Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle The best week of the year is almost here.
That is to say, the best week to work, that is. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is often slow, except for some occasional rushes. Most produce departments register slow to modest volume for the week.
What makes this week special is that so many people take time off for the holidays. Many times this includes your produce supervisor or store manager. That means that along with a sluggish demand for your time on the sales floor, the phones from the bosses are likely to be quiet too.
Think about it: A week of mostly uninterrupted time. That is something most produce managers (or anyone else, for that matter) only dream about.
So instead of giving in to the temptation of taking days off during this time too (which is tough for produce managers anyhow, considering that most chains require a year-end inventory), it’s a great time to stick around the shop.
This is a great week to get organized for next year. Time to grab a few empty banana boxes and clean out your files of all the clutter and paperwork that is no longer relevant to anything and is only taking up space that you can actually use.
One produce manager I used to work with took his old calendar and mug of coffee up to the conference room for a solid hour or so of quiet time. He carefully transferred notes from the old to the new calendar: Blocking out anticipated crew vacations, or blacking out busy or holiday weeks that nobody could take off.
He planned out certain events as reminders for when he wrote labor plans later on: The big spring strawberry ad, Potato Lover’s Month, the return of college students in the spring, their return to school in the fall — any major period that had an effect on the store and the produce department business.
This was also the week to redraw other plans for the upcoming year: revamping weekly, monthly and quarterly department sanitation schedules. We tried to tie these into merchandising turning points of the year too: commodity contests, summer and fall table changes. By putting all these thoughts into the new year plan now it made it much easier to make adjustments and schedule for everything as each period drew closer.
Having a quiet few days between Christmas and New Year’s also allowed us to catch up on other produce managers and housekeeping details, such as making sure we were caught up on employee training charts or any outstanding evaluations.
This is also a great time to get all the holiday décor and seasonal merchandise cleaned up, and roll up the sleeves on the sales floor. After all, the new ad — and year — is but a few days away.
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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