LOUISA, Ky. — Whether it's the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day or Christmas, Lequitte Perry, produce manager at a Food City store here, makes good use of upcoming events to bring customers into her department.
This week, marking Food City's readiness for Super Bowl Sunday, Perry and assistant store manager Kevin Garrett will roll out a 4-by-6 turf-green rug, featuring yard lines painted white. Smack in the middle of the produce aisle, the rug is supposed to be the field of play for The Chips and The Peanuts, teams represented by huge displays on top of a stack of pallets at each goal line.
Perry has invited Center Store managers to display chips on one goal line while, on the other, she displays 24-ounce bags of in-the-shell peanuts, a brisk seller in the produce department during playoff season and Super Bowl weekend.
The rug is placed on the floor, but Perry has mounted another football field replica, made from heavy green material, above the display so customers can see it from other parts of the store.
“We also put up signs that say, ‘Super Bowl Party Central,’” Perry said.
Perry and Garrett built the Super Bowl display themselves. They stack at least six pallets on top of one another and shore them up with landscaping timbers to create a display tall enough that it can be seen from several aisles away.
As Super Bowl weekend approaches, colorful signs in the aisle will point customers to a refrigerated, tiered case filled with fruit and vegetable trays, Perry told SN.
Perry, a 2009 recipient of United Fresh Produce Association's Retail Produce Manager Award, was honored at United Fresh's annual meeting in Las Vegas last year for her innovative and effective merchandising. She was one of just 25 produce managers from across the country to receive United Fresh's award.
Perry, thinking of new ways to show off produce items, often puts a new twist on an old theme. For instance, last Easter, she substituted an “Apple Hunt” for the traditional Easter egg hunt, which brought new customers and their children into the store.
Always, at Christmas time, she tries to think of something new to do, she said. In 2008, she initiated a have-your-picture-taken-with-Santa Claus event in the produce aisle. For this past Christmas season, Perry did that again, but also built a huge, new display, featuring a ski slope, from ceiling to floor, made from fluffy lengths of cotton batting.
In addition to working with other departments to cross-merchandise their products in produce, Perry always tries to incorporate the community in whatever ways she can, her colleagues have told SN.
“Before Christmas when I was visiting a local school, I saw a really great mural the kids had made. I was impressed, and I told the principal that I can always use kids' artwork somehow in my department.”
To fill out her Christmas display, she used paper snowflakes made by a local church youth group. For Valentine's Day, she's going to invite an elementary school class to make paper hearts that she'll hang in the produce department.
Perry described one of her favorite events this past year.
“One of our most successful was in November,” she said. “It was centered around giving out Grandma's Secret Apple Cake Recipe.
“We ended up handing out well over a thousand of them. I printed about 50 copies to start, and was amazed at how fast they went.
The recipe actually is Perry's grandmother's recipe. A couple of times, Perry baked the cake — a coffee cake type — and sampled it in the department. A sign said, “No icing needed. Just sprinkle caramel over the top.”
In conjunction with the handmade sign, she gave prominent space to envelopes of caramel apple dip mix. As a result, the department sold record amounts of the mix as well as a lot of apples and English walnuts. Center Store got into the act, too, because Perry made space in the apple display for the recipe's spices.
Perry said she and her team are already thinking of ideas for after the Super Bowl.
“We're talking about getting a sales competition going between four different varieties of potatoes. I think we'll call the competition Idaho Idol [a takeoff on television's popular “American Idol”]. There will be, for instance, The Yukon Golds vs. The Rodeo Reds.”