The Washington Apple Commission, together with the Pear Bureau Northwest, Northwest Cherries and the Washington Potato Commission conducted a series of workshops in January 2011 for major modern retailers in Malaysia, offering the latest insights on how to increase the sale of U.S. produce.
The idea behind the project was first proposed by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office in Kuala Lumpur in 2007 as it became clear that the new, larger and modern retail outlets in Malaysia (supermarkets/hypermarkets) were going to drive the next decade’s sales growth of fresh produce. Working with the Washington Apple Commission, the maiden project was carried out in September 2008 with the support of FAS’ Emerging Markets Program (EMP) funding.
The success of the first project led the Washington Apple Commission to conduct similar workshops in 10 other countries covering 140 retailers. These were funded by USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds, provided by the Agricultural Marketing Service, and administered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The January 2011 workshop included an updated program for retailers.
The purpose of these workshops was to equip Malaysian retailers with both product knowledge and tips for how to more effectively promote U.S. produce in stores. Many Malaysian retailers have limited exposure to effective design layout and merchandising plans of U.S. fresh produce. Since imported fruit is typically an impulse purchase, attractive and large displays will stimulate additional sales. In addition, produce handling and training need to be intensified at the store level since most retail produce staff lack proper handling and merchandising skills.
The topics covered in the workshops were highly practical and included product management; display, ticketing and promotions; cleaning and sanitation; product information, care and handling; and retail concepts, trends and developments. Participants were provided information on how to receive, store and handle fresh produce to maximize sales and reduce shrinkage. They also learned about basic product information including grades, varieties and seasonality. In addition to classroom instruction, attendees participated in a hands-on session where the trainer walked them through their retail outlets, pointing out ways to better improve storage in their cold rooms and displays on their selling floor.
The workshop was a big success and all attending retailers requested additional workshops be held in secondary cities. The workshops served as an eye-opener for Malaysian retailers who could use these practical tips to give their approach to marketing U.S. products a facelift.