Retail skills get honed

Seasoned seafood retailers can stand to hone their skills no matter how long they've been in business. That was the message given to attendees of yesterday's "Seafood Marketplace: Merchandising for Profit" seminar by Phil Walsh, director of business development for Alfa Gamma Seafood Group.
"Remaining teachable is an important thing. At the conclusion, maybe you'll do things differently when you return to work after the show. It's all about making an upgrade [to your operation]," said Walsh.
After a brief introduction by Walsh, the attendees were broken into three different groups to learn about merchandising, operations and procurement.
Operations were discussed by Tom Demott, COO and managing partner, perishable sales, for Encore Associates. Demott defined operations as "everything you want to do before you invite guests to your seafood department."
One critical element to operations is defining customer expectations - what your customers want: freshness, variety, quality, convenience and value. DeMott warned against giving your seafood department the "stepchild treatment."
"Don't plan for a Mercedes operation with a Yugo budget,"said DeMott.
He also suggested retailers write their retail strategy down and review it periodically.
"If you don't have a plan you could wind up anywhere, and anywhere may not exactly be where you want to be," said DeMott.
Walsh's portion of the seminar covered category management of the seafood department. He offered what he deemed as some basic advice: Buy what you know you can sell.
Some challenges to using category management in the seafood department, according to Walsh, include: the high cost of product (compared with other proteins); seafood's limited availability; inconsistent product quality; limited shelf life; logistics; and sustainability.
Walsh warned attendees against forward buying. "Buy-ins are dangerous," said Walsh. "Don't try to hit the bottom of the market. Be tough, be fair and get educated."
Chuck Anderson, former VP of seafood procurement for Ahold, addressed attendees with tips on merchandising for profit.


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