DAYTON, Ohio -- Dorothy Lane Market here has sent single-serving dessert sales soaring by taking them out of the bakery department and relaunching them in the deli.
Wedges of pie, slices of layer cake, hunks of cheesecake and individual apple crisps and dumplings displayed alongside prewrapped sandwiches and chilled entrees are ringing up at least seven times the sales they did in the bakery, company officials said.
"That's because they're more of an impulse buy, displayed there with other meal items," said Scott Fox, bakery director for the two-unit upscale independent here.
"Those are all extra sales for us," Fox said, pointing out that the volume in single-serving goods is not cutting into sales of whole pies and cakes.
Sales of the single-serving items, most of which are made in the in-store bakery, are now totaling as much as $750 a week per store. That's compared with barely hitting $150 a week when they were offered in the bakery department.
Fox chose to take the single-pack items out of the self-service bakery case entirely, rather than treating the deli as a satellite display.
"They never did well there. We're using the space they had in the bakery case for more of our whole cakes and pies. We can make a more attractive display," Fox said.
In deli, the items are presented as a dessert with a plastic fork or spoon attached to the package. "The label holds the fork or spoon in place," Fox said. "We try to put the label on the side of the package so we can show as much of the dessert as possible."
The dessert menu in the deli case does not currently include Dorothy Lane's "Killer Brownies," a signature program that has helped the retailer make a name for itself as an upscale destination. "We may add brownies, but we'll do something different with them, like maybe top them with chocolate mousse or a chocolate sauce, so you'd have to eat them with a fork," Fox said.
He added that the idea is to get customers to think of the items as dessert, a finishing touch to a meal, not a snack.
About 4 linear feet out of approximately 12 linear feet are devoted to the dessert items in each of two upright self-service cases in the deli. One case, which holds prepacked sandwiches and salads, is near the front of the store. The other, which displays chilled entrees and side dishes, is positioned across the aisle from the service deli counter, further back in the fresh-food aisle.
Fox said the 4 feet of case devoted to desserts have an added positive effect: they keep the deli cases looking full. Most of the desserts have a three-day shelf life, unlike sandwiches, which need to turn fast, he explained. The result is that deli associates make sandwiches more often as they sell out, and thus the customer gets a fresher sandwich.
And there are other benefits, like increased deli sales, too. While in-store bakery gets the total ring for the desserts, their presence in the deli case is a definite plus for the deli, according to food-service director Donna Howe.
"It's a good idea. They've definitely increased deli sales," Howe said; she declined, however, to be more specific about how much deli sales have increased since the dessert program was launched.
The single portions of cakes and pies and tiramisu are packed in clear, clam-shell packages; apple dumplings and apple crisps are packaged in bake-in, round, black containers with clear dome tops.
The items are not offered in service cases in deli or bakery. "The customers for them wouldn't be shopping the service case," Fox said. "Anyone buying from the service deli case would be apt to come to the bakery for a whole pie or cake. We do have a full-service bakery and there we want our displays to look like works of art, something you might see in New York City." Single-serve packages would just clutter up the service case, he explained.
The single-serving, self-service program was tested in one store about three months ago at the initiative of Shelly Eberly, the bakery manager there, Fox said.
"It was her idea. It all started with customers asking for single slices of pie. We started out at that store with no more than two dozen pieces the first day, and they sold out." Then, Fox said, they were added in the second store and the variety and number of items was gradually increased at both stores.
"And, since we started it, we have not staled on one item," he said.
Asked which variety was the best-seller, Fox said it was a toss-up between tiramisu, and all the varieties of cheesecake and cream pies. Five varieties of cheesecake -- English toffee, plain, cherry, raspberry swirl, and chocolate swirl -- and five cream pies -- chocolate cream, Boston cream, key lime, lemon meringue and coconut meringue -- are offered.
"They all sell well, though, and customers have told us they're happy we're offering them. They say it's convenient, that they don't necessarily want to buy a whole pie or cake," said Fox.
He added that the margins on single servings are particularly attractive. "For example, the gross margin on a whole cream pie is 45%, but on the single servings, it's 63%." The retail for pie slices is $1.89; for cheesecake, $1.99; for tiramisu and cake slices, $2.99. Fox's next venture with cross merchandising bakery products in the deli department is slated for the fall, when he'll offer 8 by 8 pans of corn bread and also biscuits at the hot table.
He said he had tried merchandising rolls and baguettes there previously, but it didn't work. On the other hand, corn bread and biscuits and some cobblers might be good sellers as companions to chicken and ribs, he added.