(Oct. 19) ANAHEIM, Calif. — Retailers left the Fresh Summit 2004 “Merchandising for Maximum Sales” workshop on Oct. 17 armed with new research about how to build better displays and increase profits.

A common theme between all three speakers at the workshop was the importance of secondary displays. Sheri Mierau, vice president of marketing for the California Tree Fruit Agreement, Reedley, said research done by the organization found that secondary displays of tree fruit can bring up to a 37% increase in sales.

Tom Stejskal of Dole Fresh Vegetables, Modesto, agreed that consumer research the company conducted over the past year and a half also showed that secondary locations are key. He said Eurotables, end caps or stand-alone refrigerated cases are the most common types of secondary display units.

To help retailers merchandise refrigerated items like Dole bagged salads, the company is working on getting its latest secondary display unit to market — the Dole front cooler. It is identical to a soda and water cooler that is placed between checkout lanes, only the shelves and signs are designed for bagged salads. Stejskal said this type of display helps sell produce to on-the-go consumers who came to the store to pick up one or two items and who might not have even made it into the produce department.

Dick Spezzano, president of Spezzano Consulting Services, Monrovia, suggested produce retailers look at other categories, like wine, for secondary location ideas. He said wine companies do an excellent job putting neckers on their bottles that are good for $1 or $2 off any produce items, which results in a sales lift for the wine and the produce.

Besides the standard bananas in dairy or checkout, Spezzano also recommended placing value-added potatoes in the meat department.

Mierau and Stejskal both highlighted the importance of driving repeat sales and promoting multiple items. For example, Stejskal suggested meal deals promoting bagged salads, chicken and dressing, and Mierau recommended promoting plums and peaches at the same time, which has been shown to quadruple sales compared to promotions involving each item individually.

All three agreed that creativity also is important when merchandising produce. Spezzano said retailers should assign one person to the creativity role and give that person the necessary resources and authority to get creative with displays and learn from the best, which might not be conventional grocery stores but club stores, drug stores and dollar stores instead.

To help retailers with their merchandising at a time when labor is limited, Spezzano also said retailers should develop better partnerships with suppliers and that suppliers should do what they can to take labor out of the equation. He said it is important for retailers and suppliers to watch smaller chains like Roche Bros. and Haggen that are close to the consumer and that are quick to adopt the newest, latest merchandising trend to gain ideas.

He also suggested partnering with grower-shippers that are risk takers and tend to be on the cutting edge of product development.