Startup To Scale

116. Summer Merchandising for CPG Brands

May 22, 2023 Foodbevy Season 1 Episode 116
116. Summer Merchandising for CPG Brands
Startup To Scale
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Startup To Scale
116. Summer Merchandising for CPG Brands
May 22, 2023 Season 1 Episode 116

Summer is here, and for many brands, it brings a peak consumer buying season. Families are having parties, people are traveling, and there’s a huge uptick in demand. As brands, are you taking advantage of this key time? How are you merchandising your products differently? Should you run promotions?

I’ve invited on Georgios, VP of sales specializing in Emerging Brands with Trax to answer these questions.

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Show Notes Transcript

Summer is here, and for many brands, it brings a peak consumer buying season. Families are having parties, people are traveling, and there’s a huge uptick in demand. As brands, are you taking advantage of this key time? How are you merchandising your products differently? Should you run promotions?

I’ve invited on Georgios, VP of sales specializing in Emerging Brands with Trax to answer these questions.

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Trax - Summer Merchandising

Jordan Buckner: [00:00:00] Summer is here, and for many brands, it brings a peak consumer buying season. You know, families are having parties, people are traveling, and there's just a huge uptick in demand. So as a brand, are you doing anything to take advantage of this key time? How are you merchandising your products differently?

Should you run promotions? There's a lot of questions you may have. So I've invited on Georgios Tzafis, who's the VP of sales, specializing with emerging brands for tracks to really answer these questions and jump into it. Georgios, welcome 

Georgios: Jordan. Thank you for having me. 

Jordan Buckner: So talk to me a little bit about in your work, like what.

Small or emerging brands are doing around the summer and kind of what a consumer's looking for. 

Georgios: Yeah, absolutely. 

So number one, we have. Definitely positionality meaning that there are emerging brands out there that they are ice cream, they're beverages. They're focusing in these three, four months of the year to sell more of their products because customers, by definition, they're gonna [00:01:00] purchase more, and that means they're gonna try different brands in that space.

Then we have, as you mentioned earlier, some key events during the Summer Memorial Weekend, labor Weekend, you know, gatherings, barbecues, all these. Fun stuff that definitely increase the spend of the consumers. That means more room for trial and new products. And then we have the traveling as our shop kick platform indicated that this this summer about 83% of the consumers said that they're gonna travel by car at least for some destination.

That means that more people in the road, they're gonna try products and alternative channels like c stores and convenience stores. So there is another. Area of focus for emerging brands to go out there and win. And definitely I wouldn't work by the past by the fact of promotions and back to the school initiative that come later in the summer.

So definitely there is a lot of activity for an emerging brand to focus on. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think there's a ton there. I think what surprises a lot of brands as well is kinda how far in advance they need to start thinking about these seasons. And so when do [00:02:00] retailers start planning for summer promotions and displays for their stores?

Georgios: Definitely months ago. Like you have to start planning that very early, maybe, you know, four, six months. Sometimes you build promotional calendars in the beginning of the year. That includes all the summer promotion. However, let's be honest, when you run an emerging brand many times about.

Being also reactive, not only proactive, like you are learning, you are not like it. It's your first summer, you're gonna run your business sometimes, or like the second summer, first summer, you run a business in that, in so many stores. So, We always able to accommodate needs like that. And I see that many emerging brands there.

They come back to react, oh guys, I didn't do a promo for the summer. What can we do now? You know, because my competition's gonna kill me. I'm gonna be out of the store. So definitely there are also solutions if you come later in the summer or later in the decision to try to improve.

Jordan Buckner: Are retailers open to having brands do like displays in stores and setting up things like what's kind of the good or best [00:03:00] plans to come to a retailer and say, Hey, I wanna do a promotion to get off shelf. What are some of the best options for brands to have in order to really stand out?

