Shopper Marketing - February 2018 - 18
18 WHO'S WHO IN MERCHANDISING
SHOPPER MARKETING FEBRUARY 2018
CHURCHILL: I was the very ﬁrst person hired in Wonderful sales. The whole direct team was a concept.
They asked me to put together this pilot program in
Los Angeles, which started with ﬁve employees, 10
years ago. We ran that pilot program for ﬁve months,
decided it was successful and spent the next 18
months rolling the program out around the country.
We were hiring people, bringing them back to L.A.
for training and then sending them back into the ﬁeld.
By the end of that, we had built a national direct merchandising program where we didn't have one before. We were still developing the Wonderful brand
of pistachios. Today, when you say "pistachios," you
think Wonderful. Our merchandising team was intimately involved in helping that grow, in bringing that
package front and center to the consumer.
Photo by George DeLoache
THE WONDERFUL CO.: DAVID CHURCHILL,
Vice President of Merchandising, Wonderful Sales
avid Churchill brought a long history of produce merchandising to The Wonderful Co.
when he joined in 2008. He began his career with nearly a quarter-century as produce
manager and then assistant store manager at Vons
Grocery. He then became national director of merchandising at Ready Pac Foods, and he later worked at
Advantage Sales/Marketing. The Wonderful Co. hired
him to oversee merchandising for their brands, which
include Fiji Water and Wonderful Halos, almonds and
What are your current responsibilities at The
CHURCHILL: I'm responsible for the day-to-day opera-
tions and strategic planning of the entire merchandising team for North America. For Wonderful sales, that's
conventional grocery in America and Canada, but also
the merchandising aspect for Walmart and Sam's. Our
whole program is designed to run synergistically with
our brand teams and marketing teams. While the
teams design brand message, focus and direction, we
bring them insights from the field. Then it's on us to
execute company programs at retail. We're responsible
for bringing that brand message to life at the point-ofpurchase.
Structurally, how does the merchandising arm of
your company interact with shopper marketing
and with insights?
CHURCHILL: Our team supports the items in the pro-
duce sections of conventional grocery: pistachios and
almonds, juices, and Halos. Our interaction with the
brand marketing and insights team is pretty collaborative. We have 175 merchandisers around the country.
At any given time, they're carrying with them a carload of POS materials, merchandising materials, popup bins and side trays. We seem to have something for
How does your company deﬁne success for its instore marketing programs?
CHURCHILL: It's about having something that will res-
onate with our buyer, wherever she's at. We're finding
out what's important to decision makers at store level,
asking a lot of questions, finding out what programs
they're looking for, what's going to make them successful. And then bringing them ideas that fit in with where
they want to go. When you start thinking about what
defines success, ultimately we're going to define that by
sales, and whether what we're doing is resonating with
our buyers. Wonderful pistachios are the top-selling
snack nut and Halos are the top-selling citrus item in
the U.S. You can't argue with that kind of success.
How has the emergence of the omnichannel
shopper inﬂuenced your merchandising?
CHURCHILL: I don't think it's changed how we mer-
chandise too much because our shoppers and brand
shoppers in general are really loyal shoppers. We try
to have as many points of interaction as we can. Then
that might lead to "Oh yeah, I saw those pistachios on
my Instagram feed." We also try to get on the perimeter of the store. It's all about that impulse purchase. I
don't think it's changed how we merchandise, but it's
brought to life the fact that how we merchandise is that
much more effective for us.
What have been the main trends in merchandising
in recent years?
CHURCHILL: More and more, it's about that perimeter
of the store, it's about fresh and it's about the healthy
items. Store formats have changed because of it. Each
year, more and more consumers are listening to that
message and shopping the perimeter of the store. It's
changed how vendors and manufacturers see the need
to get on that perimeter in some way and not be confined to those shelves in the middle. It's creating many
smaller players and formats that focus in that direction.
The other thing is the continued focus on the plantbased shopper. They're in the produce department. Produce is becoming the prime place to be. If anything,
produce continues to grow and become the major focus.
What role do you foresee the physical store
playing in the future?
CHURCHILL: In the end, especially with fresh, shoppers
want to see it, touch it, smell it, feel it. There are many
consumers switching to buying some online groceries
for things in packages and bags. That's going to continue
to grow. But they will want to get to the store and their
farmer's market when it comes to fresh produce, which
is good for us, because that's where we tend to play.
- Ed Finkel
List continues on page 47.
CHURCHILL: One of the things we decided to do two
years ago was venture into Walmart/Sam's Club for
the ﬁrst time. That was different for us. We looked at
how could we make our program more efficient and
decided we could fold it into our existing foundation
with as small an initial investment of labor as possible. We grew our actual store calls we were doing
a year by 35%, with less than 5% added labor. That
allowed us to get out of the broker model at Walmart
and transition into a direct program. Sales have continued to grow and grow. We were able to save the
company money and continue growing sales in two
of the most important channels. We were able to leverage what we had built to make it as efficient as
possible for the company.