Davis photoThe supermarket industry has never been more competitive. Large discounters and wholesale clubs have entered the game, cutting prices, gobbling up market share and leaving traditional marketers reeling.

Competitive pressure inspires creative marketing, but jan/san suppliers need to remind supermarket managers and executives of a basic fact: clean stores — especially clean, shiny floors — are a basic tool used to attract customers.

Surveys have confirmed this fact for many years. A national survey conducted for National Food Safety Education Month, “found that 81 percent of consumers queried say their purchasing decisions are influenced by the cleanliness of the grocery store. When asked what they would be most likely to do if they visited a grocery store that appeared to be dirty or unsanitary, 64 percent of survey respondents said they would leave the store immediately without purchasing anything.”

One grocer credited clean, shiny floors directly for an increase in business. “A considerable proportion of our 7 percent rise in turnover can be attributed directly to the improved appearance of the floor. Unconsciously, the customer transfers the quality of the clean, hygienic floor surface to the quality of the goods.”

Jan/san marketers should help their grocery customers compete by promoting the importance of clean facilities. Distributor salespeople should provide them information on the basics of a good cost-effective floor-care program. Two important things to share are 1) how much finish to apply, and 2) how to be super productive.

Grocery store floors require more finish than many other types of buildings because of heavy foot and equipment traffic as well as the high occurrence of spills. Many stores have several thousand customers a week pushing shopping carts across the floor as they shop. The abrasion from the foot traffic and carts wears the finish quickly. Also, those who restock the shelves roll pallets of merchandise across the floor with hand and power jacks.

Normally, it is a good idea to apply enough floor finish to equal at least 100-percent solids coverage (for example, if the finish is a 25 percent non-volatile finish then four coats are needed). However, in a grocery store, 200 percent coverage is recommended in the aisles and 250 to 300 percent coverage on the perimeters and checkout lanes. That amount is sufficient to withstand traffic and abuse and provide an adequate base coat for maintenance.

Productivity is important if cleanliness is to be provided in a cost-effective manner. Machine automation is a must.

Start with a twin-brush propane stripping machine. Use aggressive brushes rather than strip pads for maximum economy and productivity. The brushes wash out easily and do not clog even when large amounts of old finish are removed. Use long-handle scrapers to remove buildup under the gondolas. Mix the stripper in 32- or 44-gallon trash cans to reduce refill time and avoid contaminating automatic scrubbers.

Quickly pick up stripper solution and rinse water with an automatic floor scrubber. This machine will also be used to clean the floor daily rather than hand mopping it. Autoscrubbers are eight to 10 times more productive than cleaning manually.

Propane burnishers are used to achieve maximum gloss and speed. Propane burnishers spin pads up to 3,000 rpms and allow for maximum pad pressure since they do not rely on AC current.

Grocery store managers should not forget the basics. The distributor’s job is to help them remember that something as simple as clean, shiny floors can give them the competitive advantage they need.

Louie Davis Jr. is a 25-year veteran of the jan/san business, having worked on the manufacturing and distribution sides. He is currently a sales representative for Central Paper Co., in Birmingham, Ala.