Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle
Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle

Do you know of anything that ships in bushel baskets or burlap bags these days?

If you just thought “not much” (if anything), you’re not alone. However, most customers don’t realize this and fall is a great time to turn your produce department using such a theme. Using props such as bushel baskets, straw bales, corn stalks, wooden crates and burlap bags all feeds into the pastoral harvest image and reinforces the fact that fall crops are underway.

Of course, we’re not fooling anyone. In the produce aisle everything is available, no matter what time of year is technically in season.

However, fall adds a little something extra to the mix, for in most parts of the country people see it up close as they drive around. Flashes of color start appearing in branches as the leaves begin their annual change. Thin wisps of wood smoke are detected on a cool night walk. Local deals are winding down for area growers.

So as you’re planning to make the switch from summer to fall table sets, this is a great time to take advantage of the fall theme in your produce department.

Get your department well-dressed for fall Figure out your merchandising plan first. Some produce department managers like to line the front, back (or both) sides of each table with bushel baskets. Sometimes just a few stacked in the front of displays does the job. Whether it’s whiffs of freshly wrapped dill weed, strings of chili or garlic, or neat rows of candy apples, sensory touches build sales.

Items like apple and pears look especially good merchandised using a fall theme. With an abundance of apple choices, try signing each display with specific information. Is this variety sweet or tart? Best out of hand or best used for cooking? Try dummying up the bushel basket if sales are slow or if you want to keep just a fresh few layers out on display.

Bushel baskets (call your buyer or supplier for availability) also help promote items like onions, citrus and avocados too, for just a few examples. One produce manager used burlap bags (easily found at a reasonable cost on eBay) and filled them with crumpled-up newspapers or pillows. Then he tied up the tops and displayed these above and around the potato table for a good, just-packed visual effect.

A soft touch does wonders too. Floral managers are great resources to decorate the busheled-up produce aisle with strings of fall silk leaves. Another clerk once lined the apple-filled bushel baskets with red checkerboard cloth that she found at a hobby store. Anything to create an atmosphere helps entice sales.

It’s a look your customers will fall for.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions.

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