The Wheel Deal


Mobile merchandising equipment gives retailers full flexibility to display and sample hot and refrigerated foods wherever — and whenever — they like.

As shoppers make haste to complete their trip through the grocery store, savvy retailers are increasingly using portable merchandising equipment to place an assortment of hot and refrigerated food products and promotions in their paths to increase the incidence of impulse buying and to offer the samples that lead to a higher chance of a purchase.

In seeking to help grocers take advantage of these important considerations, equipment suppliers are mobilizing their resources to help play up the convenience and flexibility aspects of their most promising solutions, including Columbus, Ga.-based Kysor/Warren's Manitowoc Foodservice division in Port Richey, Fla., which offers two of the industry's most popular mobile merchandising cases for supermarkets: the S1VC-4' or -6' and the QM1LVC-4'.

According to marketing manager Mechell Clark: "These cases are popular because they are eye-catching and self-contained, with generally little or no service issues. The size of the cases allows them to be stationed in a variety of locations throughout the store. From the vestibule to the bakery, to the produce and/or meat departments, grocery retailers can use these cases for an array of in-store promotions."

Retail customers have used the mobile merchandisers for many occasions, such as displaying cakes for Valentine's Day, or for summer grilling promotions when they're used for displaying items like shish kebabs, says Clark, noting that the Manitowoc cases allow a wide range of temperature-diverse products to be displayed, including meat packages, deli/ cheese products or prepared meals. "We've seen customers use the cases for home meal replacement products like ready-prepared three-course meals that include a salad, entrée and dessert, as well as 'What's For Dinner' promotions displaying various packages of meat specials," she explains.

The compact size of the cases helps to maximize space within the store, observes Clark, adding that "this can be of particular importance for the retail customer, because all space is valuable." What's more, she continues, the cases help make savvy use of space that might otherwise be wasted, because of their ability to fit easily in high-traffic areas within the store.

Another proponent of mobile merchandisers is John Davis, business development manager for Fort Worth, Texas-based Traulsen, which offers a mobile refrigerated merchandiser "that is designed to provide safe, refrigerated storage for various products such as raw and/or frozen seafood, meat and poultry."

Davis says that the proprietary refrigeration system delivers cold airflow over the product to retard the rate of ice melt, while maintaining safe food temperatures throughout the day without drying or freezing the product.

"The cabinet interior is designed to hold 10 sheet pans measuring 18 inches by 26 inches," Davis continues, "supplying ample refrigerated storage to allow for more frequent replenishment of product in the display well. Additional products can also be conveniently staged in pans in the cold room and then placed directly onto the pan slides when needed, yielding an improved degree of food safety by limiting the number of surfaces and individuals [coming] into contact with the food product."

The unit is also designed for easy cleaning: Once the product and pans have been removed, says Davis, the entire cabinet can be hosed out and drained to a floor drain.

"Mobile merchandising gives the operator the ability to target product placement. Units provide versatility both in their ability to be in multiple locations [and in] the ability to feature multiple food products. For instance, with the Traulsen mobile refrigerated merchandiser, the operator can offer a seafood product one day and showcase meats and vegetables the next. In addition, operators can put the unit in a location that presents the best opportunity for customer appeal and purchase, offering retailers the potential to maximize revenue and income."

Bridgeton, Mo.-based Hussmann Corp. also offers a full line of self-contained mobile units to keep supermarket food products hot and cold, says global specialty product leader Robert Mullen, citing the company's fleet of 60-plus self-contained units, which can have casters added for maximum mobility.

Hussmann's mobile line includes spot merchandisers that can be used at checkout, as well as glass door cases, multi-decks, islands that can be used in the aisle, and horizontal multi-deck units that can be used to expand an existing line such as in the meat aisle. "Hussmann has found that supermarkets typically have five to 25 self-contained cases," Mullen notes.

The most popular Hussmann supermarket units are the LTH and BTH glass door merchandisers and the Isla and RHR-HEX island cases. "The LTH and BTH are matching low-temperature and medium-temperature cases with cassette-refrigeration systems," Mullen says. "They feature a refrigeration unit that pulls out like a drawer for easy and quick maintenance or replacement," he adds, noting that all refrigeration components are placed outside of the merchandising area, allowing 100 percent of the case to be devoted to display.

"The Isla specializes in a small-footprint, modular island solution that excels at cross-merchandising and is well suited for merchandising programs that require daily, weekly and seasonal flexibility," explains Mullen. Further, with its single and multi-deck configurations, square and hexagonal shapes, and optional sizes, the RHR-HEX island case "enables users to deploy their hot food program exactly where it can drive the most impact," he says.

Mullen outlines several examples of the growing use of mobile merchandisers, including a refrigerated multi-deck case offering one-stop shopping in the ethnic foods section, with all the fixings for taco night, and a glass door case or open multi-deck case in the organic section.

"Mobile merchandising units are also useful to place next to sampling stations, or for seasonal promotions such as turkeys during the Thanksgiving season. They are also often used at the store entry to tie in with an event or sale," he concludes.

Another manufacturer of mobile merchandising equipment is Bowling Green, Ky.-based Pan-Oston, whose Mobile Demonstration Showcase, according to company president Jim Vance, "is a roll-in and plug-in unit intended for use in supermarkets for cooking and food preparation demonstrations. It includes an adjustable overhead mirror and spotlights, storage areas, and a matching sink cart with faucet. Additional accessories for the unit include induction cooktop, convection oven, pressurized water tank, heat dissipation tiles and cutting board."

Vance feels that using the Mobile Demonstration Showcase for cooking demonstrations helps shift customers' perception of the grocery store from just being a place to pick up needed items. He cites a recent study conducted by Kraft Foods and the Hartman Group that reveals that 57 percent of shopping trips were deemed "occasion-based" — meaning that the shoppers studied were purchasing food for a specific occasion vs. purchasing a snack or items to make an everyday meal.

He quotes the study's summing up of the bottom-line implications for grocers: "By connecting with consumers on their near-term needs, the primary store may be able to capture consumer loyalty. Adopting an occasion- based approach is a way to start shifting consumer perception from 'store as pantry' to 'store as partner.'"

Pointing out that the Mobile Demonstration Showcase is a permanent part of the National Grocers Association's annual convention, Davis notes that the solution "is also ideal for product sampling," which he says is a tremendously powerful tactic to stimulate trial and incremental sales. Davis supports this sentiment by citing a marketplace study by Wake Forest University's School of Business showing that when customers were offered samples, their general store spending rose by 34 percent, and the amount of time spent in the store was 14 percent greater than that of customers who weren't offered samples.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds