A New Beginning In Produce Retailing

Don Harris - Retail Perspective

At the beginning of a new year‭, ‬after the celebration of the holiday season‭, Don Harris - Retail Perspective‬sometimes retail management tends to discount the need for promotional activity preferring to wait for‭ ‬“holiday hangover”‭ ‬to end and better weather to arrive‭. ‬This tendency again proves that in terms of produce and the first of the year‭, ‬management‭ ‬“just doesn’t get it”‭!‬

While many retailers postpone any promotional activity‭, ‬some more innovative retailers look upon this first-of-the-year time as‭ ‬an additional opportunity to set the tone for the year‭. ‬These retailers look for ways to excite the customer and entice them to‭ ‬make purchases in the produce department that reflect their needs at this time of year‭. ‬Given that produce is a naturally healthy choice‭, ‬these retailers capitalize on the consumers’‭ ‬desires to‭ ‬“eat healthy”‭ ‬and make up for their overindulgence during the holiday season‭.

Many New Year’s resolutions include the ambition to lose weight and eat healthier‭. ‬This plays right into the strategy of inventive produce retailers who plan promotional activity and display strategy to highlight the health benefits of produce and its ability to assist‭ ‬in any diet and/or development of a healthier lifestyle‭. ‬By identifying the various ways the commodities available can be combined to provide delicious and nutritious salads as well as other dishes to help any diet‭, ‬you can have a powerful effect on produce sales to start the year off right‭.‬

In addition to the healthy aspect of the produce section‭, ‬these forward-thinking retailers also incorporate unique themes that contrast with the weather‭. ‬By utilizing the wide abundance of imported produce available during this time‭, ‬a retailer can provide‭ ‬the customer with a‭ ‬“visit”‭ ‬to a warmer climate during the winter season‭. ‬Promotions‭ (‬such as‭ ‬“June in January”‭) ‬are often successful as the promotions present fruits normally seen during the summer months‭. ‬This contrast plays to the customer’s yearning for something different as well as the ability to reflect on a warmer time‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬even if it’s only in their mind‭.‬


By utilizing the wide abundance of imported produce available during this time‭, ‬a retailer can provide the customer with a‭ ‬“visit”‭ ‬to a warmer climate during the winter season‭.


Utilizing these‭ ‬“summertime”‭ ‬fresh fruit items stimulates additional sales and drives the entire appeal of the department‭. ‬It also helps to enhance the reputation of the store as being able to provide anything a customer needs or wants at any time throughout the year‭. ‬Plus it sets the tone for the produce department as well as the entire store as the place to find things that are exciting and different to purchase‭.‬

The successful retailers that utilize this type of strategy are laying the foundation of the entire year’s produce initiative‭. ‬In not allowing any time to pass before beginning promotional activity allows for produce momentum to begin building from the start of the year and gather speed throughout subsequent months‭. ‬It is a key aspect to any successful retailer’s drive to push produce sales to new levels as well as the customer’s interest in the department‭.‬

This action also has other benefits‭, ‬including the motivation of the produce department employees to‭ ‬“hit the ground running”‭ ‬on merchandising and strategic placement of items‭. ‬Additionally‭, ‬employees will develop a sense of pride in the fact that they‭ ‬are the first in the marketplace to highlight and promote the department‭. ‬Encouraging this type of activity and enhancing the focus on driving the department forward is absolutely essential to getting the produce department off to a good start in the New Year‭.‬

While it might be the safe play to let things settle down after the holidays and begin promotional activity later‭, ‬the benefits‭ ‬of taking this proactive action‭, ‬which represents a risk‭, ‬far outweighs‭ ‬waiting‭. ‬Not only do you capture the attention of the consumer and kick-start your produce sales‭, ‬but you also gain an advantage over the competition‭.

To be successful requires planning and imagination along with store-level direction and employee motivation to make such a strategy a success‭. ‬Utilizing this type of strategy and seizing the initiative in your marketplace will allow you to be a leader in produce promotion and aggressive merchandising‭. ‬The payback will be an excellent start to your sales momentum for the year and an‭ ‬improved perception in the eyes of your customers as an innovative produce retailer‭.


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 [email protected]