SEATTLE -- Larry's Markets here is switching from self-service to service-only cheese departments in all its stores.
The reason is simple. The trend-setting independent has found that it sells more cheese that way, a local observer said.
A service cheese island launched at a replacement store last summer was such a success the program was put into two other units shortly afterward. Now total cheese sales are up by double-digit percentages over the same period a year ago.
While officials at Larry's declined to comment on their cheese programs, a store source told SN that having a service counter boosts sales because staffers have an opportunity to educate customers about cheeses.
Larry's offers between 300 and 400 varieties of cheese, about evenly divided between domestic and imported items.
"If a customer comes to the counter to buy one type of cheese, the associate can recommend others, offer serving suggestions. Customers are less apt to try something new from the self-service case," the source said, adding that having a service department makes for better handling. The cheese is cut from bulk as needed and then packed in clear wrap that allows the product to breathe. The clear wrap process preserves the integrity of the product better than the air-tight packages that precut, prewrapped cheese is shipped in, the source said.
A very limited variety of prepacked cheeses -- those that move more slowly than others -- will be integrated with other products in a self-service case at some Larry's units.