A good grocery perimeter design must include merchandising units that not only display product well and look good, but that also guarantee product remains as fresh as possible before consumers purchase it.

Brooklyn Park, Minnesota-based Carlson AirFlo Merchandising Systems provides merchandising systems for produce, dairy/deli, meat/seafood and floral departments, in addition to offering its customers custom-made solutions.

Mark Chenoweth, the company’s president, says there are a variety of things grocery retailers need to consider when it comes to revamping their perimeter departments or creating them from scratch in their new stores.

Visual impact, for example, is key. “Customers are driven by their senses,” Chenoweth says. “The best way to drive fresh sales is to engage visually exciting displays.”

Pick areas of the department that will catch the customer’s eye as soon as they enter the department, Chenoweth recommends. That will create a unique look that will differentiate your store from your competitors. 

“By elevating the merchandising in fresh areas many of our customers see immediate impact to their sales, many times a double digit increase,” he says. “AirFlo has a large number of display options to help excite and engage customers to buy more.”


Close eye on trends

Retailers must also make a close reckoning of product and consumer trends before going forward with their perimeter redesigns or new-store designs. Chenoweth says.

What items are pulling customers into your store and driving sales? Should a department lead with an organic set, fresh juice, a grab and go selection or a specialty product?

“Exciting displays of these unique categories help drive customer sales and should be placed in a prominent area to pick up the incremental sales,” he says.

Millennials in particular, Chenoweth says, have much different buying habits than other generations. They prefer fresh, organic products and —for their busy lifestyles — pre-cut, prepped and grab and go items.

AirFlo provides a variety of merchandising sets that enable retailers to grow their offering of new products, Chenoweth says.

Retailers need to think about the sales volumes of their perimeter departments and how much holding power its perimeter cases require, he says. Many AirFlo systems help to better merchandise larger volume stores who need holding power in their cases.

The company also offers low-volume systems for smaller stores.  In those settings, displays need to limit how much product can be placed in the cases, due to the fact that some stocking employees may tend to overstock shelves resulting in shrink due to damaged or expiring product. 

“AirFlo has a variety of vertical racks, filler blocks and step racks to help prevent the overloading of displays,” Chenoweth says. “The merchandising systems must be tailored to each store in order to provide good inventory turns and eliminate shrink. Stores that are known for their freshness can command a better price on their products. “

Product assortment also is crucial. The offering can change from store to store, and having a flexible merchandising profile is important to ensure you have exciting-looking displays, solid inventory management and a product roster best suited for the local target audiences.


Let there be light

Lighting plays a critical role in merchandising product in grocery stores, especially in the fresh perimeter departments, says Bill Plageman, vice president of marketing for Oakland, New Jersey-based Amerlux.

“Fresh foods look their best under lighting that showcases its natural colors,” Plageman says. “Think lush greens and rich reds. Color is the language of fresh, so it is critical that fresh foods, such as produce and red meat, be seen in the best light. LED light showcases the natural color, making grocers’ tomatoes look like they were picked that morning.”

Mehmert’s Knab couldn’t agree more.

“The No. 1 physical upgrade you can do is lighting,” he says. “You can make a real awesome store look bad with a really poor lighting, and you can make a kind-of-a-bad store look pretty good with lighting.”

Some retailers just want to turn all the lights on in their perimeter departments, Knab says. Not a good idea. Instead, consider the effect good spotlighting can have in a department like fresh produce.

“You want consumers to have that feeling you get when you walk up to a really nice orchard bin full of oranges and apples, where the colors are just popping out at you. It makes you want to put that stuff in your cart.”

Lighting considerations should also be taken into account when you’re making decisions about what kind of flooring to put in, Knab says. Light will bounce off the floor differently depending on the surface, lighting parts of the department and creating shadow lines that may not have been anticipated.


True colors

Modern LEDs can deliver the best color rendering abilities ever achieved with artificial lighting, Plageman says. Where older lighting technologies like fluorescent and ceramic metal halide lamps produce very flat colors and halogens present overly warm colors, today’s LED lights let foods’ vibrant colors crisply shine out.

Maximizing the profitability of specialty perimeter departments, such as meat and seafood, produce and instore restaurants all require different lighting than center-store, Plageman says.

Instore bakeries, for example, need warm-toned lights (think of the light of the setting sun) to emphasize the just-out-of-the-oven look of the bread. Meat, on the other hand, does better under cool lights that emphasize the red color of the steak, while keeping the marbling a crisp white.

And instore restaurants need warmer lighting and different fixtures, so the area stands out from the rest of the store and attracts shoppers’ attention. 

Whatever the perimeter department, Plageman says, Amerlux can find the right fit.

“Our SPEQ track lights with Fresh Color Chips are the ideal solution for supermarkets,” he says. “SPEQ is a modern-styled, highly efficient LED light solution that delivers premium lighting on target while drastically reducing energy consumption without sacrificing color quality or performance.”

SPEQ lights illuminate products so well, Plageman says, that art galleries and museums are using them for their displays. SPEQ comes in three versions —15-watt, 26-watt and 48-watt —and delivers a super-long lifespan of 50,000 to 70,000 hours. With that kind of lifespan, supermarkets can be assured of a long operating life with minimal maintenance needs.


Quality goes up, prices come down

Plageman says some supermarket managers are scared of high costs to upgrade their lighting to LEDs. But the truth is that upfront costs have never been lower. LED technology keeps improving and costs keep falling, and revamping perimeter department lighting with high quality LED lighting is one of the rare things you can do, he adds, to both reduce expenses and boost sales.

And on the expense side, LEDs can quickly pay for themselves with their energy efficiency, maintenance savings and utility incentives. As for sales, Plageman says that supermarkets Amerlux has worked with in the past say they typically see a 20 percent boost in sales after improving their product lighting.

“Merchandise that looks good sells better, and nowhere is that truer than with fresh foods.”

Retailers who switch to LEDs can find cost savings in other ways, too. There are a wide variety of utility rebates and tax incentives available to encourage LED adoption, making lighting upgrades more affordable than ever, Plageman says.