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Country Sweet Produce — A “Sweet” Win for Merchandising

It’s no secret the retail scene is rife with competition: a balance of trying to catch the consumer eye while keeping employees engaged is driving differentiation and team support, and merchandising strategies might be the key to unlocking that door.

Keen on proving this concept is Country Sweet Produce’s Marketing Specialty and Sales Manager, Gina Pettit, who reached out to retail partners to brainstorm ideas on how upping merchandising attention could help boost the ring at the register. One strategy, brought to Gina by a partner during an idea session, was a contest.

Gina Pettit, Marketing Specialty and Sales Manager, Country Sweet Produce“This contest is the perfect example of how thoughtful merchandising can work to increase sales and product awareness,” Gina shares with me when I ask about how this kicked off. “In showing an interest to get more involved from the marketing side, our retail partner approached us with the idea as something they had done previously.”

The idea was a friendly competition between the produce department of each of the retailer’s stores—which retailer we were asked not to name—challenging them to construct a standout display using the company’s Bako Sweet® bags. Each would submit a photo showcasing the creativity of the display, as well as the volume and sales dollars generated from each store for the product. The winner was selected by a combination of Country Sweet and the retailer’s leadership.

“The winning store was presented with a $500 Visa gift card from Country Sweet Produce to put toward a team-bonding activity,” Gina explains. “We ran the merchandising contest throughout the stores within a specific market, challenging each location individually to come up with a really creative way to display Bako Sweet bags.”

This event not only engaged and challenged produce departments in individual stores to come together as a team, but helped put extra love into Country Sweet’s Bako Sweet bags.
A Country Sweet Produce sweet potato display.

“Now, since we’ve had that contest, sales have been phenomenal, outperforming even larger retailers on a weekly basis,” Gina tells me, and I can hear the surprise in her voice. “I received an e-mail from a now loyal consumer who noticed one of the shining displays at a store in the contest’s region. Now he loves our product!”

In some areas, sales more than doubled for Country Sweet’s product when compared to the previous year in that store alone. Already a win-win for both retailer and supplier, the process was virtually painless and costless for both.

“From a supplier perspective, we provided little-to-no more assistance than our usual supply. We did run a coupon for a two week period during the contest and the $500 reward, but other than that, it was all the stores themselves that wanted to put in to win the contest,” Gina recalls. “It was painless on both sides. The gift card compared to the outcome in sales was more than beneficial.”

And, she adds, it helped give a significant voice to the power of merchandising.

“If anything, this experience really showcases how effective strategic marketing can be and how important it is. Merchandising feels undervalued, with a lack of attention on our intel side, and that needs to change,” Gina shares.

"Merchandising feels undervalued, with a lack of attention on our intel side, and that needs to change."
-Gina Pettit

So, outside of a two-week coupon promotion Country Sweet provided for the Bako Sweet bags and a $500 Visa gift card for the winning store to spend on any team activity they wished, the company did nothing but watch the numbers climb.

Likewise, each store put more creativity in the craft than it did in any additional supplies. And, judging by a couple of the entries Gina shared with me, they had fun putting these together. What more could either side want from a marketing opportunity?