As this is written, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of seafood managers and clerks setting creative seafood displays across North America this morning. The creativity of the seafood display is the first thing to lure shoppers to take a closer look at the daily seafood offerings. It is part of what makes the seafood department unique in the supermarket, and one reason why good seafood managers should be paid like a meat or produce manager. The rest of the store is mostly or completely “planogrammed” by a corporate merchandisers hundreds of miles away with no room for creative merchandising at store level. Many of the folks that develop and write these planograms never worked in the stores for an extended period of time. It works well for grocery, general merchandise and dairy where more can be learned from analyzing data than from working the front lines. It is just no fun, and far from creative, to fill the grocery frozen food case. It should not work that way on seafood. It is important for seafood managers to have and use creative freedom effectively or risk losing that empowerment to corporate planograms and dictates.

Quality and service are what wins long-term, repeat customers. But it is the seafood display that attracts customers the first time or draws customers in when they were planning just to buy milk and bread. Creating impulse sales is just one of the benefits of a well-crafted display. The seafood department can create and foster a fresh image that benefits the entire store’s perishable image. This halo affect is an important reason to have service seafood in a supermarket. Seafood is a draw, and usually not a big money maker, so have fun with the seafood display and merchandise to customers!

How this is achieved is the real story. Many customers can see a great seafood display and say, “Wow, that is beautiful.” But what are the techniques that generate interest and excitement from customers? Merchandising and display are more art than science, but there are some do’s and don'ts to follow when setting the seafood case. Here are a couple tidbits on the subject:

•    Look at the seafood case from the customer’s viewpoint. Shingle or lie steaks and fillets to show off the best side, facing, or edge towards the customer. An example is when salmon steaks are shingled with the skin edge towards the customer and the red meat side facing the clerk behind the case. It should be the other way around. Show the red meat to the customer. 

•    Use colors intermittently to make individual displays stand out and to create a pleasing pallet of colors to the eye. It is contrast that helps something stand out to the human eye. Three white fillets next to each other are bland. White cod and tilapia fillets with orange salmon fillets in between make all three items jump out at the customer due to the color contrast. This is done in the produce department too. Two carrot displays with green onions in between make all three products jump out to the customer's eye.   

•    Use textures and direction to break up the display and create eye-catching patterns. This is effective when you just don’t have that many colors to work with. An example is to have cod fillets displayed in a long vertical rows toward the customer. Then display tilapia fillets horizontally next to the cod, then run the next long white fillet next to the tilapia. The contrasts in texture helps all three products stand out better. 

•    Use high and lows in the case to make products jump out to customers. The seafood case is three dimensional, so use all the dimensions available to highlight product and catch customer’s attention. Again, contrast helps products stand out. A small mountain of shrimp between two lower-height displays is a good example of this. 

•    Create sharp, well-defined edges. Whether the display is straight or curved, the edges of the display should be clean and crisp. These clear, defined lines between displays help the contrast jump out to the customer.  Tip: Most fillets have a very straight edge on the top or dorsal side of the fish fillet. The belly side of the fillet is usually more jagged or unruly. Use the top straight side on the edges of the display to create sharp, defined lines.   

•    Use what you have in the cooler. Don’t make the same boring display with same products in the same spot every day. Otherwise, you should let the corporate merchandiser planogram the case based on scan data and category-management principals. Set large, deep and focal displays based on large inventory in the cooler, or based on a hot ad price, or based on high gross profit for the item. Have a reason for each large or focal point display. Have a reason for the placement of every item. The seafood case should reflect the cooler inventory in the store and the seafood manager’s objectives for the day. That is why it can’t be done as well from a corporate office. 

•    Use the right lighting in the right places to bring out the best colors in seafood and to enhance the attractiveness of the overall display. Seafood comes in many colors, so a natural white-color spectrum bulb helps the wide variety of colors stand out. Many meat cases use light bulbs with more infrared or ultraviolet to bring out the red in the meat.  

•    Keep the fish case fresh throughout the day. Do not pile it high in the morning and let it dry out all day. Some seafood managers will display one or two deep at set up, and add more product for the lunch and after work rush hours. Bringing out fresh product to augment displays throughout the day helps keep a fresher look and customers will buy more if they see it coming out of the back cooler. I liken it to the bakery baking chocolate chip cookies or rolling out hot Italian bread at 5 p.m.

Those are just few tips on retail seafood case displays. There is much more to it. What do you do to catch customer attention with your seafood displays? Share your comments and ideas with fishmongers around the country. 


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