circular ads for 20 supermarket chains throughout the country reveals that they're making a substantial effort to give their seafood departments serious exposure. Most have a designated seafood ad position, usually on the meat page. Of course, the right seafood item placed on the front page of a weekly circular can draw an attractive volume of customers to your store.

More than 60 percent of the chains covered in the review placed a seafood item on the front page of their holiday circulars. Shrimp represented nearly 25 percent of that front-page venue, with snow crab clusters or fresh fillet of salmon otherwise selected to represent the seafood department. Front-page seafood exposure can create exciting sales results. Often a front-page shrimp, crab leg, salmon, catfish, or live lobster promotion at a hot price point can generate sales 10 times the normal weekly movement of that item.

Buy appeal

Retailers, knowing which seafood items best attract customers, have structured their Labor Day ads to hit the hot buttons. On average, seafood ads that appeared inside of the circular (usually on the meat page) featured 5.7 seafood items. More than 30 percent of the chains featured from seven to 12 advertised seafood items. Shrimp is the No. 1-selling seafood item in the United States; therefore, it received major exposure in nearly all of the circulars. More than 95 percent of the chains offered a shrimp special, while 30 percent of the merchants had a sale on two or more shrimp items.

While most of the Labor Day print ads featured item and price, a few offered information, as well. One of the concerns often mentioned by consumers when asked about preparing seafood at home is their fear of cooking it. Some retailers use a corner block in their ads to include facts about a featured item, as well as a recipe. While sacrificing a valuable advertising spot may be risky and difficult to measure in terms of sales dollars, the retailer has an opportunity to demonstrate to customers that it wants them to be informed. The more comfortable your customers are with cooking seafood at home, the better opportunity you have of maximizing your seafood sales.

In addition to the print ads, radio, television, and now the Web are in the arsenal of seafood advertising. While all of these forms of advertisements do a wonderful job of creating impressions in consumers' minds, when it comes to perishables, once the customers walk through those electronic doors, quality and presentation are paramount.

The weekly circular is a huge expense for a supermarket chain. As part of your training package, it may be a smart investment to show your staff what it costs to bring customers into the store each week. Then work hard to empower them to do all that they can to make every customer they see feel welcome and appreciated. That's the best impression you'll ever make.
Top 10 seafood species per capita consumption, 2000-2002

Rank  2000                  2001                  2002

 1    Canned tuna/3.500     Shrimp/3.400 lbs.     Shrimp/3.700 lbs.
 2    Shrimp/3.200 lbs.     Canned tuna/2.900     Canned tuna/3.100
                              lbs.                  lbs.
 3    Pollock/1.595 lbs.    Salmon/2.023 lbs.     Salmon/2.021 lbs.
 4    Salmon/1.582 lbs.     Pollock/1.207 lbs.    Pollock/1.130 lbs.
 5    Catfish */1.050 lbs.  Catfish */1.044 lbs.  Catfish */1.103 lbs.
 6    Cod/0.752 lbs.        Cod/0.557 lbs.        Cod/0.658 lbs.
 7    Clams/0.473 lbs.      Clams/0.465 lbs.      Crabs/0.568 lbs.
 8    Crabs/0.375 lbs.      Crabs/0.437 lbs.      Clams/0.545 lbs.
 9    Flatfish/0.423 lbs.   Flatfish/0.387 lbs.   Tilapia/0.401 lbs.
10    Scallops/0.269 lbs.   Tilapia/0.348 lbs.    Flatfish/0.317 lbs.



Michael F. Bavota is a frequent writer on seafood merchandising and training issues, and is the author of Seafood Lover's Bible.
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Title Annotation:Supermarket Fresh Food Business
Author:Bavota, Michael F.
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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