The Visual Appeal of Groceries

Creating a point of difference for a retail butcher can mean more than an award-winning sausage. Grocery items that complement meat products can give customers another reason to shop – and spend.

Visual merchandising is the art of shop display designed to give the customer a heightened shopping experience to the point where they buy more product. It has design at its heart, taking into consideration shop layout, lighting, the type of shelving used, the products sold, how they are grouped, product promotion and more.

However, for most butchers, the scope of visual merchandising is limited to the amount of shop space available once the meat display cabinets have been filled. In some retail butchers, there isn’t the capacity to have separate shelving for grocery items.

How the meat is displayed can give some prompts for additional items. For example, above the sausages on the counter display position a couple of spicy BBQ sauces; near the crumbed items place panko crumbs and near the lamb roast, perhaps add a few marinades and rubs. It all adds to the overall appeal of the shop.

If there is shelving space to include grocery items, there a few golden rules to think about.

The first is to remember who the customer is, and what they come in for.  If the store is in an affluent area then artisan condiments, breads and oils can turn over quickly. For other areas, it might be better to stock recognised brands that aren’t usually available at the supermarket. More often than not, it can be about convenience.

“It’s important to remember that you don’t have to compete with the supermarkets,” said Chris Wheelhouse, National Account Manager with Robins Foods, which supplies retail outlets with the Outback Spirit range of herbs and spices. “It’s also not about moving volumes of product – it’s about getting more value from each sale. It’s the up-sell – the equivalent of asking ‘would you like fries with that?’.

“Choose products that complement what you do well. Preserves and condiments generally have a long shelf life, so it doesn’t matter if the turnover is slower.  Start with four or five different products and see what works. Your choices could be based on seasonal produce. Or if you specialise in a particular dietary requirement, like paleo, then the grocery items can support the fresh items. It could also be based on ethical shopping – if you stock mostly free-range and organic, choose grocery items that have those same values.”

Keeping track of what works and what is slow to move is an important part of the visual merchandising. Lines that are slow to move might not be displayed to their best advantage. Or perhaps try a different tactic to promote them. Sell silverside with a jar of pickles as a bundled price. Offer a small jar of olives with a 500g salami purchase.

AMN visual merchanding Chris Wheelhouse

Chris Wheelhouse, Robins Foods, talks visual merchandising

Keys to good displays

There a few key points to successfully displaying goods in the shop that are true for any retail environment.

  1. Is the display eye-catching based on colours? Contrasts work well – black with white, light with dark. Pale-coloured pasta with deep rich red sauce. If it catches the customer’s eye, their feet will follow.
  2. Focal point. Draw the customer in. If there is too much to see and no single point to focus on the customer becomes confused. Be careful not to clutter the display so that products are lost in the vast array available.
  3. A label with a few bullet points will give the customer reasons to buy that product (including the price). It might be based on ingredients, if it is locally made or a new product from a recognised brand.
  4. Layout of displays. Draw the customer in and around the store. The ideal store layout is circular, something not always achievable in a butcher shop. If you have aisles, or shelves against one wall, consider putting in a display table to guide the flow of people around the store so that they have to stop and look.
  5. The senses. What is the first thing a customer smells in a butcher shop? Smoked items or smallgoods, or is it the bread and cheeses? Appeal to other senses – tasting sample plates; beautiful linen tea towels or cookbooks to touch; highlight the visual appeal of store decoration.
  6. Change the display regularly. Your regular customers will notice if that display of sauces has been there for months and they will start to ignore it. Change how and where you display the items, re-group them with other products. Keep it interesting. And keep a record; tracking those changes will also tell you what worked as a product and display technique.
  7. Make sure you can see it!
  8. The space above the shelves to the ceiling is an excellent space to add signage, images of delicious meals and customer testimonials.

“Grocery item displays can be as simple or as complex as you and the store can imagine. It doesn’t have to be over the top and it can be done relatively cheaply,” said Chris. “As long as the products suit your customer, the store is visually appealing and kept clean, it can work. It may take time to move the grocery items, but can be well-worth it to give customers another reason to shop with you.”


Fitzroy is an inner-city suburb of Melbourne and considered a foodie destination where the typical customer is young to middle-aged professionals.

It is here that Meatsmith opened its doors two years ago as collaboration between well-known Melbourne chef, Andrew McConnell and Troy Wheeler (ex-Butchers of Distinction).

The MeatSmith, Fitzroy, Troy Wheeler

The focus of the shop is on quality heritage meats and value-add products  ̶  including a dry-aged meat cabinet in the front window and charcuterie products made on-site. To complement the quality meat products available, the store provides wines, house-made condiments and preserves, and local and imported products. The visual merchandising of the store is beyond what most butchers would go for, but does provide a level of inspiration.

Behind the display cabinets on the wall are beautiful displays of dried herbs and garlic, inspiring thoughts of provincial Italy or France. An Italian meat-slicer from the 1930s  ̶  and still operational  ̶ holds pride of place as a conversation piece. Along the opposing wall and rear of the shop a range of grocery products are displayed. Each shelf gives the customer time to contemplate what is in front of them.

“We choose each product based on something else in the store. For example we sell Iberico jamon, so we have Ortiz anchovies and Gundilla peppers, or alternatively we have our house-made pepper sauce for the perfect steak au poivre,” said Troy.

“When we get a new product in, our retail staff will recommend it to our customers for about two weeks before it goes onto the shelf. If it is not selling regularly after that time, we replace it with another item until we find a product that turns over.”

The store promotes the grocery items in alignment with the seasons – long-braised dishes for the colder months will have appropriate grocery items, while the BBQ season will have another set.

“The benefits of stocking grocery items and wine, in our instance, is that it improves the customer experience in the store and you can increase the spend-per-customer quite significantly with trained and enthusiastic retail staff. It is important to think about what products will accompany the meat products and add to the overall meal and eating experience. Steer away from the bottled marinades that the supermarket sells!”