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

Going through a remodel is serious business for any retail produce operation.

So serious, in fact, that this is the third of a three-part series on the topic. In retrospect, I could have easily stretched it out for a couple more weeks. To date, we’ve covered what to expect prior to and the week of setting up the produce department for the remodel.

The grand opening ribbon has been cut. The next question: What now?

Handling postremodel business is an important period. Most chains will run grand reopening specials for several weeks after the fact. The idea is to generate as much new customer traffic as possible. This traffic includes customers who normally shop elsewhere, be it sister stores of your chain or (more likely) your competitors.

Your objective during this vital period? Retain as many of these new customers as possible.

Best first impressions

This is where the produce manager plays a big role. Your mission is to keep the “grand opening” look as long as possible. The adage of “You only get one chance to make a good first impression” is tailor-made for impressing potential, long-term customers.

This opportunity demands discipline in keeping up all the high standards that were instilled during the remodel setup. Included is maintaining above-average stock levels, variety and selection; excellent sanitation; and great customer service, to name just a few key points. It’s vital to have no out-of-stocks, especially with ad items.

In other words, keep the produce department as perfect-looking on Day 10 as it looked on Day 1.

The idea of course is to make such a good impression that your new customer will return. I’ve heard of at least one study that suggests that if you can get a customer that is otherwise not a regular to shop your store five times in a row, odds are that customer will become a regular, loyal shopper. The remodel is specifically designed to create the optimal shopping environment for this to happen.

Word spreads

Ideally, any customer shopping your produce department following a remodel will be so impressed with your store that she (or he) will tell other people and encourage them to see for themselves: Neighbors, friends, co-workers. It is not unusual during the postremodel period to speak with customers that have come in several weeks after a grand opening for the first time, having heard good things about the store.

So handling the postremodel business is every bit as important as planning for the remodel and setting the store up. It is so much more than just surviving the first week of grand-opening fanfare. Your objective is to ride the remodel wave of business for all it’s worth.

If you can maintain these standards, the reward is long-term volume, sales and profit.

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. E-mail