ATLANTA -- For six years Harry's Farmers Market prided itself on not running newspaper ads. Now the retailer, which in the last year has been facing difficult financial times, is turning to advertising to increase profits, and produce is taking center stage.
A full-page ad printed early last month in the food section of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution was Harry's first newspaper advertisement since it opened the doors of its first store in 1988, according to industry sources.
The top half of the ad featured a photograph of the company's president, Harry Blazer, with his arms full of cantaloupes. Printed above the photograph was the headline, "Taste My Melons!"
Below the photograph was a quote signed by Blazer that read, "5 truckloads of the tastiest, most luscious cantaloupes just came in from California. Help me unload!"
The size 12 melons were featured at 79 cents each.
"We were pretty amazed to see that Harry's is finally advertising," said a local industry observer who asked not to be identified. "It shows that even Harry is having a tough time like the rest of us in this competitive market."
Harry's chose to feature produce in its first ad because of the category's importance to the company and its potential to bring in additional profits, the source said.
"Harry's is known in this market for its produce. It was a good strategic decision to lead with produce. If they want to increase profits, this is the category they need to focus on."
The bottom half of the ad featured other grocery and fresh-food products: six ears of sweet corn for 99 cents, whole chickens for 49 cents a pound, split chicken breasts for $1.19 a pound, 2-liter bottles of 7-Up and Dr. Pepper for 59 cents, salmon steaks for
$3.99 a pound and boneless New York strip steaks for $4.99 a pound.
The prices were in effect Aug. 4 through Aug. 7.
In the last quarter of 1993, Harry's lost $5 million in profits on sales of $116 million, according to the company's annual report.
Harry's financial performance apparently has not improved this year, according to the industry source, who said the company's decision to advertise is a move to build sales and return to profit.
Harry's operates five stores, three of which were opened in the last 15 months.
"We underestimated the time needed to effectively respond to the challenges inherent in expanding our infrastructure which resulted in a poor financial and operational performance in the final quarter of (1993)," said Harry Blazer in a letter to shareholders printed in the company's annual report.
The company is considered a leader and innovator in the supermarket industry, particularly in produce, which is given more than 30% of sales floor space in the company's three megastores. The department carries more than 1,200 varieties of produce throughout the year, and an average of 600 items on any given day.
The stores, located in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, range from 60,000 to 100,000 square feet.
The company's other two stores operate under a different format called "Harry's in a Hurry."
The smaller specialty stores -- one at 3,700 square feet and the other at 7,200 square feet -- sell only fresh foods.
Harry's is reportedly planning additional ads, the source said.
"I wouldn't doubt if we see a lot more ads coming out of Harry's featuring aggressive pricing on produce," the source said. "I'm sure they got a lot of play on the first one. Harry is a tough competitor."