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Online training, certification to be offered by Pear Bureau Northwest

This season, the Pear Bureau Northwest, headquartered in Milwaukie, OR, will offer online training for produce personnel designed to boost retail sales. “The program will have several sections that will cover the basics such as pear handling, merchandising and talking points including how to tell when a pear is ripe and where they are grown; as well as nutrition and usage information,” said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer. “It is designed to be thorough and immediately actionable, yet easy to understand and finish in a timely manner.”

Skills will be assessed with a review quiz at the end of each chapter, and personnel will receive a certificate upon course completion. “We will work with retailers and encourage them to engage all of their produce personnel and offer incentives for completion as well,” Moffitt continued. “There is a lot of turnover among produce personnel, and they are often the face of our products, answering questions and passing along information to the consumer. This training is designed to educate those people who handle our pears in the important last 50 feet before purchase by the consumer.”

The bureau is also purchasing and compiling more information to distribute to retailers to help them capitalize on this important category. “A survey we conducted this past spring asked retailers what sort of information and research they are most interested in,” Moffitt explained, saying the top response was data and research showing how respondents compare to their competition. Moffitt said retailers are also interested in more consumer information and best merchandising ideas and solutions.

“Armed with this knowledge of what retailers want, we will be unveiling new reports and data that provide the retailer exactly what they are most interested in,” he continued. “Data and research is very important to understanding the category and consumer, and our customized retail reviews outline pertinent actionable data with merchandising ideas and solutions to help the retailer profit with pears.”

Retailers are interested in quick and easy solutions to meet their goals, and Moffitt said it is important that promotions be turnkey to minimize expenditure of time. “Sampling is another tool that many retailers like to use especially to introduce a new variety or to increase impulse sales during certain times of the year,” he said.

Moffitt also provided some insights as to information being sought by consumers and ways in which retailers can address these interests. “Our research has shown that consumers are looking for attractive displays of pears along with information on each variety’s characteristics and usage,” he stated. “Our in-store radio programs running in nearly a third of all U.S. retail outlets, as well as our POS material, offers this information leading to more pear sales. More and more consumers are also looking for riper fruit on display. Pear consumers want their pears to be ripe today, tomorrow or the next day at the latest. Displaying riper fruit will increase sales and satisfy the consumer.”

According to Moffitt, conditioned per programs can increase sales by nearly 20 percent. “Last year, seven retailers in the U.S. started a conditioned pear program,” he said. “Forty-four retailers in the U.S. and Canada have started a conditioned pear program in the past 10-12 years. We continue to offer assistance to new retailers as well as training for retailers who want to refresh their knowledge. We have a manual outlining the process and a conditioned pear consultant as well as incentives such as sampling for retailers undertaking a conditioned pear program. It is an excellent way to increase sales and consumer satisfaction.”