A Grocery Score
July 30, 2012
Want to sell ice cream? Promote it during the summer. Want to sell stuffing? Give customers coupons in November and December. It seems intuitive. Thirty years ago, however, food retailers didn’t always approach sales that way. They would focus instead on what they wanted to sell.
“In the old days, you’d say, well, let’s just put it at a really low price and people will buy it,” said Steve Polimeni, ’78, sales manager for Unilever, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Over time, however, food retailers realized that didn’t work. “You don’t buy popsicles at Christmastime. We can’t give them away.”
In his job, Polimeni manages the Kroger business for Unilever, a consumer products company with brands including Ragu, Bertolli, Breyers Ice Cream, Popsicle, Ben & Jerry’s, Klondike, Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, Lipton Tea, and Dove. He works with a team to promote the products and ensure they are priced to sell at the grocery chain.
“We want to reach the consumer when they’re most prone to want to react.”
Over the past 34 years, Polimeni has watched the business model change, as stores have added discount cards for shoppers so they can track their purchases and send them coupons and ads for the items they buy.
“The whole point is to get the shopping experience as close to what the shopper is looking for as possible,” said Polimeni, who majored in political science at Loyola. “It’s not trying to get them to buy something they don’t want to buy. It’s about making sure they can find what they’re looking for.”