Disrupting Display Cases

Artfully decorated cakes. Buttery, flaky croissants. Beauty lives in baked goods. However, many in-store bakeries miss the opportunity to create displays worthy of these appealing products, according to Diane Chiasson, president of food service and retail consulting company Chiasson Consultants.

“I can’t tell you how many companies I work with [that] don't understand the goal really is to sell fresh food—and the food should stand out to generate sales,” Chiasson says. “Display cases can make a big difference.”

Disorganized, dark or dirty displays, for example, can give people a negative impression of the bakery—and possibly the entire supermarket; a dangerous prospect, given more than half of retail bakery executives consider the bakery to be customers’ main motivation for stopping by the store, according to a recent survey from Progressive Grocer magazine.

To ensure your bakery displays are working for you, focus on:

1. Keeping it Fresh

Instead of restocking only when items sell, convenience store chain Kwik Trip, which has 24-hour locations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, replaces the glazed donuts and muffins in its display throughout the day.

A percentage is built into each product’s price to cover waste, and a markdown program lets Kwik Trip recover some of the cost of discarded product, according to Retail Food Service Director Paul Servais.

The chain sells close to 800 units of bakery products per store per day, excluding breads and buns, and anticipates it will see double-digit category growth in 2017— a phenomenon Servais attributes to its emphasis on quality.

“In the past, you’d walk into stores like us after 4 p.m. and the bakery case looked horrible—things had been sitting there since morning,” Servais says. “We made a change years ago that if co-workers see Long Johns out at noon, they make new Long Johns. We learned people like [baked goods] almost as much at five in the afternoon as at five in the morning.”

2. Getting Attention With Lighting

Breaking from tradition, Market Street, one of five distinct stores under United Supermarkets’ grocery banner, primarily uses track lights, pendant lights and spotlights to showcase bakery items, according to Gaston Luna, director of bakery for Texas-based grocery chain.

“Most conventional grocery store lighting is fluorescent,” he says. “[Specialized light] allows us to emphasize things. Throughout the bakery, we’re shining lights purposefully so guests’ eyes are drawn to a certain case or product we’re trying to promote.”

For stores that opt for standard overhead lighting, Chiasson recommends ensuring it’s consistent and in working order. “Big companies I work with have burned out bulbs they don't change—that is an item that’s supposed to sell your product,” Chiasson says. “Take care of your cases. Try to keep case lighting consistent by using the same kind of bulb.”

3. Making the Most of Signage

Store signage options vary from digital boards to tabletop stands. Chiasson recommends including a store logo and pricing on most signage. “A lot of companies don't,” she says. With the price clearly marked, she says, “I know if I can afford it. Otherwise, I have to go to a cashier and ask. It’s embarrassing to say no because it’s not in your budget.”

In addition, bakery departments can use signage to provide the background stories of bakery offerings, increasing their perceived value. Market Street got great feedback and a branding boost earlier this year when it included just a few bullet points about two pies made with Texas pecans. “Signs help us tremendously because they’re educational pieces telling guests about the actual products—[they can] do a lot more for us than just having the product out, trying to sell itself,” Luna says.

4. Boosting Engagement

United Supermarkets puts items on nesting tables and in a grab-and-go case, but keeps many of its bakery offerings behind the counter, according to Luna. “Guests who are in a hurry and just want something for after dinner can pick something up and go,” he says. “But there’s no interaction from the guest to the team member. We want to have that—so many of our full-serve cases are larger than our self-serve cases.”

5. Shaking up Cake Placement

Laying cakes across three or four shelves has been a common display tactic in beneath-the-counter cases for years, but about a year ago, Luna noticed stores increasingly using tiered displays.

“By doing this, instead of just having a line of cakes across a straight shelf, it allows guests’ [views] to wander up and down,” he says. “Overall, it’s a much better presentation, in terms of having an almost homemade-type look to it, instead of something that just looks commercial.”

6. Infusing Packaging With Personality

Market Street offers gourmet and traditional products and is revamping packaging to include craft boxes with seasonally themed bows. “We’re working on packaging to give [displays] a different type of personality,” Luna says. “In a sense, you’d be able to take one and give it as a gift.”