On walking a produce department one evening, I saw it generally had enough product on display, but things were messy.
“Get someone to do a quick floor sweep and spot-mop,” I said to the clerk on duty. “And then give the department a good straightening.”
The clerk looked at me with a puzzled look, and I could tell he was due for a lesson on the subject.
Neatness counts when displaying produce. Presentation is important when offering anything for sale, whether it’s a motorcycle or a mango.
Many times, a good straightening is in order for a produce department to go from messy to respectable presentation. This step is crucial, and it is especially beneficial after a wave of customers have shopped your department.
Simply defined according to my longtime merchandiser pal Patrick Mills, “Straightening is the process of organizing your product after culling is complete.”
Mills presents straightening to his charges with these points:
- It’s taking the extra effort and striving for perfection;
- Straightening allows for overall presentation to appear detailed although the display may not be 100% full;
- This is where you make sure all stems face one direction, all labels are symmetrical, tables are free of peaks and valleys, packaging is square and all signage is accurate; and
- This helps the produce department look 100% detailed.
I had the clerk get a flatbed cart and a couple of empty boxes as we walked the tables. We used the boxes for culls and to transfer product into when we needed to restack part of a display.
“We have a lot of ground to cover,” I said. “Straightening is something you want to do quickly.”
Some displays need just a quick rearranging, such as smoothing over onion displays to make them level.
Other displays take a bit more time, like restacking corners of apple displays so the rest of the product won’t spill onto the floor.
But the key is to transform unpresentable displays (with exposed table surfaces, bruised fruit and so on) by culling, rearranging, restacking and leveling off.
In this case, it only took a few minutes per table to straighten and cull the department. We had quickly brought some level of respectable presentation without the displays being full.
Once the displays were straightened, the clerk had a good idea what items needed to be stocked and what the priorities were so customers could select from neat displays.
Straightening is such a simple task, and it’s what every good produce manager stresses should be done several times during the course of a shift.
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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