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In-store merchandising: a shared responsibility

Business Management

As fruit growers with a mission to provide the best-possible fruit, it’s always disappointing to see poor-quality or poorly presented fruit on-shelf when visiting a supermarket. But rather than blame retailers for poor merchandising, the industry has an opportunity to drive shared value through alignment all along the value chain from grower to retailer.

Following a fascinating session at the APAL Industry Forum on “Delighting Customers In-store” from Rowan Blyth, New Business Director at Strikeforce, a panel Q&A session produced the following insights:


1.  It is worth investing time and effort in merchandising

While the industry is prepared to invest significantly in packaging, we need to be prepared to invest more in the merchandising/retail end of the value chain. Doing so will mean everyone wins in terms of ROI. Better merchandising leads to more sales, more retail space, and more volume moving through.

Strikeforce’s experience across FMCG, pharma, and other sectors has proven that effective merchandising programs can increase sales by at least five per cent.


2. Vendors can influence supermarkets in terms of putting the best foot forward when merchandising

Blyth points out that fresh produce isn’t an easy category for supermarkets to manage, particularly with a highly transient workforce. But the industry can provide support and lend a hand with initiatives such as training videos for new fresh produce staff, an Hort Innovation levy-funded initiative already underway and starring APAL’s own Head of Group Quality, Andrew Mandemaker, providing advice on managing and merchandising apples and pears.


3. Shared responsibility

Andrew Mandemaker also pointed out that while we can assist with merchandising by helping train fresh produce staff and making sure shelves are looking good, we need to look at our own quality performance at the same time.

“Retailers can use a hand occasionally, but we also have to send them the right material in the first place. Poor quality fruit won’t look great on the shelf no matter how well it is merchandised. There’s no point sending more fruit that doesn’t sell – you’re just generating waste and customer complaints”.

In fact, a poor experience such as biting into a soft Gala could cause a customer to avoid a variety for as long as 12 weeks.

Blyth said that from the experience of mango and sweet potato projects, true value emerges when the conversation shifts from growers and retailers blaming each other for quality issues to building trust, respect and whole-of-industry alignment.


4. Leveraging data

Retailers are data-driven businesses. Through whole-of-industry alignment, data on fruit quality can be shared up and down the value chain to accurately determine where defects occur and quickly correct any problems. 

Mandemaker says that ultimately industry quality programs are about disappointing customers less often:

“Data collected at retailer DC and in-store can be effectively used by vendors to correct quality issues, enabling them to provide fruit with the best chance of making it through the whole supply chain.”


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