Informed retail clerks help teach consumers

08/15/2013 02:59:00 PM
Jim Offner

Retail clerks who can answer shopper questions about varieties and ripeness and empowering them to make the right selections for their individual needs is central to retail success, marketers say.Avocado-savvy produce department employees are a key to keeping sales on a positive growth trajectory, avocado marketers say.

An ability to answer shopper questions about varieties and ripeness and empowering them to make the right selections for their individual needs is central to retail success, marketers say.

Progress is being made in that area, said Phil Henry, president of Escondido, Calif.-based Henry Avocado Corp.

“They’re certainly getting more knowledgeable,” he said.

Henry said he commiserates with produce department employees in stores frequently.

“I talk to retail produce clerks and managers, and I think they’re pretty good,” he said.

But, he added a caveat.

“I have to admit, I’m in Southern California, where they’ve been handling avocados for a long time. I’m not in Michigan asking those questions, and I’m sure it’s more of a challenge when you’re selling less volume of product,” he said.

Educating retail employees is a challenge, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc.

“We have helped some companies with some instructional material, but we’ve done it in cooperation with one or another association,” he said. “It’s never ending. There’s no doubt about that.”

Retail buyers can be shrewd avocado purchasers, said Bob Lucy, a partner in Fallbrook, Calif.-based Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc.

“I think we have a pretty sophisticated customer base,” he said. “They know what they like. They know if fruit’s coming in that may be not quite ripe.”

Riverside, Calif.-based Index Fresh Inc. gives its customers opportunities to see the fruit at all stages of production, said Dana Thomas, president.

“We offer to our customers, whether retail or foodservice people, an opportunity to take their people into the packinghouse or out into the field and talk to them about avocados and handling,” he said.

Customers learn all the basics they need to know about the fruit, Thomas said.

“We might bring a group of buyers to our packinghouse or store people to the packinghouse and walk them through a kind of Avocado 101,” he said.

That includes meeting growers and getting an idea of the challenges they face, Thomas said.

“We do that internationally, as well, taking customers to Mexico, Chile and Peru to give them a feel for what the avocado goes through and what’s important once it gets to them,” he said.


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