Seafood Marketplace talks retail strategy


Mercedes Grandin, SeafoodSource contributing editor

Published on
March 15, 2010

The Seafood Marketplace seminar at the 2010 International Boston Seafood Show provided an opportunity to learn about strategies for buying and showcasing seafood in the retail market and a chance to participate in a guided walk through of the associated retail marketplace on the show floor.

The conference session was separated into three rotating groups so attendees could hear from three speakers who tackled different aspects of retail seafood. Phil Walsh, VP of business development at Alfa Gamma Group, spoke about sustainable seafood in retail while Cecil Smith, manager of seafood merchandising and training at Bloom, discussed effective seafood merchandising. Chuck Anderson, director of retail and new business at Sousa Seafood, discussed tips and takeaways for seafood purchasing.

Walsh cited an IRI research that found 42 out of 1,000 customers surveyed are concerned with sustainability.

"I don’t think that the [sustainability] message belongs on the back wall of the department, but it needs to be readily available,” Walsh said. “With stocks diminishing there’s more pressure, more regulation, more social conscience, more media coverage and more opinions. So what can/should a retailer do?”

Walsh suggested retailers establish a sustainability platform to fit the brand and a company’s culture.

“Buy direct whenever practical, because it takes cost and time out of the picture and keeps the information straight. Hold your suppliers responsible to be 100 percent transparent — take all of this and deliver the message to your customers,” he said.

Walsh also suggested retailers give customers species information such as the location and method of harvest, processing facility and third-party audit information.

“I don’t personally endorse a stamp of approval inside the store from an outside entity who’s doing the audit because I don’t think it’s necessary and I know it adds cost to the product,” Walsh advised.

Cecil Smith discussed how to sell and merchandise seafood in the marketplace. He advised retailers to showcase larger displays of seafood items and set up “focal point merchandising” to highlight seasonal, promotional or high-value and low risk/high sale items. “With service seafood, less is more,” Smith said. Smith provided a case study showing how Food Lion reduced finfish and shellfish SKUs by 50 percent by looking at the highest sale seafood items and as a result, increased sales, distribution and margin dollars.

Anderson recommended using category management and scan data to guide purchasing.

“Know your key items and spend time understanding those markets. Seafood managers in retail make the money, buyers just provide great product at a great price — you have to remember that if you want to be a good buyer,” he said.

Anderson urged buyers to be flexible on everything except quality, always stock best-selling seafood items, but remain cautious about the risks of forward buying.

“Forward buying is high risk, but you can forward buy for holidays and promotions and for key items at key retails,” said Anderson.

He cited popular seafood trends among buyers surveyed across the industry, including health and nutrition, value and price, frozen seafood, prepared/value-added and sustainable seafood. Species popular among surveyed buyers were: mahimahi, Gulf shrimp, wild salmon, corvine, raw shrimp and mussels. Anderson also personally recommended: salmon, tilapia, shrimp, mussels and haddock as popular emerging seafood species.

More coverage of the 2010 International Boston Seafood Show >

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