CHESTERLAND, Ohio -- Russo's Supermarkets here ran a Springtime in Paris promotion that gave sales a rich boost and got department managers saying "oui" to cross merchandising.
With total-store sales up 10% over the same period a year earlier, the company gives credit for its success to enthusiastic participation by all its in-store departments, said Kathryn Lowe, marketing and public relations director for the four-unit independent.
"This was a total-store effort. We sold a lot of nonperishable products from France, such as wine vinegars, olive oil, preserves and mustards. And the margin on those is a lot better than it is on a jar of mayonnaise," Lowe said, but she also noted that the fresh-foods departments did their part as well.
The deli, bakery, produce, floral and meat departments participated with their own products and themed decorations and by cross merchandising items from other departments in their displays.
Getting all the fresh departments involved was a challenge but one that paid off, because the store-wide celebratory atmosphere helped drive sales, Lowe explained.
"You don't get all the sales increases from French foods. What's important is that you've created excitement and adventure when no promotion was in place, Lowe pointed out.
The specialty-cheese department cross merchandised French bread from the bakery and crackers and pates as well as wine in its cases.
But it wasn't all cheese and wine either. The produce department created huge displays of French green beans and cross merchandised bottles of Beaujolais. The deli featured fresh pates and put Chicken Cordon Bleu and Potatoes Provencale on its menu. The bakery featured croissants and French bread, which it made sure were displayed in other departments. Even the floral department offered French roses and European-style bouquets at a special price, Lowe said.
"It has been difficult to get everybody to communicate and get on the same page. The fresh departments haven't been used to participating so actively in promotions. In the past, it's been all grocery, so they hadn't been used to thinking creatively about participating in promotions," she said.
Lowe coordinated the effort. As head of a merchandise-buyer committee, she leads the planning for four major promotions a year and smaller ones in between.
For the Springtime in Paris promotion, she got cooperation from Food & Wines From France, a New York-based trade association, and from several suppliers.
Thanks to Food & Wines From France, Russo's sported three-dimensional Eiffel towers in each store and blue, white and red banners that read, "Vive La France." French flags and blue, white and red balloons were everywhere. Some departments added their own touches, too. In the meat department at one store, for example, tricolored ribbon in France's colors was looped over the top of each case. And at the deli, French-motif paper bags with blue, white and red tissue sticking out were used as props.
Food-tasting demonstrations were features of the promotion as well and live French music added extra zing one day.
The next themed promotion will be "The Blues" in August, Lowe said. Again, products featured will come from all departments in the store. They'll include blue cheeses, blueberries, blueberry muffins and blueberry syrup.