Farming Out Produce Sales

If you want to sell more produce, make your brick-and-mortar store more like a farmers market—at least, the best parts of the farmers market.

That’s the conclusion of a new survey and report from King Retail Solutions. The survey examined the 50 most recent reviews on Yelp this summer for each of five farmers markets around the country, listing the positive and negative aspects of each.

The top positive traits:

  • Good variety (named in 63 percent of reviews)
  • Availability of enticing prepared food (55 percent)
  • Overall entertainment value (54 percent)
  • Product freshness (30 percent)
  • Local products (30 percent)

Other positive attributes include shopping outdoors and the unique and changeable variety.

The top negative traits:

  • Too expensive (named in 63 percent of reviews)
  • Too crowded (18 percent)
  • Not enough parking (17 percent)
  • Merchandise is inconsistent and sells out too fast (16 percent)
  • Weather problems (7 percent)

Other problems include credit/debit cards not being accepted and being closed in the offseason.

The challenge for brick-and-mortar groceries is to replicate that localized appeal as much as possible. It’s a question that goes to the very heart of a retailer’s identity, says KRS creative director Christopher Studach.

“This is a bigger philosophical question, and really up to the grocer—how far are they willing to go?” Studach says. “By sheer definition ‘conventional’ means middle market. The farmer’s market approach is something that conventional grocers are doing to try to differentiate themselves out of that middle ground. In our recent experience, the most successful adoptions of ‘farmer’s market’ have remade themselves so well that they are no longer considered conventional in any sense, and it permeates the entire store experience. But, there are some that cannot, or will not break free from their historical ‘place.’ These are far less successful, and typically come across as disingenuous.”

By far the most attractive aspects of farmers markets for shoppers are the freshness and variety of the offerings. “The product offer is absolutely essential in creating the farmer’s market,” Studach says. “Anything short of affecting the actual produce itself will likely fail unless the quality and selection are pristine in the first place.”

Seasonality is vital as a means of assuring shoppers that they are buying the freshest, most local produce available, Studach says: ”Seasonal is huge–think about a true farm market. You go for what is fresh and in season. You want what that farm specializes in and just harvested. The same goes for stores who want to create that aura. Seasonal and local offer must be the star, but supporting that with a wide and unique variety is necessary as well.”

While the product offering is vital, there are certain “rustic” visual cues grocers can use. Simplicity is the key.

“We have had a few clients who would go so far as a dirt floor if they could,” Studach says. “But short of that, it revolves around focus on the product, simplicity of display, informal and transitory communications (hand-written paper and chalk are big—even ripped cardboard), and imperfection. It can’t be fussy.”