During the third month of the summer selling season, much of the strategy revolves around preparation for back-to-school. Meetings primarily focus on the store’s “other” departments more directly involved with back-to-school. Produce is often relegated to a second-class position in terms of promotional activity and emphasis. Management responds to requests from produce for more support by pointing out summer produce is old news and customers are ready for a new promotional push for the upcoming fall season. Once again, this response shows management “just doesn’t get it!”
This type of mindset is common in retail during the month of August; it’s been this way for most of retail’s modern era. Just because it is common practice doesn’t necessarily mean it is the correct mindset to have. This viewpoint ignores some great opportunities for continuing the sales momentum in produce by utilizing some of the best quality and best-tasting varieties of summer fruit produced in August. Many of the later-season varieties of peaches, nectarines, grapes, berries and melons are among the most flavorful and offer great quality and value to the customer. Instead of allowing other departments and their back-to-school promotions to dominate the promotional activity, the innovative and creative produce retailer capitalizes on the opportunities represented by these outstanding items. Continued promotion in all media, as well as in the displays in the produce department, should be utilized to highlight and drive customers to these items.
While the preoccupation with back-to-school dominates the retail scene, the rest of agriculture utilizes the timeframe to promote the abundance of fresh, quality produce items. After all, August is peak season for many fresh, local vegetable crops bursting with flavor. Consumers have been coming into the retail stores for produce since Memorial Day; there is no reason to back off and ignore consumer demand and interest to move on to fall items. The progressive retailer recognizes this and takes advantage by continuing to promote the peak season quality of these key produce commodities. While members of the produce department certainly realize this fact, it is management who needs to be convinced this is the proper course of action. This is not easy to accomplish, but the benefits in terms of rewards in sales and profit are worth the effort.
While the preoccupation with back-to-school dominates the retail scene, the rest of agriculture utilizes the timeframe to promote the abundance of fresh, quality produce items. After all, August is peak season for many fresh, local vegetable crops bursting with flavor.;
The resourceful produce manager will utilize the successful sales momentum built up during the first two months of the summer selling season to show management the benefits of maintaining the momentum and drive of sales in the produce department. Not only will this increase sales, but it will also help the other departments by attracting consumers to the store. This type of argument can be very persuasive with management, as it appeals to their need for “traffic” to continue to shop the store and can add additional opportunities for sales in the other departments and back-to-school merchandise. The produce management team can piggyback on this effort at store level with upper management reinforcing the message.
It makes sense to take advantage of these opportunities in the world of fresh produce and the varieties available during August in a collaborative effort with the rest of the store to continue to drive sales and offer customers value throughout every department and fulfill their needs as they move into the fall. The continued promotion of “high-quality, peak of the season” flavor summer commodities will no doubt enhance the store’s reputation for offering the best “fresh” items along with the promoted value items for the back-to-school season. With this type of innovative, cooperative effort throughout the store, we can begin to banish the dog days of August.
Don Harris is a 43-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].