Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle
Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle

Gotta give ’em props.

According to the Urban Dictionary, this oft-used term is an abbreviation for giving someone proper respect.

On the other hand, theatrical props are “An object … that serves as a means of support or assistance,” according to

We have props in produce too, and they curiously fall in both defined categories.

One of the best traits of successful produce managers is this: They react quickly to all sorts of situations. Take for example a time I recall when our warehouse once had a surplus of bell peppers at the end of an ad. Every store received one to four pallets more than ordered.

Some produce managers sulked at the sight.

“I’ll never sell these peppers,” they said.

“What am I supposed to do with these?”

“Well, there goes my profit margin for the month!”

Oh, ye of little faith.

The stronger, more positive managers weren’t crazy about the bell-bomb surprise either. However, the first thing they did was build a massive display. They knew the shrink clock was ticking, and they placed the display in a high-traffic area, provided samples and great signs.

Most of these produce managers built the displays on such short notice using, of course, props.

They constructed the display with a spillover into bushel baskets, or they used a series of burlap bags that made the peppers appear to be spilling out onto the display surface. Many props can be used to convey a farm look or, as the definition implies, “a means of support or assistance.”

One thing is certain, props help drive sales.

A good produce manager accumulates props over time: High-graphic cartons, wire-bound crates, troughs, full or half whiskey barrels (minus the whiskey of course), to name just a few. Some less-prepared produce managers argued.

“Where am I supposed to find these things?” they said.

“I don’t have any storage for things like that.”

“My store manager won’t let me store anything.”

First off, there are many sources: Your buyers or suppliers can help you find props from several produce-display companies. More so, keep your eyes open. Save reusable cartons or bins that you get through the years, browse garage sales. Use the Internet. I’ve found plenty of inexpensive baskets and crates and even nice burlap potato sacks on eBay.

Second, there’s always space to store props in a store until needed if you look hard enough: unused halls or closets, basements, lofts. And given the reasons, I never met a store manager who wasn’t supportive of pigeonholing produce props. Especially when you have to build a display, and you need that added support in a hurry.

When your supervisor visits and sees you merchandising your way out of trouble, or simply doing so for added sales, well, he’ll give you props too.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions.

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