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What's in Store: Sales in full blossom

Recipe kiosks, 'less is more' attitude drive Bloom's seafood department success

Bloom focuses sales efforts on getting former
    restaurant customers to cook at home. - Photo courtesy of Bloom
By Christine Blank
May 01, 2009

Fresh seafood sales are growing at the 64-store Bloom chain, as consumers learn to prepare restaurant-quality foods at home. The chain is fueling this restaurant-at-home trend with recipe kiosks located throughout its stores and hiring staff who are knowledgeable about seafood preparation.

Bloom, with stores that have an upscale feel and fresh-product focus, is a banner of Food Lion LLC in Salisbury, N.C., owned by the Delhaize Group in Brussels, Belgium. This year, Bloom opened three new stores in Leesburg and Quinton, Va., and Mooresville, N.C., to add to its locations throughout South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.

In the new stores, Bloom maintained its prototype seafood merchandising area, which consists of a live lobster tank, two 5-foot service areas that include finfish and shellfish offerings along with packaged items such as spreads; a 4-foot packaged products case; and a 12-foot frozen section. Most of its stores devote around 325 square feet to seafood, which includes the front sales area and back room prep area.

Bloom's seafood department sales are higher than last year because people are not eating out as often, says Cecil Smith, manager of seafood merchandising and training for Bloom.

"This year, we are experiencing a greater interest in fresh seafood typically found on restaurant menus. Consumers are much more willing to try their hand in the kitchen and on the grill this year," says Smith.

To that end, customers are 
utilizing Bloom's "Shop to Cook" recipe kiosks where customers can scan their seafood purchase, and the kiosk will print appropriate recipes. In addition, Bloom stresses consumer education in training to associates, so they are able to offer recipes and cooking tips to customers.

"We provide various tools to help our guests improve their cooking confidence, such as stand-alone, staffed departments with knowledgeable associates and complimentary services like steaming, six marinades to pick from, and easy-to-print recipes," says Smith.

Bloom provides complimentary marinades for any finfish or shellfish purchased in its sea-
food departments.

While Bloom's atmosphere may feel like an upscale market, the retailer remains competitive in pricing.

"Quality and value are very important to our consumers, and we strive to deliver region-specific variety at excellent prices," 
says Smith.

To that end, Bloom focuses on offering large quantities of a 
short list of popular fresh items, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

"We have a 'less is more' approach to merchandising that allows us to deliver larger displays of fewer items at compelling retail prices," says Smith. For example, in late March Bloom promoted sockeye salmon fillets for $7.99 a pound and fresh catfish fillets for $6.99 a pound. Its loyalty cardholders received an extra $1 off per pound.

Bloom's top-sellers include: salmon fillets and steaks, tilapia, cut-to-order tuna steaks, catfish, shrimp, snow crab clusters, king crab legs and scallops. Meanwhile, frozen shrimp and IQF tilapia, tuna, salmon, flounder and catfish fillets are the most popular items in Bloom's frozen seafood cases, likely because those items are also popular on restaurant menus, says Smith.

Bloom's increase in seafood sales can also be attributed to new prepared items launched this year. The regional-themed items include Maryland-style crab cakes, stuffed clams, Devil Stuffed Crab (which is crabmeat stuffing, similar to a crab cake, stuffed inside a crab shell) and salmon burgers.

"We revamped and improved the items we previously offered with fresh, never-frozen, hand-made items," says Smith. Prepared foods supplier Fresher than Fresh 
of Gastonia, N.C., focuses on quality ingredients and regional flair. "For example, the crab cakes contain more than 80 percent fresh, quality crabmeat," says Smith. Crab cakes are also Bloom's top seller of its prepared items [see Crab Cake Spotlight, p. 32].

Consistent promotion has also boosted Bloom's seafood sales. In its weekly circular, the retailer features a "wide assortment" of both prepared and fresh seafood that customers can broil, bake or grill, says Smith. Special promotions add to the steady advertising and include a "Super Salmon Sale," which offers whole farmed salmon cut to order. In another promotion, dubbed "Ex Crab Aganza," Bloom grouped snow crab and king crab, along with packaged crabmeat, and other related items in a joint marketing effort.

Offering a variety of seafood during the Lenten season also has been successful.

"We like to offer a wide variety of meal options, such as mussels to accompany Italian dishes, to main course items like salmon, shrimp and tilapia. We feature at least one item on the front page of our weekly sales flier during this time of year and throughout the summer," says Smith.


Contributing Editor Christine Blank lives in Lake Mary, Fla.


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