Managing The Spring ‘Gap’

Don Harris - Retail Perspective

In the produce world‭, ‬as the weather begins to improve‭, ‬weDon Harris - Retail Perspective anticipate the opportunities presented to us by new crops of key commodities to jumpstart our sales momentum in the department to begin and drive higher volume toward the Summer selling season‭.‬

Unfortunately‭, ‬management does not always share these upbeat feelings of a new season with opportunity in the same manner as we‭ ‬do in produce‭. ‬Management’s thoughts often center upon the key holidays during that period‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬Easter and Mother’s Day‭. ‬Planning for Easter‭, ‬recovery from the Easter promotion‭, ‬and the preparation for Mother’s Day are the produce priorities management puts on the calendar for the spring‭.

In a normal year‭, ‬this is an adequate way to approach this season‭. ‬However‭, ‬every few years a situation shows itself where there‭ ‬is a tremendous gap of time between the two holidays‭, ‬which requires a different reaction from management‭. ‬Many times management fails to react properly to this‭ ‬“gap”‭ ‬and further proves‭ ‬“they just don’t get it”‭!‬

The gap we are talking about happens when Easter occurs very early in the year and Mother’s Day follows six weeks later‭. ‬What is needed to properly build momentum and take advantage of the opportunity represented by spring commodities is an aggressive strategy that takes into account the vital need for promotional activity during this six-week‭ ‬spring gap‭. ‬

The pitfall many retailers and management falls into is to approach this period with indifference and‭, ‬even in some cases‭, ‬ignore its existence‭, ‬allowing produce sales to aimlessly drift through this timeframe‭. ‬This type of approach leads to an ominous‭ ‬“lull”‭ ‬in the sales momentum that is very difficult to regenerate when Mother’s Day arrives‭.

The lull tends to continue into the early part of the summer and makes it extremely difficult to drive sales to the level that the opportunities warrant‭. ‬It also makes the produce department personnel anxious and frustrated with the lack of sales momentum‭ ‬heading into the key summer season‭. ‬Now it is required to work harder than necessary to rebuild that momentum‭. ‬For produce‭, ‬this‭ ‬can take a promising year and turn it into a difficult one forcing the produce operation to play catchup‭.‬

This year’s six-week period between Easter and Mother’s Day is an opportunity‭ ‬ to create momentum by promoting new crop items‭.

Fortunately‭, ‬there are certain proactive‭, ‬forward-thinking retailers that address this‭ ‬“gap”‭ ‬as an opportunity to further enhance the growth of produce sales by providing additional‭, ‬targeted promotional activity to take‭ ‬advantage of the influx of new seasonal fruits and vegetables‭. ‬These retailers schedule themed promotions such as‭ ‬“Spring Fling‭,‬”‭ ‬etc‭., ‬with items featuring asparagus‭, ‬berries‭, ‬artichokes‭, ‬avocados‭, ‬corn‭, ‬etc‭., ‬in between the two holidays to keep driving sales‭.‬

It really takes little additional effort to aggressively plan for additional promotion when this gap occurs‭. ‬In fact some retailers look forward to the years when this gap occurs‭, ‬with great anticipation for the opportunity that it provides for driving extra sales by taking advantage of new‭, ‬fresh seasonal opportunities‭.‬

In taking aggressive action to promote produce operations during this period‭, ‬these retailers are rewarded with establishing and‭ ‬fostering increased sales plus providing crucial positive momentum heading into summer and the abundance of opportunities that‭ ‬are presented during this vital time of the year‭. ‬Certainly it would be in the best interest of the entire industry and certainly all retailers to actively utilize this‭ ‬“gap”‭ ‬to revitalize their departments and capture the customer’s attention‭.‬

Adopting an aggressive promotional strategy for this timeframe doesn’t cost much in terms of additional resources‭, ‬but the benefits are far reaching in terms of providing the opportunity to lift the performance of the produce department to that‭ ‬“next level‭.‬”‭ ‬It would seem to be a small investment that would yield a tremendous upside in terms of establishing the foundation for building a record-breaking sales performance throughout the entire year‭.

The‭ ‬“risk/reward”‭ ‬potential of such activity has such an upside that it would seem negligent not to take advantage of this opportunity and utilize the potential it has for driving positive results‭. ‬Rather than utilizing this six-week spring gap to allow the produce operations to‭ ‬“recover”‭ ‬from Easter and wait for Mother’s Day‭, ‬the smart retailer would look at this gap as a tremendous opportunity to carry the natural sales boost and momentum from‭ ‬Easter all the way through Mother’s Day and into the summer‭. ‬It would seem to be a simple matter of providing the opportunity for produce to turn in a record-breaking performance rather than‭ ‬“just another 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 and is director of produce for the Chicago-based food charity organization, Feeding America. Comments can be directed to