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Still time for retailers to enter NAM contest

Retailers need to act now if they want to take advantage of a national promotional opportunity with proven sales results.

National Apple Month is an outstanding promotional foundation for the domestic apple industry. The program has been in operation for more than 100 years and has evolved from a single-day event to a three-month promotional marketing opportunity for retail stores and military commissaries nationwide. It is not too late to capitalize on the fall merchandising and display benefits of the 2006 National Apple Month contests.

The 2006 retail and military contests run through Nov. 30. Fifty stores and five military commissaries will be recognized for their winning displays. In addition to the general display prizes, there will be first-place, second-place and third-place prizes for the Best Health Oriented Display. A display can win both a general display and health-oriented prize to increase the rewards of merchandising and promotion talents.

Time remains for any interested retail store or commissary to participate in the 2006 contest. It is as easy as building an attention-grabbing display featuring U.S. apples, apple products and products of the 2006 partners: T. Marzetti's "Caramel Apple Dips" and "Apple Crisp," and U.S. peanuts and peanut products.

Maximum impact in sales lifts can be seen when the apple suppliers and processors are included in promotional planning. This year, the apple industry is backing the fall display contests like never before. Add a health theme for additional chances at winning. Combining all of these elements will enhance sales and provide extra judging points.

The NAM program makes a real difference for participants. While the awards and prizes distributed to individual stores and foodservice operations are attractive and fun, the end result of the promotion is a positive impact on sales. Recent fall promotion winners cited an average overall sales increase of more than 23 percent. Fresh apple sales increases ranged from 4.2 percent to 47 percent, while processed apple products experienced sales increases of 3 percent to 41 percent.

NAM partner products also enjoyed sales increases last year, with the winner of the recent contests notching a sales increase of more than 15 percent in Marzetti's "Caramel Apple Dips" sales, 10 percent in Marzetti's "Apple Crisp" sales, 12 percent in peanut sales, 19 percent in peanut butter sales and 11 percent in peanut product sales. T. Marzetti "Caramel Apple Dips" and "Apple Crisp" along with U.S. peanuts and peanut products are expected to experience similar sales lifts during this year's contest.

Part of the reason for the success of the NAM program is its ability to tap into impulse purchases, which result in additional sales of apples and partner products. Consumers often do not make many of their purchasing choices until they enter the grocery store. An exciting, well-designed display, featuring great taste and the health benefits of eating apples, can and does increase sales.

Today's consumers are busier than ever, so remember to advertise and promote the category and any special events that your store is featuring. Draw the customer into the store and to the apple display. Including menu and meal suggestions in the display will boost overall store sales. Cross- merchandising ingredients can save customers valuable time, provide them with simple meal and snack ideas, and increase impulse sales along with your register ring.

NAM recommends merchandisers do a nine-point check for successful displays.

" Keep the color scheme simple. Use brighter or contrasting apple varieties that provide colors in a specific area to draw attention.

" Have something extra to catch viewers' eyes. You must first get attention in order to make the sales. Feature new or regional varieties along with your best sellers. Use signage or create a picture with the apple display.

" Size matters. Keep visuals and graphics large and easy to read from a distance.

" Add interest with a contrasting shape or design within the display. If the basic shape is rectangular, a round or unusual shape can break the monotony.

" Use a combination of smooth and rough surfaces to add interest. Partner products provide the perfect solution with packages and peanuts. Apples are available in a multitude of packages; feature the tote bag, the poly-bag, loose apples and clamshell packages.

" Movement attracts viewers' attention. Be certain to provide a safe venue for any moving elements.

" Simplicity sells. Convey only one major thought or idea about apples. Make copy brief. Over-worded exhibits require too much reading time. Ten seconds of reading is plenty.

" Ensure access. Make it easy for the hurried customer to grab and go.

" Create user-friendly displays. Make sure some spaces show where bags or packages have been removed. A customer should not have to worry about taking the apples and spoiling the display.

Put the power of National Apple Month to work for you. Entry forms and contest details are available by calling 717/432-0090 or logging into www.usapple.org/industry/applemonth/index.cfm.

(Kay S. Rentzel is the director of National Apple Month, a self-funded program that conducts the only nationwide generic apple promotion under the guidance of the U.S. Apple Association. USApple does not fund or directly conduct any consumer promotional programs.)