How three US retailers won Lent

Published on
May 14, 2018

Three U.S. supermarket chains significantly increased their sales during Lent, with demonstrations, recipes, and internal contests promoting Alaskan seafood.

Bellevue, Washington-based Quality Food Center, a division of Fred Meyer, sold more than USD 1.2 million (EUR 1 million) in Alaska seafood sales during the Lenten season.  The 64-store chain ran a multi-pronged campaign promoting Alaska pollock, halibut, sockeye salmon, and crab. 

In one promotion, QFC partnered with Chateau Ste. Michelle, showcasing wine displays in the seafood department. Utilizing Ibotta, an app-based cash rewards platform, QFC’s fresh seafood departments promoted frozen Alaska pollock with H3 wines. 

“The bonus offer is additional cash back that users can earn by activating both ASMI’s Alaska pollock offer and H3’s wine offer, for a total of up to USD 3.00 (EUR 2.52) off. These offers can work independently or together,” an ASMI spokesperson told SeafoodSource. 

A QFC internal sales contest also spurred Alaska seafood sales. The chain offered cash incentives to the top three stores per district with the highest percent increase of Alaska seafood sales, as well as district prizes for the top-performing employees. In addition, digital QFC ads featured Alaska halibut and sockeye salmon. 

With three-quarters of its stores participating, QFC grew its Alaskan seafood sales by 4.4 percent during Lent, despite higher prices on many Alaskan species, Joshua Dooley, meat and seafood sales manager for QFC Seattle, told SeafoodSource.

 QFC’s Alaskan seafood sales increased during Lent in part because “promotions spur on the salesmanship of our store fishmongers,” Dooley said.

“Incentives are great motivators. Healthy competition grows business, but also builds individual character, and it helps us identify standouts and talent at store level,” he said. “We take a great deal of pride in them [fishmongers], as they do in their work. The competition, and the rewards for their hard work, help them feel appreciated, and they truly are. These promotions allow stores to really get creative and encourage cross-departmental collaboration at all levels.”

Also, the brand of seafood from Alaska is strong, Dooley said.

“Alaska seafood is a staple in the Pacific Northwest, and a hallmark of QFC seafood. Our customers know that Alaska, quality, and sustainability all go hand in hand,” he said. 

Most of QFC’s Alaskan seafood is sourced from Ocean Beauty and Pacific Seafood, Dooley said.

“Both of which have outstanding reputations,” he said. “Having strong relationships with them also ensures we’ll get the freshest and highest quality product available in the market.”

Still, Dooley believes retailers need to tell the Alaska seafood story better.

“How it supports whole communities, is an integral part of our local businesses, and the principles and governing values ASMI stands for,” he said.

San Antonio, Texas-based H.E.B., which operates 340 stores, had similar success with its frozen Alaska pollock promotions. On top of demos, each store displayed and distributed Alaska pollock point-of-sale materials and recipes throughout March. 

“The events all received great attendance and the Alaska pollock samples were so well loved that several stores sold out,” a spokesperson for ASMI told SeafoodSource.

H.E.B. also ran social media ads developed and funded by ASMI.

“We were very pleased with the results and subsequent lift in post-promotion business,” Jason Driskill, director of seafood procurement at H.E.B., told SeafoodSource. “Success came from direct customer engagement as well as the trust and appeal of the Alaska brand – it is local, wild, sustainable. Alaska seafood is a big part of our everyday business and performs well, especially during the Lent season.”

At H.E.B.’s demos, customers appreciated the ease of cooking pollock, the flakiness and tenderness of the fish, and “how versatile pollock is in a variety of recipes, including the ever-popular fish taco,” Driskill said. 

Earth Fare, which operates 46 stores and is based in Fletcher, North Carolina, also saw its Lenten season sales spike.

The company realized a 92 percent sales lift from demos of sockeye salmon from Alaska in March. The stores also ran social media ads developed and funded by ASMI.

The promotion was so successful that Earth Fare will conduct demos of sockeye salmon again this month.

Contributing Editor



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