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Picture perfect: Cub Foods uses image signs to boost sales of its variety produce.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but what is it worth in dollars? According to Mike Witt, director of produce for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Cub Foods, it can be worth a lot. That's why he tapped Gladson Interactive to design produce image signs for the Supervalu-owned company's 83 corporate-owned locations and is offering them to its 31 franchised locations.

Witt has always been a fan of paper signs. "We're a price superstore," he says. "We provide low prices on a wide variety of items, and paper signs give us the mystique, the feel, of a warehouse market."

In the past, Witt used a company that did line drawings for variety produce he normally merchandises in small trays, such as specialty or exotic items. However, these line drawings did not resemble the products as much as he wanted them to. Adding to that difficulty is the fact that the signs aren't above the items themselves but on fascia boards above the wall cases, so it was difficult in some cases for customers to connect the signs with the corresponding produce.

"Artichokes area good example," Witt says. "We had a line drawing of artichokes done for the signs and would insert the price ourselves. But not many customers are familiar with what an artichoke looks like, and the line drawing didn't help them to easily identify the item and match the price to it. So even though they may have wanted to try it, we would have missed the sale. The root items, such as malanga and taro, can be particularly confusing with the line drawings."

Enter Gladson

He needed to find a sign program that did a better job of identifying these produce items. "I spent the last two years looking for something to do this, beating the aisles of the PMA show, but didn't come up with anything that struck our fancy," Witt says. "Then a representative from Gladson showed me some of the things they were doing with drug stores and other retailers as it related to digital imagery on in-store signs. We thought we could make it work for produce."

Witt had put together a list of approximately 150 variety produce items earmarked for image signs. He sent a list of these items to Lisle, Ill.-based Gladson Interactive, along with new wording to describe each produce item, including its nutritional information and usage. "Nutritional information is hot on everybody's list right now," he points out. "Plus, with the young shoppers out there, they will look at an item like star fruit and wonder what to do with it. With all the cooking shows and books out there, people are interested in a wider variety of produce than ever before."

Although the prices can be printed on the signs along with the image, Witt chose not to have this done, since produce prices change often. Also, he feels that by adding the prices himself--either by writing them in with a marker or by using a label machine--he's in keeping with the warehouse-style image.

The Gladson program can be used in-house by the retailer, of, like with Cub Foods, as a service. For each item, the retailer sends Gladson a PLU number along with the information it wants printed on the sign. If Gladson doesn't already have the image, the retailer ships the actual item to the Gladson offices to have a digital image produced. Special images--such as grapes in a basket--can also be created for the signs. Everything can be customized for the retailer.

The signs, as well as helping customers to easily identify produce prices, will help Cub Foods produce employees in a number of ways. "It will help our new employees identify the product and usage, so they can better help the customers get the product they want," Witt notes. "The other thing it will do is help the stockers make sure they have the right products in the right trays."

During the next phase Witt plans to introduce bilingual signage into so me of the stores. "We definitely have opportunities in some Hispanic and Asian markets on which we would like to capitalize with bilingual signs," he says.

Witt expects the increased visibility of his variety produce to boost sales. "We haven't really targeted what the number is going to be, but we think that identifying the image with the item itself will make the product more readily available to the shopper. After all, that's the basis for the whole project--building sales."
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Title Annotation:Equipment & Design
Author:Tarnowski, Joseph
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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