Cash may still be king with Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht of the Garden of Eve Organic Farm and Market. But adopting point-of-sale technology at her Greenmarket Farmers Markets booths is now bringing in more "lettuce" — $100 to $200 per market in credit card sales. This Riverhead, N.Y., farmer travels 80 miles one-way to sell more than 70 vegetables, 20 herbs and fresh flowers at four Greenmarkets.
Recent changes at her Brooklyn market proved troublesome. "The neighborhood surrounding one of our best markets became gentrified, making real estate more expensive and forcing younger people out," Kaplan-Walbrecht explains. So, she called GrowNYC's FARMroots.
With New York Farm Viability Institute funding, FARMroots Director Chris Wayne's expertise helps growers develop direct marketing success in the metropolitan marketplace. "The change in client demographics at the Brooklyn market was causing sales to plateau or decline. Access to another set of eyes and experience can help growers adapt to reboot sales," he says.
Improving checkout flow helped
Wayne's initial customer behavior analysis of the Garden of Eve market booth revealed that positioning the checkout line through the middle of the stand made it difficult for others to shop. "When you're busy selling, you may be aware of a line, and see it as a good thing."
But Kaplan-Walbrecht wasn't seeing it from the customer side. "Rearranging our tables created customer flow that didn't block the merchandise," she notes. "People like that layout much better."
Reorienting tables and adding signage is simple, points out Wayne. And, easing traffic through the stand reduces shopper angst and encourages more comfortable shopping. That adds up in sales.
Deal with digital savvy shortfall
Farm staff discomfort arose over using a digital point-of-sales system – computer technology. Through her work as a certified town planner, Kaplan-Walbrecht was already computer savvy. But her employees were intimidated at first.
"We sell so many different items and had never accepted credit cards before. They were afraid the system would slow them down or it wouldn't work. So we started by using it just for purchases over $25."
Daniel GonzalezALL WORK: Eve and Chris Kaplan-Walbrecht, their children Forest and Shira, and even Daisy the goat and the Farmall work on this 55-acre farm on Long Island’s North Fork.
Wayne trained her staff on how to log in and find items on a tablet with the Square point-of-sale credit card processing app. FARMroots also pre-set the software with the farm's products and pricing. "It was remarkably easy to learn and allows us to serve people who were constantly asking if we accepted credit cards," Kaplan-Walbrecht says.
Booth signage informs customers that credit cards are accepted. But Garden of Eve staff don't push the point. "The technology is one more tool to make it more convenient for people to become regular shoppers. We have customers happy they now have that option," she says.
Migrating with the herd
"Every five years, we've needed to adjust how we do business," she says. "As our customer demographic has changed, we've had to ‘migrate with the herd.' Working with FARMroots has helped us adapt and adopt new practices that we could be confident were worth doing. It makes us a more relaxed destination for shoppers."
Wayne adds: "The rest of the retail world is moving away from cash sales toward credit-debit systems, self-checkout and digital options. As growers see the benefits, they'll be more at ease with adding this type of sales technology to their tool box. One farm, for example, saw an additional $450 in sales the first day of accepting credit cards."
Wayne's project is a win-win for farmers and market customers, reports David Grusenmeyer, NYFVI director. "It helps maximize their return on investment in selling at the Greenmarkets. And, it's a win for NYC residents to have easy access to top quality, New York-grown produce."
Pick your swiper
A basic credit card sales and tracking system costs $100 to $700 for hardware, depending on whether you already have an existing device to operate the system, plus $50 to $100 a month for software. Fees to use a tracking app vary.
Garden of Eve started with a hand-held card swiper, then later added a stationary Square stand ($125 to $160). Kaplan-Walbrecht says the stand makes card-swiping much easier. It also reduces the need to manually key in transactions that trigger higher merchant use fees. With Square, the farm can track individual product sales more easily to assist inventory and crop planning.
In FARMroots’ Modernizing Your Farm Sales with Mobile Point of Sale Systems document, you can compare seven POS systems and learn how farmer/marketers are using them. Chris Wayne can be reached at 212-341-2254, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read Simple market changes raise sales to learn more about how FARMroots also helped Sun Fun Beef Farm improve its signage to increase Greenmarket sales.
Dunn writes from her farm at Mannsville, N.Y.