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Merchandising—Breaking The Paradigms At Retail

Cindy Sorensen, Midwest Dairy Association
Cindy Sorensen, Midwest Dairy Association

by Cindy Sorensen/SVP of Business Development, Midwest Dairy Association

I recently attended a meeting that included senior-level executives from several high-profile grocery retailers from around the country. As a nearly 30-plus-year veteran of the grocery industry, participating in this meeting with these leaders was definitely a career high point for me.

During our meeting, we discussed several merchandising concepts, which when implemented will help increase the sales of dairy products. The merchandising concepts will provide suggestions to shoppers to include dairy products in their choices for breakfast, dinner and snacking occasions.

What I found most interesting about our discussions is that the conversations we are having today about reaching the consumer with innovative merchandising ideas are much like the conversations we were having 30 years ago. The conversations conclude with the need to break down old paradigms about how a store is managed, merchandised and measured.

For example, does it make sense to cross merchandise milk with cereal, deli and bakery; or cheese, yogurt and sour cream with fruit and vegetables? Or to provide dinner meal solutions, which include recipe cards and a display of all of the ingredients necessary to make the recipe? Of course it does.

Retailers need to allow themselves to get beyond the traditional methods by which they have managed and measured store success, which is based on the sales and margins of each department, rather than the whole store. Dairy products provide a great opportunity for cross merchandising, as several dairy products can be incorporated across all day parts, including snacking.

When designing a store or developing a merchandising strategy, retailers might want to look at consumer insights to understand what solutions consumers are looking for and design their strategies to fit those needs. This means breaking the old paradigms about assigning credit for a sale to a specific department within a store, or worrying about giving up floor space in one department to cross merchandise a meal solution within the floor space of another department.

When retailers can effectively meet consumers’ needs, they will develop loyal shoppers who appreciate retailers’ ability to identify and provide solutions for those needs. With a quickly changing competitive retail environment and increased channel shifting, this could be the competitive advantage required to win against the “other guy” in town or against the growth of e-commerce.

Successfully fulfilling consumer needs will build store sales and loyalty. Providing consumer solutions can be a point of differentiation for brick-and-mortar stores in the competitive retail landscape.

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