HOUSTON -- Auchan Hypermarket here, the sole outpost in the United States of the France-based retailer, continues to battle against its more plentiful domestic competitors through unusual and inventive promotions -- most recently teaming up with a local supplier in an attempt to create the world's largest potato display.
MountainKing Potatoes, also here, joined the retailer in the record attempt by supplying a whopping 60,000 pounds of potatoes to create two large displays. The promotion was similar to Auchan's record-breaking banana display from last year [see "Auchan Unit Plays Top Banana With Biggest Display," SN, Aug. 8, 1999], and is yet another attempt by the retailer to stay ahead of the local giants.
"The major supermarkets are too big to do stuff like this, or they don't have the time," said David Asher, produce manager and buyer at Auchan. "So when we have the chance to do these unique things and draw attention to ourselves and our store, we go all out."
Following 40 hours of construction, an estimated 120,000 individual potatoes (some in bags) rested in both the Auchan parking lot and within the store's produce department. The outside display of MountainKing Petite potatoes, supported by two semi-trucks with painted side panels, stretched 85 feet by 15 feet.
Indoors, the produce section hosted the remaining spuds -- MountainKing Red, Russet, Gold, Jumbos, Petites and Bulk Baker potatoes, in a 20-foot by 10-foot by 5-foot display. The outside display was kept for only two days due to the Houston heat. Workers began moving bags inside to the interior display, the focal sales point, which remained intact for nearly two weeks, according to officials.
"We searched long and hard and couldn't find any record of such a display ever being attempted," said Andreas Trettin, marketing director for MountainKing. "So we just aimed high and went for it."
Trettin, who designed the display with strategically stacked bins to keep the potatoes from tumbling to the floor, said both the supplier and the retailer could find no record of any previous record for potato displays. Perhaps that is why this attempt at creating the record drew a generous crowd of television and radio media, especially in the first two days, he said.
Throughout the first day of the promotion, MountainKing's own "Chef Kayser" prepared samples of potato-based recipes for consumers to nibble on, and passed out serving suggestions and meal ideas to those who took home a bag.
"Chef Kayser really helped attract consumers to the display with his sampling and his recipe ideas," said Trettin. "People got a taste of what they could expect from the potatoes and got an idea of what to do with them once they got them home."
To promote sales and move a maximum amount of volume, Auchan offered customers a special on MountainKing potatoes, which sold at 59 cents a bag throughout the promotion period. According to Asher, MountainKing potatoes usually retail for between $1.49 and $1.59 per bag.
Auchan alerted consumers to both the display and the special potato prices through large in-store banners, signs featuring the lowered prices and a few radio ads during the week prior to the record-setting event.
Local consumers took to the display and its accompanying special very quickly, said Asher, adding that sales in the produce department increased 15% during the promotion.
"[Shoppers] came to see, then stayed to buy," said Asher. "So it worked out for everybody."
The official status of the record is unknown, and Trettin said Guinness had not yet been contacted regarding the display.