Reinventing Dairy

The dairy department in a grocery store is like Rodney Dangerfield, it gets no respect.

Dairy is not top-of-mind when it comes to the topic of fresh, like it is with produce.

Dairy doesn’t get front page attention on the store’s weekly ad.

Dairy is viewed more as a necessary commodity and not a destination item like those fancy chips or organic meats that only your favorite grocer carries.

So when I was asked to give a talk at the recent National Grocers Association convention in Las Vegas on “Reinventing the Dairy Department”, my initial reaction was only so-so.

But then I did a little soul searching and decided that the dairy image needed some help and I accepted the invitation. After all, dairy provides over 15% of sales and about 20% of the profit of a typical store. Without a solid and up-to-date dairy department, a grocery store will linger from becoming exceptional.

A few years ago, we decided to overhaul our meat department as its results were not up to par. We wanted to expand the department by eight linear feet, but that required a domino effect of meat spilling over into dairy, dairy into beer, and beer into our wall of values.

We called on our wholesaler SuperValu for guidance and help. Coincidentally, SuperValu was rolling out a new Dairy Initiative which focused on making sure the anchor items like milk and cheese were positioned appropriately to allow higher visibility to complimenting items like biscuits and yogurts. The program refreshed our assortment making sure that we had the best movers, the latest nutritional items like probiotics, and threw out the items that lagged and tended to expire.

So we adopted the program after we did a thorough cleaning and relighting of the department. The results were amazing. Not only did the Dairy sales increase 9%, but so did meat, beer and total store sales.

With the help of some other colleagues our dairy presentation was a hit to a standing room crowd!

Think about this the next time you are asked to help on a routine project like a parade or a school musical. Or invited to help an average kid with tutoring or coaching a sport. With the right attitude and solid effort, you can take something ordinary and make it extra-ordinary!


John Marklin

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