The “four P’s.”

No, this isn’t the name of a ’50’s rock band. The four P’s represent what every produce retailer should know long before they develop a merchandising plan, something every merchandiser has to diagram for a new store or any remerchandising project. It stands for: product, placement, price and promotion.

Beyond the new store layout, the produce manager is typically in charge of subsequent merchandising changes. A new season rolls around, a new ad breaks, other items are discontinued — this is the produce lifecycle for all products. And it isn’t long after a new store opens that the merchandiser isn’t around to help out.
So here are the four P’s to consider when making changes once a manager takes charge.

  • Product — With several hundred stock-keeping units that most produce departments carry, the first step is to determine which section (or destination category) that every item fits best. The first division is fruits and vegetables. From here it branches out further. For example, fruit includes tropicals, which includes pineapple. Basically this is the step that determines space allocation for each product category.
  • Placement — This is the fun step. Where to place each category? Some decisions seem like common sense but are often missed. Have an end cap of tomatoes? Position it near or facing the salad vegetable section of the wet rack for the biggest bang. Also, take a page from the grocery playbook and place your high demand items such as lettuce or bananas in an area that will draw customers through the department, thus exposing other items for impulse sales.
  • Price — The best-priced items (such as peak-season or advertised specials) should ideally be placed in strategic points in the department, such as in the middle of the department to draw traffic. Also consider placing well-priced items near the front of the store or even in a lobby to give great curb appeal that helps shout “value.”
  • Promotion — This component is typically left for upper management, who selects ad items and perhaps provides detailed merchandising schematics for produce managers to follow. But it’s good for produce managers to know how and why these items are promoted. Most advertised items follow the peak supply of seasonal items. However, other traditional factors play a role too, such as promoting cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day or watermelons for the Fourth of July.

Understanding the four P’s can help a manager manage merchandising changes. Consider that impulse drives the vast percentage of a customer’s decision to buy. Remember all those swept-up shopping lists? Most of them simply note to buy “some fruit” and “stuff for a salad.”

Following the four P’s will help fill the order and then some.

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

Have any tips for produce managers? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.

Four principles rule the merchandising roost

Armand Lobato
The Produce Aisle