LAS VEGAS â Itâs not often that one gets to hear secrets directly from retail produce managers.
From what theyâre seeing at store level in organic produce to the greatest display they ever built, 10 recipients of United Freshâs Retail Produce Manager Award dished on what makes their operations successful during a UnitedFresh.tv session April 22.
The session was moderated by Steve Lutz, executive vice president of The Perishables Group, West Dundee, Ill., and broadcast live on www.unitedfresh.tv. It is available for replay on the Web site.
Some of the more lively discussion revolved around what managers see at the store level in organic produce.
Organics continue to grow
Despite the economy, shoppers still look for organics, said Willie Williams, of an Englewood, Ohio, location of The Kroger Co., Cincinnati.
âPrice doesnât matter to some shoppers,â he said. âAt my store we used to do $500 a week and now we do $8,000 to $9,000 a week.â
At Bel Air Markets in Sacramento, Calif., a Raleyâs banner, John Thut said he carries a wide assortment of organic produce.
âWe have 24 feet, plus dry table space,â he said. âPrice points have come closer and the quality is there.â
Lutz asked if there is a magic price point for organics.
âFor new organic consumers, thatâs where itâs an issue,â said Gary Viall, produce manager for the Colonie, N.Y., location of Hannaford Bros. Co. âItâs hard to pick that sweet spot. They expect to pay a little more, but if itâs a lot more you lose even the frequent buyers.â
Organic shoppers also keep you on your toes, Williams said.
âAn organic customer is a serious customer,â he said. âTheyâre in the store most often and they stay the longest.â
Attracting, keeping diverse audiences
Managers weighed in on how to attract and maintain ethnically diverse audiences.
For Juronald Williams, produce manager of the Ord Community Comissary, Seaside, Calif., it is a matter of trying new things.
âYou have to get to know the customers at first,â he said. âIf I donât carry an item they want, Iâll see if I can get it.â
Willie Williams said the custom orders are a great way to keep a customer loyal.
âOnce youâve shown that you can get something for someone, that earns their trust,â he said. âAnd it spreads in the community fast.â