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Cross-Merchandising Helps Consumers And Retailers


by Cindy Sorensen

Founder and CEO, The Grocery Group


As we finally turn the corner from winter into spring here in the Midwest, our thoughts begin to turn toward outdoor grilling and dinners on the deck. Dining outdoors might still be a few months away, but it’s not too early for retailers to begin planning how they might sell an increase in meat, seafood and poultry items versus last year.

This year could be an extra challenge because an unusual amount of snow and historic low temps might keep us from venturing outside as early as we might usually do so. So how can retailers help to meet or exceed last year’s sales in these important, store traffic-driving categories?

Those of you who follow my column or have heard me speak know I am a HUGE proponent of cross-merchandising departments within the store to provide not only solutions for your shoppers but also to increase your departments’ and total store sales and profits. I’m in my fourth decade in this business and have seen the discussion of cross-merchandising come and go. During this time, the concept has gone by many names: cross-merchandising, meal solutions, cross-selling, bundle promotions and so on.

Unfortunately, the concept never really seems to stick. It’s not because it doesn’t sell more product. In fact, it is because cross-merchandising sells more product that it hasn’t been adopted more broadly and more consistently. How does that even make sense?

I have had retailers tell me they know they can sell more product from a cross-merchandised display, but they do not have the systems in place to support stocking and rotation of the products displayed.

They say that to do so would require coordination across departments in the store to decide on: the location of the display; the products featured in the display; keeping the products in stock; rotation of any fresh products featured; regular and consistent meal ideas; and the determination of which department gets credit for the sale of the display.

These operational changes have been barriers to implementing shopper-friendly, consumer-centric solutions throughout the store. Discussions about which department gets credit for a sale are just so shortsighted and don’t see the big picture regarding the consumer landscape inside and outside of the store.

There are many retailers who understand the concept of providing solutions to their shoppers and who have overcome the need to measure one department’s performance against another.

Here are a few ideas I have seen implemented by retailers cross-merchandising, specifically in meat, seafood and poultry:

1. Bundle packs of accompanying produce items that are complementary to a provided recipe. This might include a bagged salad or a mix of vegetables to be cooked with or served as a side dish.

2. Wine suggestions for pairing with meat, poultry and seafood.

3. A basket of breadsticks or loaves of French bread as a floor display in the meat department. Don’t forget the olive oil and vinegar; maybe include a serving dish from GM to boost dollar sales and profit.

4. And of course, dairy, dairy, dairy. Cheese goes with everything. Gourmet cheese can be merchandised in the meat department as an appetizer suggestion or as an accompaniment to the meal. Cheese crumbles, such as feta or bleu, are a nice addition to a green salad; shredded cheese goes nicely melted over vegetables paired with featured meat, seafood or poultry items. How about providing a recipe for a specialty cheese sauce to be served over a Tilapia filet?

These suggestions are easy to implement. They will no doubt increase dollar sales and profit. Your shoppers will be happy with the suggestions you have provided as well as the ease cross-merchandising adds to their shopping experience. It’s a win-win for all.

Cindy Sorensen is the founder and CEO of The Grocery Group, which focuses on developing leadership in the grocery industry by supporting industry professionals in their career development. The Group also develops programs to connect grocery industry professionals to colleges and universities to help attract, recruit and retain a talented workforce in a competitive employment market. Reach Sorensen at [email protected].

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

1 Comment

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  • The Product Association report from our shopper card data helped build a compelling story for us to place top spice and seasoning skus on a rolling rack supplied by our CPG partner into the Meat Dept. Excellent example of taking top seasonal skus out of center store and cross merchandising them in high margin perimeter dept. driving higher basket rings. Fresh Chicken is 3.7 times more likely to be in the basket when any of these grilling spice or seasonings are purchased.

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