Recently I wanted to buy some strawberries on ad. The quality was great and the price appealing, but because the display was so small it only took one customer to block access for other shoppers — including me.

Remove obstacles to increase produce sales

Armand Lobato
The Produce Aisle

Rather than hang around for the few people in front of me, I simply kept moving.

It wasn’t long before I was on to the other parts of the store and soon forgot all about the berries. The small display was actually a sales deterrent, an obstacle.

As the late Walt Kelly’s cartoon character Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

A produce department can have the freshest offerings and the greatest prices yet still find ways to self-destruct.

How many obstacles get thrown in front of customers, slowing sales?

Let me list just a few.

  • The too-small ad display — Build displays so several customers can shop the display simultaneously. Include enough space for those big shopping carts too. Another alternative is to build multiple displays of the same item. I’ve seen this done in stores with tight table space. It helps keep produce moving.
  • Leaving stocking carts in the way — You have a job to do, but to your customers these are a roadblock they have to shop around and many simply don’t have the time or patience. Remember most produce sales are impulse purchases, so if a cart or pallet is in the way the only impulse is to escape.
  • Poor signs — When there is no sign above a display or there is confusion which sign goes with which item (common in specialty or tropical sets), you will quickly lose your customer’s attention and will to purchase. Tags frequently fall off, and disinterested customers walk away. All of this is a good reason to do a “sign-walk” twice a day to check conditions.

Other obstacles include empty boxes accumulating in the aisle, cardboard floor shippers that have outlasted their welcome and empty sample stands (put them away if not in use).

Is the broom and mop in the way? All these things by themselves aren’t much, but put together the situation becomes a customer obstacle-course.

How about the bin products? If a bin display has sold down so far that only the most able-bodied customers can hoist things out of it, then you’re missing sales from the majority of customers who aren’t so gifted.

Even little things like keeping the bag and twist-tie supplies full help keep customers in your department and happily filling those sacks with fresh produce.

Seeing your department as a customer would is vital.

Review your department now and then, using “customer vision” as your guide to finding and eliminating obstacles.

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

How do you ensure it's easy for customers to find products in your produce department? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.