3 Things Food Retailers Can Do To Increase Sales

3 Things food retailers can do to increase sales

So you wanna sell more food stuff eh?

We both know that you have the best sweet hot pepper jelly on earth, just sitting there on the shelf. Lonely. Waiting to be purchased. You were careful to let several of your friends and family try it and they talked about nothing else for weeks. They were certain it’d be a hit in your store and so were you.  But sales haven’t been what you thought. It sits there, a premium artisanal product priced at $7 a jar. You’re only making a little bit of profit, but you were hoping for volume sales. What are you supposed to do now?

Well the good news is there are a couple things you can do to up sales, not just for your omg-uh-mazing hot pepper jelly sitting lonely on the shelf, but overall this year.

Let me list the three first, and then we’ll break down why each is a great concept to implement at your food retail store this year.

  1. Samples
  2. Shopping assistance
  3. Store Signage

Let’s go!

Would you like to try a sample?


Sampling might be the most underutilized method of increasing sales in grocery stores, specialty, and gourmet food stores. Large box stores like Sams Club and Costco are famous for it, but smaller stores tend to be afraid of losing too much inventory without the promise of sales.

Let me assuage your fears. You’ll increase your sales as long as you do your samples correctly. Some stores in the past have experienced massive gains. I have a few rules with samples.

Rule #1

Don’t just give any old thing out for a sample. Just because you can’t move something, doesn’t mean people even want a sample of it, but be observant. You should be aware if someone is giving out the signals that they’re interested in something but just not sure. If it’s something that you can give a sample of (not everything is frankly) simply ask them, “May I give you a sample of that?”. Now I know you might think that you’re not gaining anything by offering a sample, you just gave one away or opened a jar that you can sell now for a sample, and maybe they didn’t even like it. The reality is though that you create a bond that will turn into other sales down the road. They’ll also leave your store and tell someone else about how nice and sweet you were. The science behind this is called reciprocity. This is a social rule that says people should repay, in kind, what another person has provided for them.

You gave them something, a little taste. They feel obligated to buy SOMETHING.

Rule #2

If you have a sample station, man the thing. If you’re letting someone sample Gran Cacio Etrusco (Italian sheep’s milk cheese aged in a cave for 4 months while being rubbed down periodically with olive oil and vinegar…so good) or even more mysterious a blend of a dip, they’re going to be as uncertain as they are intrigued. You can encourage them, explain to them the taste profile, where it comes from or whatever so that they feel confident taking that bite. Then you can close the deal.

Rule #3

If they’ve sampled it, and didn’t like it, offer something else, to compare it too. Then, after they seem to like that one better, offer a discount. They already feel like they owe you something and combining that with the power of a discount will usually make them walk out with a product.

Rule #4

Give the sample in its proper state. If it’s supposed to be cold, it better be cold when they try it. If it’s supposed to be eaten with crackers, don’t give them a plastic spoon. Try to maximize the sample experience because if they have that “Oh, that’s really good” moment, you’ll be making a sale. Maybe two.

Shopping Assistance: Use this in…

I love to cook and as such I’ve developed something of an imagination when it comes to ingredients. Many people don’t have this. They need some assistance, even if they find something they love.

The first time I went into – Oh Mamma’s into a local specialty cheese shop my eyes had to be as big as Kitchen Aid mixer bowls. The commercial sized ones. They had cheeses from around the world and I had very little knowledge of what they were for or tasted like. The owner offered me samples of whatever cheese and explained what each one in the display case would taste like. “This is like a bleu cheese, but sweeter with a little bit of a nutty flavor”. When I tried it and confirmed this to be true, he offered some examples on what I could possibly use that type of cheese for.

I’m embarrassed how much I spent on cheese that day, but it was because the owner was so awesome at telling me which cheese is good for a kind of sandwhich, or on a salad, or by itself with some salami, or in pasta and what kind of pasta. I might not have bought it, but suddenly each one had a purpose in a meal I was going to make and I wanted it to be taken to the next level. So the rules?

Rule #1

Don’t assume people know what to do with that hot pepper jelly, or that specialty cured meat, cheese, or that can of specialty olives. They often won’t know what to do with your sauces, spreads, flavored salts, rare spices and beyond. The best stores assume this and make sure that everything has a suggestion.

Rule #2

Don’t make it so hard! If you tell them this is the perfect sauce for Cavatelli pasta, don’t make them have to wander to the other side of the store to find something they probably aren’t familiar with in the first place! Have you thought about making a little kit with the item you’re wanting people to buy at the center? You get to sell more items when they can buy your sauce, the pasta, the cheese, all together. What if you actually printed out a recipe to follow that they could take!? I know, it sounds crazy, but the easier you make it for people and the less you assume they know, the more product you’re going to sell.


How’s your street credibility?


Grocery Store Signage


For thousands of years, shops have understood the power of signage. In the modern age, oftentimes smaller food retailer spend less money and less time on what their windows, their doors, and their signs look like – especially those from the street. You want to ensure you’re noticed, that people can quickly understand what you’re offering them, and show them something, they want to see or just flat out makes them hungry.


If you’re going to spend a little extra, spend it on window signage if you’re in a high foot traffic area. If you’re not, make sure you’re grabbing the attention of the auto traffic going by. No one can buy anything from you if you’re invisible and no one wants to walk up to a seemingly empty store and peek into the windows to see what it’s all about.

Rule #2

Have your signage designed or use a nicely designed template; Just don’t draw something up and have someone put it up. Also, ask what the sign company has done before if you’re using their art department because sometimes they’re not really great designers.

Rule #3

Make sure you’re clear but intriguing or fun. If you’re attempting to draw passersby who aren’t familiar with your store, then you need to give them a reason to stop, or at least make sure they notice you. Signage should tell them in seconds who you are, what you offer, and why you’re awesome.


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