Georgios: Let's start from the retailer. There are some retailers that will never. Do something like that. So definitely engage that, you know, discuss that with a buyer. Many times buyers allow that and some other buyers within the same retailer that they don't. So it comes down to the retailer and to the buyer.

But I always say it you don't lose anything to try. And there have been successful promotions and campaigns when you had a secondary display as you enter the store or close to the coolers or you can even do demos when you set up displays just for the day and try to get the product out by doing demos.

So there's many ways to persuade to pursue a campaign like that and explain to the buyer what will be the benefit of that. I would say from the beginning you need to have an prompt conversation about why decision is important for you, how your product fits decision, and the store traffic during this month.

Jordan Buckner: Yeah. You know, it's a great time [00:04:00] for. People who don't normally maybe shop certain categories to discover your products by like an outof, ILE display or an INCAP as they're walking by. But then even people who, you know, for ice cream for example, there's dozens of ice cream brands on any retailer.

And so having an additional display or. Sinus that sticks out can really help to get that additional consideration for someone to say like, oh, I've never tried this brand looks interesting. Like, I'll try it out. Because there's more trial going on for ice cream and things at that time too, right?

Georgios: Well, a hundred percent. And also you, during the summer you get some not usual consumers in the store, meaning kids because they don't have school, many of them, they're going together with the parents in the store. So you have another set of consumers that walk in the aisles looking for new products as well.

Jordan Buckner: I like that. Maybe it has some kit level displays catch their 


Georgios: Not a bad idea. You know, the kids many times are the consumers and they affect the customer who is the parent. So you never know. 

Jordan Buckner: So what are some of the best practices in actually getting in stores to execute these out of ILE [00:05:00] displays?

Georgios: So if you get the approval at the headquarter level, then you need to make sure that you can track where the ERs of the displays are and when they're gonna be shipped from the distribution center down to the stores. The moment that you have this information, then you're gonna be able to start tracking how the execution goes, and there are many ways to do it.

You don't have to have boots on the ground, you just have to monitor your sales data or scan it if you have any. And definitely there are so many other solutions too. So you can be able to start tracking if there is an optic of sales in stores based on the previous data, immediately you can see there is a secondary placement or a display in the store.

Your cells will be moving faster than usual. So I think this is important information. Now, if you're not approved at the headquarter level, then all the work has to happen in the field. You have to visit the stores. Sometimes you need to have the flat zippers with you in your car or the merchandiser, or you know, the founders.

Many times they do visits on their own and. I want to say something here, small scale work is not bad work for the future because if you are able to activate five or 10 or 20 stores [00:06:00] in your area, only your own, with your own founders or your own team one year, that's gonna help mitigate enough data to decide if you want to do that in a large scale the next year, get some important learnings to improve next year and even use this data to the headquarter level discussions you'll have with a buyer next year.

So my always, I say start. Trying and see how it performs. Even if it's not something organized, you were never gonna get it. Right. Let's keep pushing, you know. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think that's a really good point because I think sometimes it'll be like, oh, like one store may not make a difference. But if you think about it from a perspective of, you know, I think two hands, like from the company perspective, how can you build a launch strategy so that when you're growing around these seasons or new retailers, you know, you can have a set playbook of executions that you can do to make sure you succeed.

So it helps your bottom line. But then also, like you said, like even if you. Do maybe the standup displays in five stores, 10 stores, and like really do a great job. Do tons of demos, make sure everyone that store knows about your product, your velocities are gonna look amazing. Mm-hmm. And then [00:07:00] you can use that, data and leverage it and go to that same retailer or other retailers or say like, Hey, look at what we were to accomplish with 10 stores and master, we had all your stores.

Right. And the data's there and they can see the data. And that really stands 


Georgios: Correct. And sometimes , you know, you suit for the best, but you can settle with something less meaning like even if you are not able to get the display out or the shipper, maybe you'll be able to get like a self or two cells in an end cup still helpful for your brand.

