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

These words from a store director can either excite a produce manager or leave him with a feeling of impending doom: “Our store is scheduled for a remodel.”

It isn’t unusual for a produce manager to even have a mixture of feelings. After all, a remodel usually provides potential for all types of growth: volume, sales, better equipment or fixtures. A remodel is also an opportunity for a chain to incorporate new trends, expanded variety and merchandising concepts.

In short, the heat will be on for a produce department to perform at a higher level.

The first step in this series is how to prepare for a remodel. It may not sound like much of a step to dwell on, but readers of this column by now have learned how important preparation can be on a project, be it large or small. It doesn’t come much bigger than a full-scale store remodel.

This initial period involves working with the merchandiser. Among other things, he can fill you in as how much business the store should expect to gain as a result of the remodel and how big of a “slice” will be produce sales.

As the time draws to within a couple of months, he should provide a rough action plan, including what you should be doing on a week-by-week basis. The action plan then shifts gears to a daily outline that typically begins two weeks before the onset of the remodel. In many cases the store closes for a period of time, ranging from a few days to a few weeks.

This is information to be shared. Your crew should know as much about what to expect as you do as a produce manager. This helps them to understand all the “whys:” Why you have to share cooler space with the dairy for a week, or why you may need a refrigerated trailer parked against the dock for the first few days of the remodel. You’ll still field questions but if everyone sees the bigger picture then some of the inconveniences along the way will make more sense — and help them buy into what needs to be done.

Before the remodel it’s important to note that a certain amount of sacrifice is on the horizon. Now is the time to ask for added help as the remodel date draws near. Many times a chain will recruit extra help, be it clerks or other produce managers to lend a hand.

Before the remodel it’s also important to stress that everyone remain calm, positive and flexible. The result of the remodel will reap many benefits, which helps a company build sales, profit and image.

It’s something to look forward to.

Next week: Part II of the three-part remodel series.

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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