LAWTON, Okla. -- Country Mart, an independently owned retail chain, attempted to put its newest store in the record books recently with a mound of citrus the likes of which, the owners hoped, no one had ever seen before.
Only one week after attempting to create the world's largest orange display, the unit here sold all 448,500 of the featured fruits and boosted produce-department sales to more than $35,000, according to Hugh Holt, produce specialist for Associated Wholesale Grocers, Oklahoma City, Okla., the chain's supplier and provider of the oranges.
"We wanted to create some excitement around this new store," he said. "And I definitely think we did just that."
Located an hour southwest of Oklahoma City, the 50,000-square-foot Country Mart opened on February 26 as the 13th store in the chain. Seeking to publicize the grand opening in a new way, co-owners Brad Dobberstein and Herb Willoughby decided to make a run at the previous orange display record of 3,092 cases, held by Festival Foods, Massillon, Ohio.
The mountain of oranges was piled high in the parking lot adjacent to the store during the early morning of March 14, delivered as nearly four semi-truck loads. The display took seven hours to construct, and was built on many of the 3,250 cardboard cases used to ship the items. The end product rose nearly 16 feet into the air, and was topped with a banner that was stretched across the 65-ton pile advertising the special price accompanying the display: 20 oranges for $1.00.
"It boosted total sales for that week very nicely throughout the store, and immensely in the produce department," said Holt, adding that oranges normally sell at 6 for $1.00 in Country Mart. "It was quite a bargain."
The display, and its attractive discount, was very successfully cross-merchandised with other store products, such as flavored orange drinks and orange juice, according to Holt. There was even a tie-in with the bakery department, which offered specially designed pies and cakes, some with orange flavoring and others shaped like the fruit themselves.
"The whole store jumped on board and got behind the promotion," said Holt.
After its inaugural day in the parking lot, and after sales had diminished its sheer mass, the display was broken down and moved inside to the store's 7,000 square-foot produce department, and some cases were relocated under the large outdoor tent that had been posted in the parking lot as part of the day's events.
During its outdoor showing, Holt noted that a lot of shoppers showed up and were very impressed with the size of the display, even though very little had been done to promote its event beforehand.
"It was really a spur-of-the-moment thing that Brad and Herb wanted to do, so all we really had was a few radio spots the day before," said Holt.
A local television station sent a news crew over to cover the event, as well as radio stations and some local press. The most interesting moments, according to Holt, came when a few truckers pulled off of the highway, parked their rigs next to the display, and requested photographs be taken of the two monstrous entities side-by-side, as the display was taller than their normally towering semis.