The remnants of jack-o-lantern pumpkins may still be lingering, but this indicates it’s time for produce managers to lock themselves in their office for an hour or so and plan for Thanksgiving.
As readers of this little corner of The Packer already know, this trim-knife wielding scribe is a big believer in planning. There is no such thing as overplanning when it comes to Thanksgiving in the Produce Aisle. To contrast, think of all the times something has been overlooked and cost you precious sales volume. The list is worth a peek.
Consider the five primary areas for planning: Ad merchandising, secondary push items, tie-ins, labor and prior-year review.
Ad merchandising planning should be a snap. The traditional Thanksgiving meal includes the usual: celery, cranberries, potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes. 
Each of these items explodes tenfold in volume. Make sure each has more than ample space allocation, either in single, large displays or in multiple displays to ease shopping during peak periods. 
Keep one day’s worth of safety stock ad inventory on hand.
Secondary push items or ad-liner items also triple or quadruple in sales. For example, relish items such as green onions, parsley, radishes, cherry tomatoes and peppers, to name a few. 
Secondary items include fresh herbs, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus and green beans — a few examples that will all sell quickly and in proportion to the size of the display. Build these displays big, using spillovers or in shipper-cartons to spark extra sales.
Don’t forget the fruit: apples for salads or pies, berries and melons for desserts or fruit trays.
Tie-in items sell well, such as refrigerated dressings and package dip or sauce mixes. 
Some enterprising managers order extra cases of these and hang the envelope mixes next to corresponding displays, using the metal clip strips similar to those used to hang gravy mixes in the grocery aisles. Hang ranch dip mix next to the broccoli, hollandaise mix next to the asparagus and so on. 
All these extras help build the basket ring considerably.
With labor planning, you may have to do some re-tooling to get this part right. The bulk of your business will be the weekend prior and the three days leading up to Thanksgiving. 
Bulk up scheduled hours during the shopping periods, but also consider overnight shifts leading up to each day to prepare for increased volume. These shifts can be used for prep tasks such as crisping and trimming, building displays, organizing the backroom — anything to streamline the work load.
Finally, review last year’s notes and prior labor schedules. Any area of importance missed? Was one day busier than another? Any competitor changes since last year? Reviewing prior year notes can help fine-tune the holiday planning. Happy Thanksgiving planning!
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. E-mail armandlobato@comcast.net.
Do you have any tips for how to make the most of Thanksgiving? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.

Planning can make the most of ThanksgivingThe remnants of jack-o-lantern pumpkins may still be lingering, but this indicates it’s time for produce managers to lock themselves in their office for an hour or so and plan for Thanksgiving.

As readers of this little corner of The Packer already know, this trim-knife wielding scribe is a big believer in planning. There is no such thing as overplanning when it comes to Thanksgiving in the Produce Aisle. To contrast, think of all the times something has been overlooked and cost you precious sales volume. The list is worth a peek.

Consider the five primary areas for planning: Ad merchandising, secondary push items, tie-ins, labor and prior-year review.

Ad merchandising planning should be a snap. The traditional Thanksgiving meal includes the usual: celery, cranberries, potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes. 

Each of these items explodes tenfold in volume. Make sure each has more than ample space allocation, either in single, large displays or in multiple displays to ease shopping during peak periods. Keep one day’s worth of safety stock ad inventory on hand.

Secondary push items or ad-liner items also triple or quadruple in sales. For example, relish items such as green onions, parsley, radishes, cherry tomatoes and peppers, to name a few. 

Secondary items include fresh herbs, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus and green beans — a few examples that will all sell quickly and in proportion to the size of the display. Build these displays big, using spillovers or in shipper-cartons to spark extra sales.

Don’t forget the fruit: apples for salads or pies, berries and melons for desserts or fruit trays.

Tie-in items sell well, such as refrigerated dressings and package dip or sauce mixes. 

Some enterprising managers order extra cases of these and hang the envelope mixes next to corresponding displays, using the metal clip strips similar to those used to hang gravy mixes in the grocery aisles. Hang ranch dip mix next to the broccoli, hollandaise mix next to the asparagus and so on. 

All these extras help build the basket ring considerably.

With labor planning, you may have to do some re-tooling to get this part right. The bulk of your business will be the weekend prior and the three days leading up to Thanksgiving. 

Bulk up scheduled hours during the shopping periods, but also consider overnight shifts leading up to each day to prepare for increased volume. These shifts can be used for prep tasks such as crisping and trimming, building displays, organizing the backroom — anything to streamline the work load.

Finally, review last year’s notes and prior labor schedules. Any area of importance missed? Was one day busier than another? Any competitor changes since last year? Reviewing prior year notes can help fine-tune the holiday planning. Happy Thanksgiving planning!

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. E-mail armandlobato@comcast.net.

Do you have any tips for how to make the most of Thanksgiving? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.