Ice Cream a Magnet for Happier Shoppers

August 16, 2010

Stores looking to ride the wave of item seasonality have a natural winner in ice cream during the steamy summer.

Stores looking to ride the wave of item seasonality have a natural winner in ice cream during the steamy summer.  People flock to artisan independents and franchise dipping shops to cool down, have small affordable treats, please the kids – and bask in some of the most fun, decadent flavors around. 

One look at the supermarket freezer case shows any merchant that flavor innovation – sometimes helped by candy brand ingredients – keeps this section stimulating for many customers. Supermarkets could stylize their own low-labor versions of the old Walgreens soda fountains or the more recent Thrifty Drug Stores (now part of Rite Aid) or Longs Drug Stores (now part of CVS Caremark) in-store ice cream dipping shops.

The Lempert Report suggests that supermarkets break out their scoops at scheduled (and promoted) times to serve some of the best-selling flavors at their particular location. They have to data to see what sells the most. And by steering operations to mobile dipping stations on wheels (the kind that catering halls use at affairs) for just a couple of hours at a time (say for a tween ice cream social, a child’s birthday party or a post-dinner ice cream event), stores could control their labor expense. Stores that already have in-store seating for dining might find this most convenient, but outside the store or other physical spaces could work well too.

Ice cream is such a fragmented category of flavors that a store’s most productive customers might never trial other people’s favorites if not for the chance to sample on occasions like these. They might consider this a light, fun experience, a pleasant lift from their everyday pressures that shifts their perception of the store.

Supermarkets could promote flavors of the month or (manufacturer-supported) new items or limited edition flavors. They could offer cents-off coupons on brands sampled at these events. They could use ice cream to exhibit their party versatility, and cross-promote with bakery and baked goods, toppings, candles, deli catering services and gift wrap.

America loves ice cream. Supermarkets can take better advantage of that.