Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm.
No truer words could be applied toward promoting fresh produce. For the countless remodels ever done over the years, the common denominator was how committed everyone was in revitalizing the produce department.
The flow chart followed something like this:
- Acknowledge that slumping sales or threat of competition was eroding area market share;
- Plan to remerchandise the entire produce department, usually in one or two overnight shifts; and
- Complete the project using produce clerks and the merchandising staff.
Then, the reset produce department was monitored for results.
In all instances, sales and percent of store sales went up considerably.
In all instances.
Then, one of two results followed a couple of weeks later. In the stores in which crew showed enthusiasm and support for the remerchandised department, sales improvement continued.
The stores with indifferent or nonsupportive crews? Sales quickly dropped to the pre-remerchandising period.
The point being it isn’t enough to simply stock fresh produce to get the best results. Today’s produce manager has to be the catalyst in keeping the crew motivated and excited about selling produce.
There’s no better time to get excited about remerchandising and pumping up produce sales than in spring. Produce departments have quite the arsenal at hand to drive sales, if the enthusiasm merchandising factor is applied.
Imagine, for example, big displays of corn on end caps, flanked with bushel baskets of bright, red potatoes (enthusiastic idea: place a barbecue grill next to the corn display, opened with shish kabob items or foil-wrapped spuds inside).
Or try promoting all the power spring items in similar fashion: artichokes and asparagus, avocadoes and tomatoes. Build abundant strawberry and blueberry displays, along with some shortcakes; or tie-in apple displays with grapes, cheese or wine with a picnic basket complete with a red checkerboard fabric.
But successful merchandising is more than suggestive touches or using tie-in items. It’s about displaying fresh, colorful produce in clean, neat and abundant displays. It’s about (enthusiastically) keeping those displays culled, stocked and well-signed and having plenty of shopping bags handy.
Most of all, the crew has to put on their selling shoes. It’s time to engage customers; talk up what is especially flavorful or best value. Offer samples.
It’s time to ask — is there a “spring” in your step?
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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