Honestly, how important is that weekly ad?

The department decides if an ad delivers

Armand Lobato
The Produce Aisle

Yeah, you know, the ad that gets tacked up in the board room every week. The ad the marketing vice president goes over with a fine-tooth comb, fine-tuning every photo, every price point until everything is just so.

It wasn’t until I spent a short time away from retail that I realized some customers don’t even look at the food ads in their newspaper. I also noticed while shopping that many customers don’t even pick up a copy from the racks placed at the front of the store.

Up until then, I had thought everyone spread the ads out on their table every Wednesday morning.

And yet, ads remain one of the strongest marketing tools a chain can have. While a few customers hold their morning coffee in one hand and clutch the weekly ad tightly in the other as they make their way through the aisles, most customers simply want to get the weekly shopping chore over and done with.

Again, what makes these ads so important?

In a word: Execution. It’s not so much what the chain’s front office has done with an ad that’s important but what the store has done. If grapefruit is the lead ad item, customers will know it. They also know if you run out — the biggest sin a retailer can commit.

Customers also look for and are drawn toward massive, ad displays. In fact, how many times have you built an ad display the day before the ad breaks and customers begin to buy that item in quantity, unaware that the item is not on sale?

This, by the way, is a good tip on how to boost profit margins, but that’s a topic for another day.

However, it does validate what was long suspected: A well-signed, massive display will move product, even at regular price. (Although admittedly once on ad, the item sells much better).

The second, and I believe more important, value in weekly ads is establishing a foothold in a shopper’s routine. If customers buy something on ad that perhaps isn’t on their regular shopping list — and they like it enough — they will be back the next week and beyond and purchase the item at regular price.

Had the item never been on ad, that routine may never have been established.

The next time you see unused bundles of ads in the stock room, remember the value of the ad isn’t so much in the paper and ink used but how those items are promoted to actually change consumers’ shopping patterns and the store’s long-term sales results.

Customers care about those ads, all right — maybe even as much as the grocers do.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail armandlobato@comcast.net.

How important do you think the weekly produce ad is? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.