So to you just start in the conversation in the store and you can try to get as much space as you can. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah. You know, I always remember too with my brand TeaSquares, we were selling in Whole Foods and like manually going, dropping all products, stocking the shelves, and got to know the buyer. And the buyer said like, oh, hey, we have a empty incap display that we don't have schedule.

Do you wanna bring your product in? And right. Not only did we get that, Off, out of aisle placement, but they also bought an additional like 10 cases to fill it up, right? So it was both sales and the additional visibility within the store, which is awesome. And so I think you're right, like having those relationships kind [00:08:00] of store by store can make a big difference.

Georgios: Absolutely. 

Jordan Buckner: So what are some of the interesting channels to sell in for summer? I know you mentioned like C store and a couple others. 

Georgios: I do believe a lot in the C store. Honestly. I mean, it depends for the category and the product you have, it's not for everyone. But usually if you look the big picture the big convenience stores out there, they're all independent or they're franchisee type of model. Definitely there are some corporate ones, but when you have the franchisee owner or the overall owner of the store in the stores, basically you have a one-on-one discussion with the decision maker. That means you can open an account, which the store faster than.

Just going and build a relationship at the headquarter level with a large retailer. So that means with small agile teams, we're able to activate stores and get sales. So that's why I believe a lot in the C store, definitely you're not gonna move the volume of units. Yeah. But you get a good understanding of how your product performances in the markets and you can learn a lot.

To me it's [00:09:00] like a easy way to work on. So, , I believe it's important. Now, of course, you have to consider other areas that affect the convenience store. For example, if you have a convenience store in the gas station and the gas, the price of the gas is high enough, then you know the basket of the consumer will get smaller, right?

So definitely the one affects the other, but you will never know if you don't try. So again keep trying and if it fails, it fails, but maybe you're gonna get some good learnings. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think that's interesting. C Store is one where I see a lot of. Natural products are hesitant to enter.

I think one because they don't know too much about the channel. There's a bias and perception about who's shopping there. And then probably also that a lot of those operate on D S D models where. Right, like you have to have someone actually going in and dropping them off at the store. So it might be a little bit more difficult to get in, but I think you're right.

Especially if you have a better for you offering of popular products that are already sold in C stores, then yeah, those are probably performing pretty well. 

Georgios: And we are pretty bull here at track about this tunnel here because we believe that the people are coming back to the office soon.

[00:10:00] That's what we see. Like the big cities, the big metropolitan areas, they start getting people back to the office. So just because of that, you might be able to see some more cells from the C store that they are in big cities. 

Jordan Buckner: So I'm curious then how do you really stand out in those C-store environments?

I love that. Mention what you said, like Cohen and you can talk to the franchise owner who's often in times in the store. What are some of the other methods for really standing out there? 

Georgios: There is different ways to attract interest To the franchisee owner or the owner of the store overall.

The first one, which we cannot walk by is the distributor. Do you have distribution there? If you have a big name of a distributor that the owner of the store, the decision making, the store orders, usually It's one easier way to activate the store because they place an order every week, twice a week, so it's easier to get you in this order.

So definitely that helps. If you're not in a big distributor, then there's gonna be another way, another more step for them. However, there are some products that they can be easily work with. Drop ship in these locations, like [00:11:00] many brands, they see direct to consumer, so you can make the store. Your direct-to-consumer approach and drops it to them from your warehouse, any information they have, and basically they can come in order from your website or you can get into an agreement when you kind of sip them every month, a fixed amount of products.

Now, the second component, it comes down to sales. You have to explain them how much money they can make from your product. So basically it comes down to margins. So have a competitive offering and you can sell it. To this price point and you can make 30, 35%. So then the decision maker that okay, makes sense.

It's comparable , to the category and potentially I can move forward, move more. And now the third point comes down to how do you incentivize the consumer or the store. So the one way you can incentivize the store by saying if you are the three case, I'm gonna get you a case for free. That definitely, you know one case free field and that definitely is gonna help you.

