Straighten, cull and detail

07/01/2013 09:05:00 AM
Armand Lobato

click image to zoomproduce retailer 10-minute merchandiserPamela RiemenschneiderTen minutes can transform your department from blah to WOW!Many a produce manager will issue this order: Give the department a good straightening!

What does that mean exactly? It seems clerks are always tidying things up anyway, right? Perhaps. But not with a dedicated end result in mind.

Neatness counts when displaying produce. Presentation is as important an element in marketing fresh produce as it is with any commodity. Straightening is a crucial step, and it’s especially beneficial after a wave of customers have shopped a produce department.

Patrick Mills, produce director for Boulder, Colo.-based Lucky’s Markets, gives the process an acronym: CSD, or cull, straighten and detail. The idea behind the process is that many times a messy produce department doesn’t necessarily need more product stocked immediately, but rather the produce that is on display requires brief (but immediate) attention. The procedure requires only a cart with a couple of empty boxes, a sharp eye, and quick hands.

The following will describe, in part, some of the finer points of culling, straightening and detailing, according to Mills:

 

What is culling?

Culling is removing poor-quality product from a display: the bruised apple, greening potatoes, sprouting onions, overripe bananas, short-dated packaged salad or too-soft avocado. Anything of less-than-saleable quality must go.

Culling will prevent over 90% of poor-quality product that would otherwise be found by customers. Even if most of a display is acceptable, all it takes is one poor-quality item to repel a sale. Never hesitate to cull a questionable item from the shelf.

The standard line when training produce clerks about culling is this: If you wouldn’t buy it for yourself, cull it!

 

What is straightening?

Once a display has been thoroughly culled, a good straightening is in order. Straightening is the process of organizing your product to achieve a more presentable level. Straightening allows for product presentation to appear detailed although the display may not be 100% full.

Some chains prefer that out-of-stock areas remain an open space on the tables. Other chains prefer that you “cover the wood” with an adjacent item so the table or display area looks full. Both philosophies have their advantages and disadvantages. Suffice to say that while filling in an out-of-stock area with another item may improve the table presentation, the biggest concern is that signage is adjusted accordingly.

 

What is detailing?

This is the point where, as you straighten displays, a uniform look is achieved. This may mean that all the cantaloupe stems point the same direction, for example, or that labels on packaged items all face up. An endcap of bagged items such as apples or potatoes generally presents much neater with the package openings (or ears) facing into the display or tucked underneath.

Detailing is leveling out displays so there are minimal “peaks and valleys” that distract from a uniform presentation. Turning attention to the typical five-deck refrigerated cases, detailing involves pulling items forward (facing) and arranging so that the shelves appear to be full and minimal holes or gaps remain visible.

Culling, straightening, and detailing a produce department should be a quick process. Start at the front of the department and work your way around each table, combining the three elements into one action. Some displays may just need a quick rearranging — smoothing over an onion display to make it level, for example. Other displays may require a quick restacking. The procedure should take no more than a few minutes per table or display.

 

Simplicity is Key

Culling, straightening, and detailing should become second nature with your crew. After a department is straightened, you can step back and make the best evaluation of what comes next. Perhaps an ad display is ready to be rotated, or you noticed some signs were torn or missing and need attention.

Whatever next task you are faced with, regardless of what subsequent stocking project needs attending, you at least have the assurance that the department is as neat and organized as it can be. No matter who walks the produce department at this point — be it your produce supervisor, your store manager, or, of course, your customers — they will find a culled and neat appearance.

All because you beat them to the punch.


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