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What's in Store: Ringing in the cheer
Retailers welcome sales uptick around holiday items
By Christine Blank
December 01, 2009
Grocers plan to play up fresh seafood this winter -
including 2010 Super Bowl celebrations - as consumers gather
and cook at home this holiday season.
Despite a rough fourth quarter in 2008 that extended well
into 2009, seafood sales were on the upswing by the fourth
quarter. As a result, many retailers and consultants are
optimistic about fresh seafood sales through Christmas, New
Year's and into early 2010.
"We expect to see strong seafood sales this holiday season,
as customers continue the shift from restaurants to cooking at
home," says Jennifer Speck, a spokesperson for Food Lion and
Bloom, based in Salisbury, N.C.
"The farther we move into 2009, the better the numbers look
for seafood. It appears that consumers are coming back, and
indictors show that retailers are promoting and consumers are
responding," says Steve Lutz, executive VP of consulting firm
The Perishables Group in Chicago. For example, for the four
weeks of September, supermarket seafood sales rose 9 percent
compared to September 2008,
according to Lutz.
In addition, major U.S. grocery chains tell SeaFood Business
they plan to increase or maintain their fresh seafood
promotions throughout the winter holiday season and into the
"Christmas is a special time for family, and traditional
seafood items will always be a part of that celebration," says
Joe D'Alessandro, senior director of seafood merchandising for
the 435-store Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. chain. As a
result, A&P's Pathmark stores are promoting shrimp, squid,
cod, octopus, conch, eels, king crab, snow crab, smelts,
lobster tails, mussels and clams.
Pathmark is aggressively promoting 2-pound bags of shrimp,
shrimp rings and shrimp platters, according to D'Alessandro.
"We will highlight shrimp rings that range from $5 to $40, as
well as a wide variety of store-made platters that range from
small, [priced] at $29.99, to large, at $79.99," says
Most grocers are focusing on shrimp promotions this season,
based on the shellfish's past success in party platters and for
"During the first quarter of 2009, shrimp was far and way
the single-largest item within seafood. It generated around 25
percent of all seafood dollars," says Lutz. In addition, around
33 percent of all grocers' seafood promotional dollars were
devoted to shrimp in the fourth quarter of 2008.
Retailers spent more on promoting shrimp, lobster and crab
in the fourth quarter of last year, and less on tilapia, salmon
and other fish, demonstrating a real focus on identifying the
key seafood value opportunities to pass on low-priced items to
consumers. "It is a trend that we expect to continue into this
holiday season," says Lutz.
Seafood products that represent a better value will be
promoted more throughout the holidays, says Tom DeMott, COO of
Encore Associates, a San Ramon, Calif., retail research and
The good news for consumers is that shrimp, lobster and crab
have been priced lower throughout 2009 so they will likely
continue to be sold at competitive prices during the holidays,
"We plan to focus more on low-price items, as well products
that our customers are familiar with and know how to prepare.
[These include] cooked and raw shrimp, snow crab clusters and
several varieties of fish, including tilapia, cod and catfish,"
says Food Lion's Speck.
During the winter holidays and leading up to the Super Bowl
on Feb. 7, Food Lion's 1,155 stores will focus on shrimp party
trays, crab cakes, stuffed clams and scallops. The company's 65
Bloom stores, meanwhile, will feature promotions on fresh
shellfish, including live lobster and lobster tails for New
Year's. In-shell oysters, topneck clams and Eastern mussels
will also be promoted throughout the holidays and into the new
year, says Speck.
"We have found that weekly promotions featuring shellfish,
shrimp and crab legs have been our most successful for the
holidays," Speck adds.
Publix Supermarkets, a chain of more than 1,000 stores based
in Lakeland, Fla., plans to focus on some of its most popular
seafood species during the holidays, including shrimp, king
crab and snow crab. Shrimp rings will
be featured, along with
upscale seafood platters of shellfish claws, jumbo shrimp and
seafood salads, according to Maria Brous, a Publix
At the same time, Publix merchandisers are focusing on
several other types of seafood throughout the holidays. "The
holidays also represent a time where we sell some less
traditional items, due to the Italian Feast of Seven Fishes [on
Christmas Eve]. We will sell eels, smelts and salted cod,"
Throughout December, Publix circulars will feature seafood
platters, and will also highlight New Year's meals featuring
seafood appetizers. In January, the retailer's marketing
materials will highlight seafood and its health benefits as
well as its in-store Aprons cooking events.
Pathmark, meanwhile, plans to promote shrimp, seafood dips,
clams, crab claws, crab cakes, crabmeat and appetizers leading
up to the Super Bowl.
Creating events around seafood - not just lowering prices -
will be one of the best ways to attract consumers during the
2009-2010 holiday season, says Norris Bernstein, a consumer
goods marketing consultant in Long Beach, Calif.
"It isn't all about price; it is also about value. Value is
putting together something that makes the customer sit up and
take notice," says Bernstein.
Retailers and manufacturers should work together to create a
holiday party or event, centered around a group of products.
"Get your [seafood] manufacturers to bring in other people,
such as produce suppliers and cocktail sauce manufacturers.
Then, retailers are putting together a whole party solution. It
can be based around iced seafood and be really attractive,"
Another successful holiday event, according to Bernstein, is
tying one of the supermarkets' charitable causes together with
a seafood promotion. "It could be, for every pound of shrimp
sold, we are raising a dollar for this cause," says
Whether shoppers are visiting stores for seafood events or
sales this holiday season, many retailers and consultants
maintain a positive outlook.
"They [consumers] are going to spend more than last year,
when everyone was in shock; but we are not going to see the
numbers that we saw a year or two before that," says
Contributing Editor Christine Blank lives in Lake