Don’t blame the messenger.

Keep your customers informed

Pamela Riemenschneider
Aisle Wandering

I think that’s what retailers are hoping for with what’s going on with some produce prices lately.

At Sprouts Farmers Market in Austin, Texas, where I shop on occasion, there was a cheerful looking sign at the entrance explaining what’s going on.

“Those freezing temperatures are going to sting a little,” it said, and explained in pretty fine print about recent freezes in growing regions causing shortages and higher prices.

I liked how well it was worded and how much it explained.

“Freezing temperatures though California’s Imperial Valley all the way down through Yuma, Ariz., and even into Mexico wiped out thousands of acres of bell peppers, asparagus, lettuces, tomatoes, some citrus, and other crops,” it said.

“Many farmers lost not only the fruits and vegetables that were nearing harvest, but the plants themselves. Our hearts go out to them.”

The sign went on to explain that Sprouts’ buyers would continue to work as hard as they could to keep the deals coming.

I hope that I’m not the only one who read the whole sign, but in the 10 or so minutes I stood and watched the Sunday shopper crowd walk in and out the door, I think I’m the only person that noticed it.

My local H.E. Butt also has a sign about freezes affecting prices. It’s above the bell peppers.

Make it clear

Is the message getting out? Do consumers understand why prices are higher?

I asked my mommy shopper friends, whom I’ve dubbed the “Cart’s Eye View” panel for Produce Retailer, and the results are not surprising to me.

Most noticed prices are high, but didn’t really know why.

Amy in Phoenix said “Tomatoes were twice the price this week compared to the last time I bought them, a major bummer because I eat a lot of tomatoes.”

Val in St. Louis says her corporate cafeteria took tomatoes and peppers off the salad bar, and she missed them. Kris in Oklahoma recalled that Wendy’s made tomatoes optional because of the freeze.

Anne in Colorado says she’s baffled about produce prices in general.

“One week something is a buck a pound, and I search for fun recipes and go back next week and it’s three bucks a pound? Why?”

I think some of these questions can be answered through better communication.

How can we do that? I hate to jump on that social media bandwagon, but here’s a prime example of the value of Facebook. I follow many retailers on the social networking site, not only for deals, but just to keep an eye on what’s happening at their stores.

The ones that really do a great job have someone who is responsive to shoppers, and not just the weekly feed of in-store ads.

What retailers do you think do a great job of communicating with their shoppers?

E-mail pamelar@thepacker.com

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