Merchandising Still Matters Most in Meat Dept.

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Merchandising Still Matters Most in Meat Dept.

By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ - 01/31/2014

Although retailers now have more methods at their disposal to capture customers’ attention than ever, the importance of visual merchandising in the meat department – via both compelling case-sets and eye-catching POP – remains the single most influential means of commanding attention, capturing eyeballs, and ultimately inspiring shoppers to buy.

That’s the resounding endorsement offered by retail meat officials responding to PG’s 2014 Annual Retail Meat Report. That engagement process, however, most often starts before routine or would-be meat department shoppers set foot inside the store. Enter weekly circulars and flyers, for which the retail meat department has long served as the crown jewel among all other departments – not only with elevating the store’s overall reason for being, but also as the key driver of the overall printed package of deals and specials throughout the store.

The promotions-driven meat department continues to rely heavily – for good reason – on temporary price reductions (TPRs) and BOGOs, which are being communicated in a medley of ways, inclusive of direct mail, social networks or digital marketing. Category management, rightfully so, is also making continued inroads in the fresh meat channel, which is reaping further benefits with tactical guidance for more effective cross-promotions, timely “flash sales” of appropriate products, and mix-and-match bundles.

Other highlights of PG’s 2014 Retail Meat Report – insights for which were captured from a proprietary survey distributed late last year to fresh meat category officials from around the country – pertain to softer sales trends and a shortage of qualified meat department associates.

Found below is a sample of the verbatim responses retail meat directors shared with PG when asked to answer the following open-ended question: What is the most serious problem facing your meat department?


  • Changing customer base that is pulling away from meat
  • Customer confusion
  • Eating habits of Americans
  • People consuming less beef less frequently


  • Competitive low-ball pricing that’s positioning the meat department as loss-leader
  • Economy and shoppers frugality
  • Increasing sales to achieve profit goals
  • Rising beef prices
  • Price perception
  • Profits
  • The economy in general
  • Cost containment


  • Finding energetic, customer focused associates
  • Finding experienced personnel
  • Finding people that want to work in the meat department
  • Availability of experienced butchers
  • Finding quality help
  • Hiring, training and motivating employees
  • Keeping help
  • Staff training


  • Help with nutrition labeling
  • Staffing/training and recruiting qualified meat cutters specifically
  • Trying to keep the high standards we have without going broke, as consumers don’t want to pay for anything that isn’t a give-away
  • Marketing
  • More vegetarians

Findings of PG's 2014 Retail Meat Report, full details for which will appear in the February print and digital editions, mirrors recent research from Mintel that finds American consumers shifting away from meat in the name of adopting healthier eating habits. Ninety percent of consumers in the Mintel consumer survey reported eating some kind of red meat at least once per month, 39 percent of which said they ate less beef in 2013 than in 2012, alongside 25 percent which claimed to have eaten less pork than the year before. For many who are cutting back, however, they are very well trading up to a higher quality meat product.

Thus, for an industry that’s long relied on the meat department to lasso customers through their doors, the steady evolution of changing grocery shopper trends that are reconfiguring the retail food scene make it abundantly clear: supermarkets are poised for another generational sea change.