If you run a seasonal roadside market, winter is a good time to consider
the following question: how can I make more money? To get a good
answer, there are several areas you’ll need to consider, including your
production costs, labor efficiency, and of course, marketing. Here are
some specific marketing questions that you should answer about your retail
operation. As a result, I bet you’ll figure out where a few improvements
could be made, leading to increased sales and profits.
The front line: your sales force. Customers want
to be appreciated. Do you provide training to each and every one of your
market’s employees about the importance of customer service, and how to
Sales behaviors to emphasize to employees include: a courteous, cheerful
and professional attitude; being well-informed about the products offered
for sale; being helpful but not overbearing; maintaining a clean, well-groomed
personal appearance; being willing and prepared to help customers get their
purchases out to their cars, and knowing the procedure for handling complaints--cheerfully.
The bread basket: your customers. How well do
you know the reasons why people shop at your establishment, and what they
like or don’t like about it? There are several ways to get this information.
One is to use in-store questionnaires, another is to collect postal or
e-mail addresses from customers so you can send out announcements of special
sales or seasonal product availability; then send these folks a short survey
at the end of the year. It’s a good idea to provide some incentive for
customers to respond to any kind of inquiry, such as a raffle, a gift,
or a coupon for a discount on certain products.
Another way to look at what your customers want is simply to use
your sales records to see what they buy, how much, and when. That’s pretty
important if you want to match your inventory to your customer’s needs.
What’s your strategy for increasing sales by reaching new customers,
or by increasing volume during off-peak days or seasons? Advertising,
promotions, special events are all actions to consider.
Make it easy to shop. Are you doing all you can to enhance
the experience of shopping at your store? Don’t make customers work unnecessarily
to spend money!
Make sure that products can easily be reached, and that the individual
items can be easily seen. Inclined sales benches with good overhead lighting
can help. And don’t make people guess what things cost: have all products
clearly marked with prices. If you sell any products by weight, provide
scales so shoppers can easily determine the cost of their purchase before
they get to the cash register.
Are there plenty of bags or boxes available to the customer where
they might be needed? How about carts, shopping baskets, wagons or other
means of carrying large quantities of product? With unusual products,
it can help customers make a decision to buy if you provide preparation
instructions, recipes, or samples for tasting.
Packaging makes sense for some products, if it enhances customer
convenience, protects product quality, or helps utilize display space more
efficiently. Be sure that any packaging is not excessive, and that all
containers are neat and clean. Use container colors that enhance the attractiveness
of the product.
Perception matters: what’s your market image? Remember
the Saturday Night Live routine “it’s not how you feel -- it’s how you
look!” Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but the appearance of your market
can have a big impact on sales. Take a fresh look at all aspects of how
your market looks, from a customer point of view. On the outside,
the grounds of your market as well as the building should look clean, tidy,
and inviting. Everything from the landscaping to the signage to the waste
receptacles should look well-maintained.
Do everything you can to distinguish your establishment from competing
chain stores and supermarkets by emphasizing your local, agricultural identity.
This can be done with displays of restored antique farm equipment, crops
and flowers growing near the stand, and signs that explain the products
and history of your farm operation.
Time to rearrange the furniture? It’s easy to
get used to the way “we’ve always done things around here.” But it’s
just possible that the layout of your market, inside and out, could be
Consider these outdoor issues: would better directional signage or
driveway layout make it easier for customers to enter, park their cars,
and exit your market? Do you have enough parking spaces during your
busiest times? Maybe you need to make more parking space, or improve
utilization of existing space by marking individual parking spots. Do parked
vehicles reduce the visibility of your signs or displays from the road?
Inside, take a look at efficiency, display of products, convenience,
and safety. Make sure the aisles and the doorways are wide enough to accommodate
foot traffic during your peak sales periods. Is it easy to move products
in and out of the sales area without customer interference? Displays
should be positioned for maximum visibility, and lettering should be large
with good contrast so people can ‘see ahead’. Make sure that short customers
can still see over the displays. Have the cash register located in a convenient
Take every step possible to make shopping at your store a non-hazardous
experience. The floors should be level and smooth. Exterior doors should
open outward. Exits must be clearly marked, with emergency lights nearby.
Steps need to have handrails. Exterior lighting should be strong enough
to be helpful even in rain or fog.
A checklist for roadside stands aimed at improving marketing has
been developed by Cooperative Extension experts at the University of New
Hampshire and Penn State University. It’s available on-line at: www.hort.uconn.edu/agmarketing/critique.html.