Happy Holiday Sales

Don Harris - Retail Perspective

Originally printed in the December 2019 issue of Produce Business.

During this joyous season, we sometimes lose focus on the challenges of generating additional sales beyond the past year’s operational performance.

Upper management often tells us not to be concerned as sales come “naturally” during this time of year. They tell us not to worry about how to generate more sales, and just ride along with the rest of the holiday momentum. This type of advice can result in a lackluster set of results for the season, and it can also diminish the success of your operation that you’ve been building throughout the year. This all too common comment from management is yet another reason, “They just don’t get it!”

An intuitive produce executive knows exactly what to do to drive holiday sales to new levels by focusing on key parts of the total operation. The first thing is to examine your direction to the stores on proper coverage and effective scheduling during the holiday season. Make sure you have given proper guidance on how many hours it will take to have a top-notch presentation throughout this time frame. This would include encouraging management to allocate more hours to each of your operations. This will ensure you have the proper amount of labor to create the presentation and coverage needed to accomplish the department’s sales goals. This may require some effort and persistence to make sure the hours are allocated, but this action is well worthwhile in terms of making sure the operation is ready to drive for maximum results. Once you have determined enough hours have been allocated to provide the flexibility for proper scheduling and complete coverage of your departments, then you can move on to the next step in driving holiday sales.

A key part of any holiday sales program is a wide selection and display of produce throughout the department. In addition to all the normal items and the attractive displays that are necessary to provide sales momentum, certain items should be included and/or added to provide more incentive for consumers to make more produce purchases. Products, such as gift boxes and gift baskets of fresh produce items, are always excellent ways to add additional sales. Another essential component is the promotion of attractive displays of high-dollar consumable items, such as berries, grapes and soft fruit. This can entice the customer to make additional purchases of these items and add them to their festive holiday table, thus increasing the overall produce ring. The final step would be to add some holiday touches to the department’s décor. By incorporating a festive-holiday theme into many of your displays — you would be providing the customer with a “holiday” shopping experience. All of these actions require a little extra work and effort to accomplish, but pay off in the long run in terms of increased sales and profits.

An intuitive produce executive knows exactly what to do to drive holiday sales to new levels by focusing on key parts of the total operation.

All the previous suggestions will help you drive sales during the holiday, but there is one factor that outweighs all the others — and that’s the atmosphere and attitude reflected throughout the department. The onus is on produce management to instill, in all parts of the operation, a positive and caring attitude toward the customer and their needs. While this type of attitude should be prevalent throughout the year, it is especially important to have this type of atmosphere permeate the entire operation during this special season. By encouraging and promoting this festive attitude throughout the operation, you will help to increase the focus of everyone. While they are performing their tasks they can convey hospitality and help spread good cheer in order to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. This “attitude adjustment” for the holidays is worth its weight in gold — to you and your operation. It allows each and every employee in the operation to show how much he or she appreciates the store’s customers, and as a result, it helps add to everyone’s enjoyment of the holiday season. All it takes is a cheerful attitude and eager assistance. This provides the inviting holiday atmosphere that heightens the customers’ moods. It also serves to put them in the proper frame of mind to spend more time and money in the produce department.

Once again, this type of direction and adjustment will take a considerable amount of effort on your part to encourage and foster this attitude, but the benefits in terms of sales and profits will speak volumes. It will also further develop goodwill with the customer base — in short, it’s worth every minute of effort put into its implementation.

The holidays are an extremely hectic time for everyone — including your customers. Anything you can do to not only offer the widest variety and selection of produce possible, but also present it in a pleasant, joyous and relaxed atmosphere, will provide the operation with increased sales and profits. And that’s in addition to creating a positive end to a successful year.

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 editor@producebusiness.com.