A fair question. (And a pretty smart one too, coming from a guy who spends his days evaluating produce departments and rooting around in cold, damp coolers.)
“It all depends,” I answered. (This answer isn’t as smart so much as it is elusive.)
Produce departments come in all shapes and sizes. I was nosing around a big department store the other day that had a tiny produce department. The format was one 4-foot by 8-foot dry table and an adjacent twenty feet of refrigerated case space.
“Is this the whole produce department?” I asked the clerk, who was quickly stocking a couple cases.
“Sure is,” she said. “You’d be surprised how much volume we pump out of this operation.”
Many times when a produce manager begins his or her career, it is in a similar, low-volume store.
This can also be one of the toughest types of stores to manage.
I told my merchandiser friend that I tried to keep this in mind for The Produce Aisle topics, since early in my career I managed low-volume stores to start, too.
Sometimes I only had two people on any given day to work the department — myself included. I used to joke that if I made a mistake, that I would be the one to give myself a good talking-to.
Eventually, I was fortunate to help manage some of the big produce departments.
We called these stores the flagships — a chain might only have a handful — being among the newest, with the greatest square-footage and the best fixtures, that enjoyed heaps of customer traffic and associated volume.
It takes years in most produce managers’ careers to be entrusted with this level, but it’s worth working toward. A large department is almost always satisfying. More labor and flexibility mean a wider range to merchandise and experiment.