But maybe you can incentivize the consumer by saying that I'm gonna put a coupon for $2 off, so everybody will come [00:12:00] in and just what gonna incentivize the consumer to buy and get the coupon and the $2 off? So there are many different ways to go in. And thank God the new technological platforms that are out there that can help you to build directly communication and relationships with independent stores and then with consumers.

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, 

I think those are really good tips in terms of , how to get in their intestine for a lot of brands, right? The summer is probably a good time to test those sea stores because you have a higher level of traffic in those stores. You have more people traveling and so more of your demographic will be entering those locations.

Like you mentioned. There's family source kids entering there. So there's a big uptick for the summer. I like that. One question I get from as well is understanding, you know, with summer here, do I launch seasonal flavors for the summer period? And if so, you know, how do I make sure to merchandise those correctly and move those products so that they don't, oversupply the market.

And then we are left over with like extra seasonal special products. Do you have any thoughts on creating seasonal 


Georgios: [00:13:00] Yeah, I'm not an expert on that subject matter, but I can tell you one thing for sure. If your assortment is not well established already in the store, I wouldn't load decision item because basically you decision item capitalize on a brand awareness that you have in the store.

So, It's gonna be hard to drive first time consumers on the seasonal product. At least that's my perception. I would definitely entertain that after I have established a good assortment that sells well and some channels or retailers that I see, I get some good traction. Then definitely I will introduce seasonal items so I can get my base more interest and engage of to my products.

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, and I think that's where maybe like some of those seasonally designed merchandising displays can really help to talk about the season without actually having to change your product because that is really expensive and there's a lot of risk there. Right. 

Georgios: Exactly. No, that's also a very good point.

I would always say that sometimes you have products that can be very good complimentary for other summer products, so you have to think the way as well, like. What is the complimentary product that will [00:14:00] drive my sales as well? So if you're an ice cream, you could be coffee, for example.

You can just drive something together with a coffee brand. So be open to this kind of initiatives. 

Jordan Buckner: Have you seen any type of like messaging on displays that really resonates. Like should you keep with like the core of like grilling or maybe like healthy lifestyle messaging things like that, that consumers are looking for when they're shopping in store?

Georgios: Again, I'm trying not to express opinion in matters that I don't control very well. Like I don't have a good you know, knowledge about it. I'm thinking always as a consumer and. The first thing that is gonna drive you is the messaging, right? So, and then you're looking at the pricing, of course.

So I do believe that anything related to the consumer and the messaging, it will be important. Now, every brand is different and I would say keep the core product. Packaging simple into the point. You have only one chance to convert someone by just looking to your product. So you have to make it simple into the point.

So definitely that applies for all year long. Have a simple [00:15:00] message that is gonna speak to the consumer. 

Jordan Buckner: Have you seen any challenges that brands have when trying to execute these merchandise and displays like in store? Cause I know there's typically like a fairly small period of time when they have to set that up.

Any challenges that you see brands experiencing? 

Georgios: Yeah, so the talents are, starting from the beginning, starts from the backroom, meaning like when you set a display back out to the store, and it can get easily lost in the humongous backrooms that exist out there.

So talent number one is making sure that the display will make it outside of the backroom to the floor. I think that's the most important thing. Challenge number two is get a good spot because. The people in the store, they're gonna arrest to get it out and they may put the product in. Can you imagine putting like a product that's related, I don't know, to health offering that related to a protein bar, let's say.

And they put it next to the detergent because they didn't have any other space. It's not gonna sell. So basically get the right spot in the store is also important and try to work with the store to get this spot. The third issue that I will see always is maintenance. If you run [00:16:00] out of product, the display is gonna be, Outside of the door as well.

So if you want to maintain the display, it's good to follow up and merchandise and restock the display. Pretty often and I have seen like many brands and we do that a lot, we're gonna even get product from the home location and put the display because more important to maintain the display to some point and keep up with the orders.

