A “New” Beginning

Originally printed in the May 2018 issue of Produce Business.

Don HarrisAs we head into spring, meetings with management evolve into discussions of the need for support in the produce department to take advantage of the new crops becoming available during this season. Management is always resistant to adding any additional labor or support, as it would like to see immediate returns on this investment. It is also common management does not understand the need for ramping up going into the biggest season of availability in Produce. It is just this type of resistance that further goes to show that in all things Produce, especially during the spring, management “just doesn’t get it.”

The need for additional support and emphasis in the produce department during the spring season is necessary to get the consumer’s mind off of winter and into the anticipation of the new crops of fruits and vegetables that will be available in the next few months. This requires a new approach within the produce department. It requires setting aside, and putting behind, everything that was done during the winter. This “new” beginning is a complete refreshment of the produce department itself as well as promotional and advertising activities. To get the consumer’s mind to focus on the new opportunities it behooves the produce department’s staff to refresh and repurpose the department and its approach to highlight the fact something new is happening in the department.

Initially this refreshing of the department would entail a complete cleaning and the elimination of old signs or promotional themes to make room for the upcoming sales opportunities. Given these actions, it would require some additional labor to revitalize the department’s presentation as well as the rearrangement of displays and schematic to take advantage of the new crops of fruits and festivals that will be arriving weekly. These fresh new looks require making sure the signage is up-to-date as well as preparing for new signage to highlight incoming items. It is also a good time to review procedures for receiving and storing these new products in the back room as well as reconfiguring the cooler to make it easier for these products to be received and moved to the sales floor.

By presenting a newly enlivened, fresh attitude from all produce employees it helps reinforce what has been done physically to the department. It is further illustration the new and exciting season is fast approaching.

In addition to these physical departmental changes, a reinvigorated approach and mindset of the employees is also critical. Direction should be provided to produce department personnel concerning upcoming opportunities. It’s also a great time to encourage employees to refresh their own minds and take a new, enthusiastic approach in their interaction with consumers. By presenting a newly enlivened, fresh attitude from all produce employees it helps reinforce what has been done physically to the department. It is further illustration the new and exciting season is fast approaching. It is a potent combination targeted to project the proper and complete expectation of new and exciting things happening in the produce department.

In the current marketplace, the consumers are looking for an experience when they shop. This type of approach, and the promise of new and exciting items, all but guarantees that experience. Just the “same ol’ same ol’ ” daily produce routine will not excite them to make additional purchases. It won’t motivate the customer to look forward to seeing what’s new and different each time they come to the department.

This up-close-and-personal approach also provides customers new ways to view the items, as well as learn about them in a more personalized fashion. Clearly, it is a far superior method of learning about products than purchasing online with the click of a mouse. It is vital we continue to move forward by providing these types of experiences so we can entice customers to return again and again and thereby expose them to all the new opportunities and items available.

The amount of support required to do this effectively will vary with each department depending on the personnel and the attitude of the department’s management. But it’s well worth the expenditure as creating this environment will increase sales, enhance customer satisfaction and drive department operations to a new level. It also provides momentum that can carry all the way through summer as each new item becomes available. Considering the benefits of this action and additional support, it is a small investment that can yield large dividends not only to the produce department but also the entire store. It sends a message to shoppers that this is a place with exciting opportunities and products to explore. Even management should agree this type of action creating a “new” beginning in the produce department is a strategy worthy of support.


Don Harris is a 41-year veteran of the produce industry, with most of that time spent in retail. He worked in every aspect of the industry, from “field-to-fork” in both the conventional and organic arenas. Harris is presently consulting. Comments can be directed to [email protected].

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