Now Is The Time For Strategic Planning

Don Harris - Retail Perspective

The beginning of the spring season is an excellent time to review operations and plan ahead to utilize the bounty of offerings available in the coming months‭. ‬During this period‭, ‬management encourages all other departments to put together a promotional calendar that would carry through the remainder of the year‭. ‬

Unfortunately‭, ‬management often misses the opportunity or the need for Produce to do the same‭. ‬The thinking that Produce always‭ ‬follows the seasons and utilizes new crops as they become available can lead to a lack of advance planning and promotional efforts‭. ‬This type of management philosophy only proves that‭, ‬“they just don’t get it‭.‬”

Promotional planning is not only necessary‭, ‬but it is also vital to the department’s success‭. ‬It can often drive momentum and increase sales to a much higher level‭. ‬Strategic planning that incorporates pertinent‭ ‬facts‭, ‬data and information can also create a wide-ranging‭, ‬effective program‭. ‬

The process begins by realizing and categorizing the natural opportunities presented by the seasonality of fresh produce‭. ‬The progression of crops month-by-month provides ample opportunity for promotional activity as each growing area comes into production‭ ‬as well as the local crops beginning to showcase their bounty‭. ‬This is the traditional method of promotional planning for Produce‭. ‬However‭, ‬to truly reach the goals set for your operation‭, ‬an innovative retailer must look to other areas to refine and sharpen the focus of the promotional efforts‭.‬

The first step is to fully understand the consumer you are trying to reach‭. ‬Ascertain what types of promotional or presentation‭ ‬qualities they are looking for and the particular desires that drive them‭. ‬Take advantage of any‭, ‬and all‭, ‬local activities and‭/‬or celebrations to formulate your promotions to meet the needs of not only the consumers but‭, ‬also the community‭. ‬Design your promotional activity around their desires as well as the opportunities presented by local celebrations and festivals‭. ‬

Next‭, ‬begin to look at how to utilize the upcoming season to meet those goals‭. ‬Review supplier relationships and examine what how they may be able to assist with the promotional efforts‭. ‬Look at‭  ‬older promotions that have been done year after year and find ways to breathe new life into them‭, ‬using‭  ‬your operation and those suppliers‭. ‬Encourage suppliers to participate and ask them‭ ‬to provide additional support that not only moves their own goods‭, ‬but also promotes a wide variety of goods‭. ‬

The innovative retailer utilizes all sources of support‭, ‬including growers‭, ‬commodity promotional boards and committees‭, ‬and anyone else who can help to prepare and structure unique promotions‭. ‬These types of promotions can go beyond the regular‭ ‬“family”‭ ‬type of marketing‭, ‬which utilizes several members of a commodity‭. ‬Instead of highlighting an individual group‭, ‬why not combine‭ ‬many groups within the department‭? ‬Create a colorful scenario that promotes the common good of all the items in a far-reaching event that covers the entire department‭. ‬This type of thinking and inclusion allows your operation to promote the entire Produce‭ ‬section‭. ‬It puts individual items in a new light to generate special interest from customers‭. ‬It also provides an additional sales platform‭.‬

In order to meet the challenges presented by ever-changing consumers and their various needs‭, ‬we must look at new and different‭ ‬ways to highlight the produce items within our operations‭. ‬By utilizing all of the available methods of support‭, ‬we can prepare‭ ‬a strategic plan that includes unique promotional events that incorporate more produce items‭. ‬This will strengthen the appeal of‭ ‬the department and supply the needs and wants of ever-evolving consumers‭. ‬This type of strategic thinking has been a home run in other industries‭.  ‬The entrepreneurial spirit that can be gained from this type of strategy is infectious and motivating‭. ‬It can elevate your operation above the level of the competition‭. ‬The rewards far outweigh any of the efforts‭.

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

(Story originally printed in the April 2019 issue of Produce Business.)