Wal-Mart polishing its fresh produce image - The Packer

Wal-Mart polishing its fresh produce image

06/06/2013 09:33:00 PM
Pamela Riemenschneider

Wal-Mart produce departmentPamela RiemenschneiderBentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. launched new Fresh Produce Schools for more than 70,000 associates as part of a new effort to improve its fresh produce image with consumers. Just a few months after coming under scrutiny for out of stocks and poor execution in its fresh produce department, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. launched a campaign and initiatives, aimed at consumers, touting improvements to its fresh produce.

The company held a media call June 3 to roll out the initiatives, including promoting its “100% money back guarantee” for fresh produce purchases, efforts to reduce transit time from farms to stores through satellite buying offices, more direct grower relationships, training for in-store employees and weekly produce checks at more than 3,000 stores.

The initiatives are supported with a nationwide ad campaign about Wal-Mart’s fresh produce.

Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of grocery for Wal-Mart U.S. said the company is “cutting out the middleman” and buying more produce direct, including being on track for increasing local produce sourcing by 50% over the next several years.

The company still plans to source from local wholesalers, however.

“The other 20% will be through local wholesalers — those wholesalers play an important role for us in the areas we serve,” he said.

Buying direct from growers and offering guarantees on produce are nothing new for major retailers — including Wal-Mart — said Bruce Peterson of Peterson Insights Inc., a former Wal-Mart produce executive. Where Wal-Mart could make the most positive changes in Wal-Mart’s fresh produce comes with in-store execution in the produce departments themselves, Peterson said.

Wal-Mart appears to be addressing those issues through its new Fresh Produce Schools, what Sinclair said would be “visual” training programs for more than 70,000 associates on appropriate produce handling procedures and expectations of product freshness. This will help employees identify what produce belongs on the shelf and what needs to be removed, Sinclair said.

These training programs will be backed up with independent weekly fresh produce checks for more than 3,000 stores.

The Fresh Produce School is a great idea, Peterson said, depending on execution.

“I think that’s inherently a good thing,” he said. “But I wonder who are the people they’re going to train. Wal-Mart historically has been a company of generalists. They never really applied any specific product training in the way you would think that a conventional retailer would do.”

Wal-Mart could face challenges because training could mean specialization.

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Dayton  |  June, 10, 2013 at 09:12 AM

Wal-Mart must not have started its initiative yet. I shopped in a super center this weekend. Here are my findings: 1) no sale able sweet corn. Very little on display and all was poor. 2) small peaches - no eye-appeal 3) all bananas were very yellow. 1 day home life 4) all avocados were very ripe. 1 day life 5) cashier rang personal sized watermelon as seedless ($1.52 difference) 6) No large (slicers) bulk tomatoes 7) No excitement in the department. Nothing said "buy me". There was no impulse to buy. 8) We shopped at noon on Saturday. There were some good items - 2# strawberries; cherries.

Produce Guy    
Texas  |  June, 11, 2013 at 09:03 AM

Produce is NOT the same as groceries. You need flexibiity and specialized personel to have a successful produce department. You CAN NOT give away produce at the volumes that Walmart uses. Conclusion: Unless Walmart reinvents itself and changes methods and systems completely (very doubtfull),local retailers have not much to fear from this announcement.

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