WATERFORD, Mich. -- Felice Family Food Center and ValuLand Food Centers here has added whole, frozen, baby octopus to its deli mix with unexpected sales success.
"We did it to attract attention, but we also thought we could sell some. And they've done much better than we had imagined," said Bob Flewelling, general manager for the three-unit, family-owned retailer. Two stores are operated under the ValuLand banner and one under the Felice banner.
"We sold 10 of them in the last month and a half and we've ordered more." That's more than double what he expected to sell, and they've elicited a lot of comments from customers, he said.
"People enjoy exotics like that even if they don't buy them," Flewelling said. So far, the sea creatures are offered at just one unit. The retailer buys them fresh and freezes them at store level. They're packaged on blue foam trays with clear overwrap.
"We spread out their tentacles and turn them over so their little suction cups show. They take up a tray about the size of an 8 by 11 sheet of paper," he said. They weigh about 3 pounds each and are $3.99 a pound.
The baby octopus is sold in the deli because the retailer recently did away with its seafood case, which had always been somewhat of a step-child to the deli, Flewelling said.
Seafood, as it is in other supermarkets in his area, was under the supervision of the deli department, Flewelling added. "But it was hard to get associates to pay much attention to it," he said.
"Supermarkets in the Midwest have been trying for years to sell seafood without much success," Flewelling said. "There just aren't enough turns. For that reason, he decided to carry only a limited selection of seafood, frozen, and sell it from the deli counter.
That decision made, he installed a 12-foot case that does double duty. "It's unique," Flewelling said. The front part of it is an open freezer for self-service where the octopus, packaged squid and a few other items are featured. A top tier is an ice bed where fresh deli products, such as salads, are sold by associates.