POMPANO BEACH, Fla. -- Xtra Super Food Centers here has developed its own demonstration team to sample grocery products on a weekly basis.
The program allows Xtra to bring a sales-driven orientation and uniform presentation to its demonstrations, according to Gerri Seinberg, the company's safety and sanitation manager, who coordinates the new product sampling program.
For the program, Xtra demos 10 products in each of its eight Florida stores every week. The demonstrations run four hours on Thursday and Friday, and seven hours on Saturday and Sunday.
"We went out and hired 10 people for each store; they're Xtra employees on our payroll," said Seinberg. "They're under our constant supervision and have a dress code, which includes hair restraint and gloves."
The program first got underway this past spring. In-house market research conducted in June showed that 80% of Xtra shoppers said they bought a product as a result of the demonstrations. Seinberg said she was impressed with that number, but added that figure is considered a starting point from which the chain will build higher awareness and demonstration-related sales.
Prior to creating its own department, Xtra had relied on outside demonstration companies for grocery sampling. And the results were rather helter-skelter, said Seinberg. Not only were the demos irregular, they often didn't include all the stores, she said.
One of the main benefits of Xtra running its own program now is control, she said. "We have more control over who comes into our stores and what they do in our stores. We also have more control to push for sales. When an outside demo agency comes into the store, they don't work for us. And if the store director doesn't like what he sees,
it isn't easy for him to correct the situation."
The Xtra staffers who conduct the demos are called "salespeople," and for good reason."Their job is to sell products," said Seinberg.
One way to accomplish this is to prepare the salespeople ahead of time. So, early in the week, Seinberg gives her team any information she has available about the upcoming products. "For instance, I tell them if there's going to be a coupon and the value of that coupon. Because that will affect how much can be sold."
Another way is to have sales incentives and contests within the store. For instance, the top two salespeople in one store get their names put in a hat, and at the end of the month a name is drawn for a gift certificate.
The process of getting 10 items every week starts with the manufacturer or broker working with Xtra's buyers, she explained. The manufacturers pay a one-time, flat fee per demo. "When the manufacturers or brokers call on our buyers, the buyers tell them about our program. The buyer then contacts me, and I'll work it onto my schedule."
Of course, there's some juggling, she said. If there's a soup manufacturer slotted for one week, Seinberg will suggest waiting a couple of weeks before another soup company is featured.