The team at Grass Roots Natural Foods in South Lake Tahoe, California (Pictured above left to right: Ashlyn Johnson, Sadie Gastelum and James Sotelo).
For many retailers, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest and highest revenue producing times of the year. However, this holiday season holds some uncertainty on how consumer shopping trends will shape up. Since the pandemic began, more people are cooking at home, resulting in larger average basket size as people stock up on food and limit grocery trips. How will this translate for Thanksgiving? Will people shop and cook for friends and neighbors even if they don’t sit together? Will they buy pre-made meal kits or ready-to-eat spreads so they don’t have to cook so much for a smaller group? It’s more important than ever for retailers to prepare as best they can while staying adaptable to changes in customer behaviors and spending patterns.
Here are some essential holiday planning tips that you can use for Thanksgiving and other holidays this year.
Early Promotions: Don’t wait to promote! Shoppers are planning early to avoid peak shopping days. Try dropping prices as soon as you can to entice shoppers. Communicate your promotions to customers through your marketing channels available to you such as: mailed flyers, dedicated email newsletters, and social media. Make it easy for customers to find this information. Provide menu ideas using your promotional items for added convenience.
Holiday Staples: Although gatherings may be smaller in size, demand for key seasonal ingredients will still be there. Some people are still cooking for friends and neighbors even though they won’t be together! Bulk up your produce offerings of holiday staples and keep in mind smaller sizes when packaging grab n’ go items. Think small bags of sweet potatoes, green beans, and Brussels sprouts, for example.
Pre-Packaged Products: Demand for items that haven’t been overly handled by the public has continued throughout the pandemic. Customers will be looking for pre-packaged and pre-bagged products this year, more so than past holidays. Consider packing products in-house if you have staffing available. Offer pre-cut packaged items of holiday staples like celery, butternut squash, and yellow onions.
Holiday Displays: Keep your displays creative and full of essential items! James Sotelo, the Produce Manager from Grass Roots Natural Foods in South Lake Tahoe recommends ordering your pallets and half-pallets of key products ahead of time. Place larger orders with your Account Manager at least 2-3 weeks in advance to assure you will be well-stocked through the holidays. Key items to keep plentiful include: sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, hard squash, mushrooms, apples, cranberries, onions, green beans, Brussels sprouts, celery, carrots, persimmons, and herbs. Don’t wait until the last minute to secure what you need! Click HERE to view a 30-second timelapse video of a Thanksgiving reset at Grass Roots Natural Foods.
Pre-Made Holiday Meals and Sides: If you have a kitchen in-store, consider offering pre-orders for pre-made holiday meals or prepared sides in grab-and-go cases. Many customers will appreciate the convenience of these offerings, especially with cooking fatigue setting in. Don’t forget to promote your offerings so customers can plan ahead!
Personalized Services: A little personalized service goes a long way! Online shopping and curbside pick-up have been wildly popular since the pandemic began. Contactless options are expected to continue to be in high demand during the holidays. Penngrove Market in Sonoma has been offering curbside pickup through the pandemic and has no plan on stopping anytime soon. Looking for something a little out-of-the-box? Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, offers complimentary customized wine recommendations from their beverage experts for any holiday menu!
Holiday Crowd Control: Consider the number of occupants in your store for your staff and customers to move around freely. Expect an uptick in customers during the holiday week and be prepared to manage the crowd or queue a line, even if this is not something you need to worry about on a regular basis. One idea is to offer reserved shopping hours for customers, a concept that San Francisco co-op Rainbow Grocery just launched. Customers that want to avoid crowds or are too busy to shop during normal store hours will be able to book limited time slots.
Signage: When customers are trying to get in and out of stores as efficiently as possible, bright, eye-catching signage is a great way to get their attention and improve their experience. Highlight a farm or label, post product information, provide storage recommendations, or share recipes. addition to creating beautiful displays, signage is a great way to keep shoppers informed about operational changes during the holidays (extended hours, pre-order pick-up areas, etc.) and pandemic related safety protocols.
Storage: Assess your storage needs during the holidays. Will you need more dry space? More cold storage? Elroy’s Fine Foods in Monterey has secured a refrigerated unit that will be placed outside to store turkeys and holiday overflow. Bonus: Customers will be able to pick up pre-orders outside, reducing the traffic inside the store.
Social Media: Clearly communicate your promotions, hours, and services on your social media channels. Many customers are accustomed to checking social media announcements for last minute changes or updates. One idea is to post updates of wait times to enter your store (if this applies), so customers are prepared upon arrival.
Future Orders: The week following Thanksgiving tends to be quieter as customers recover from holiday festivities. Review your future produce orders with your Account Manager to forecast what you may need. Tip: Bananas are typically not high on shopping lists post holiday and pre-orders may need to be reduced.