Hopeful thinking that retail sales are immune from the recession appears dashed by a recent Perishables Group report.

The good news for fresh produce marketers is it seems consumers are not trading down and are still motivated by high-quality or high-priced items, not strictly value buys in the grocery store’s produce department.

The West Dundee, Ill.-based company reported retail produce sales in the first quarter of this year were 1.4% down in dollars per store compared with the same period last year, and volume was down 3% compared with a year ago.

Meanwhile, the average retail price was up 1.7% higher than the same quarter last year.

Staple items like bananas and potatoes remained recession-proof, each posting more than 10% dollar gains per store versus last year, while average prices were 14.1% higher for bananas and 13.4% up for potatoes.

The berry category continues to shine with dollars per store per week up 13.4% in the first quarter, with volume up 20%, according to the data.

This is just one piece of data on the market, but it seems to show retailers should not necessarily rethink traditional marketing for fresh fruits and vegetables in these weak economic times.

Consumers still demand and purchase good-quality product at reasonable prices.

With so many areas of North America coming into production as summer nears, there’s reason to be optimistic local retail promotions can attract more consumer attention to the quality and value in the produce department.