Mike Roberts of Harps Food Stores Talks St. Patrick's Day and Easter Merchandising and Category Insights
SPRINGDALE, AR - Of all the departments in the grocery store, produce has the most promotional opportunities in my book. Call it a bias, or call it a deep passion for all things fresh. Holidays add to produce’s opportunities, versatility, and growth, and with two such sales-generating promotional periods right around the corner, Mike Roberts, Director of Produce Operations, Harps Food Stores, joins me to talk shop.
“St. Patrick’s Day and Easter are incredible celebrations to take advantage of in the fresh produce industry,” Mike tells me. “We love partnering with suppliers that have innovative visions, merchandising best practices to share, and, of course, high-quality produce that supports our promotions and value proposition.”
When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, the top categories that drive sales and traffic for Harps go beyond even the popular and traditional cabbage and red potato segments, Mike notes.
“Believe me, along with traditional staples, you can grab more sales by making sure you have Brussels sprouts bagged up; plenty of lemons and limes by the beer; and a good selection of salsas, avocados, and guacs to generate extra sales, too,” he says. “After all, St. Patrick’s Day is a party!”
As we look a little further down the calendar, Mike takes a beat and reflects on Easter.
“I have always said that Easter is a smaller Christmas, but we get to add strawberries to our departments on a bigger scale! Likewise, some of the same items for Christmas sell well; you have to have a good strawberry at retail, a good pineapple, plenty of asparagus, a good price, and a widened allocation on baby carrots for the Easter Bunny!” Mike says and smiles. “You cannot forget the essential items: green onions, sweet potatoes, broccoli, fresh corn, sweet onions, green beans, and red potatoes for your consumers to complete their holiday meal.”
As I start building my grocery list on a notepad beside me, Mike adds that it is not just about having good quality products, but how you showcase them as well.
“One of our favorite tricks for Easter is to put asparagus right in the middle of our strawberry displays. It looks awesome and customers really respond to the two items displayed together. I think it gets them in the meal and dessert mode at the same time,” he reflects. “We also love to cross-merchandise with our bakery, deli, and meat departments—angel food cakes with the strawberries in both departments and fresh-cored pineapples with the hams in the meat department. Both of these cross-merchandising efforts produce incremental sales for all three departments each year!”
As we wrap up, I ask Mike how suppliers can get more involved or assist in promoting category messaging during this time. Harps has been planning for Easter since right after New Year’s, so the sooner suppliers can supply a crop forecast for Easter, the more it helps with planning ads and displays, he responds.
The message these past weeks is that now is the time to connect with supplier partners on holiday opportunities and unique promotions. That is a message we at AndNowUKnow can get behind—St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and all!