The order system is in many stores, kind of other replenishment and the. Algorithms are not there to pick up the influx of sales you might have from a display. So that means you have to keep up with the ordering system of every store to make sure there is enough product to have to the display and to the home location.

So definitely that. And then, There is competition. That's the fourth thing. There are other people fighting for spot of the displays. So things that can look great, but within few weeks contains rapidly in the store when a competitor is trying to push your display a little bit outside of the way in order to get their display up.

So I think all these four are challenges and I think it's worth [00:17:00] the investment to keep an eye on display and merchandise it. Well, since you have done such a big investment to set it up in the first time. 

Jordan Buckner: I mean, we mentioned like for the newer brands, right? Having the founders go in the stores, checking displays that's key.

When it gets to the point where you're in a couple hundred stores, what are the best ways to make sure that your product's able to get out the back room and get good shelf 


Georgios: Yeah, definitely hear the tracks. We help many brands to do that with merchandising and get the display out and, but I think the first step is about visibility.

So knowing what stores don't receive the product, don't have the display out there, and then if they have it, where they have it, and how often we need to go back. And you contract that from the scan data or any cell data you have or for any distribution data. So how we advise the brands is about the methodology of executing a display like that.

And the methodology doesn't include only the merchandising in the store, includes many other components there. What's about reading the data? Understanding the placement of the display, understanding the timing of, okay, it says it's gonna sip out [00:18:00] within two days. That means maybe it's gonna be three or four days that it's gonna take.

So we help brands and not only us, many other experts in the industry with key elements that either outside of just executing and putting together display that has to a lot with visibility and timing. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah. Right. That's so important. So I'm just thinking that. If you have only a week or two around like a holiday to really sell, if the product does, makes it to the store but isn't out there on the floor and you find out a day before the holiday's over, then you're not gonna see any sales.

Right. And it's gonna be a waste of time and money of doing that. 

Georgios: It's crazy. Especially, I know it's not summer, but the weekend before Thanksgiving for example, it is like a battlefield. Like everybody's trying to get the display out because it's the biggest weekend of the year. So similar things happening for Memorial Weekend, for Labor Weekend for 4th of July.

Like you have three main events in the summer. Yeah. But everybody wants to get 

it right. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah. I think that's key, right? You're a summer brand, you're seeing a big uptick. I think that's so key. Cuz I, the other thing that. Is important, right? Like if you're selling ice cream [00:19:00] or something, obviously there's people buying it throughout the year, but usually there's not as much trial going on in other parts.

And so if you can capture those consumers during the summer, even if it's a little bit more expensive, then ideally you can see a sustained kinda lift and sales throughout the rest of the year as they're like continuing to buy that as their the ice cream, for instance. 

Georgios: Jordan. I agree with that. I mean, judging for myself during the summer vacation, I'm more open to try things when I don't have to have my daily routine.

You know, like, so if you have a fun day, you can put some more fun with buying some new products and try things out. So definitely you get the attitude of the consumer that helps. 

Jordan Buckner: I like that. So, good luck with all your summer planning. I guess last thing, is it too late? So this is gonna be you know, everyone's listening to this in May. Is it too late to get on the shelf for summer? 

Georgios: It's never late. It's better to start now than to just keep looking the action that the other brands are having in stores. I think even if you are reactive, it is worth to go after and try to fix it now. 

Jordan Buckner: And if you're a new brand with a couple of stores, it's easier to start with five stores, get the reps down and build the [00:20:00] process internally so that when you do scale it larger right.

Than you have it in control. 

Georgios: Yeah. And many times you have founders that go into the stores, just monitor how consumers interact with display. And you learn so many things out of that. Many times you get a display wrong. And the just three stores as a trial can help to learn more about how you're gonna do the big next display.

Jordan Buckner: So get your three store trial going this summer if you've never done that before. Absolutely Georgios. Thanks so much 

for being on today. 

Georgios: Thank you.