Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle Ask any merchandiser: Setting up a new store is a piece of cake compared to a remodel.
That’s because a produce manager and his crew are dealing with a much more complex set of plans. It’s like the difference between moving into a brand new house versus one that requires a lot of repairs.
The remodel begins with total store closing in many instances. In my experience this meant reducing inventory and packing and shipping everything to nearby stores or back to the distribution center. Following this, the store was turned over to construction crews that had been at work for months preparing for the brief closure and grand re-opening.
After a few days, we were allowed back inside the store. New or refurbished produce cases and other fixtures had arrived in our absence.
The magic begins
It was our job to get it all ready to restock. We typically began work on Monday, and (no pressure) had to be ready to reopen the store Thursday morning.
Following the action plan, the produce manager and crew worked methodically.
The first day consisted of writing set-up orders for the week. This, and arranging tables, equipment and signs. Every task on the daily list had to get done.
And cleaning. There was lots and lots of cleaning.
By Tuesday we were unloading trucks and stocking tables, as the “hardware” items, such as apples, citrus, onions and potato tables, could be set up early. Stocking took a new twist at this point. Everything had to be carefully stacked and leveled to perfection. Even though most produce crews were capable enough, we always brought in a few area produce managers to lend a hand. Many times we even held them over to help out through the first week after the store reopened.
This tactic provided many advantages: Experienced hands; help with managing the extra volume; and being there to cover each other for much-needed days off.
Wednesday was crunch day.
The sales floor setup was completed and everything left over from Tuesday was stocked, signed and all extra displays finished. All the hundreds of details were finished (sometimes not until hours before the store opened the following morning). There always seemed to be glitches, such as construction delays or late deliveries, that pushed the stress levels nearly out of control.
Walk-through punch list
Even in the most organized process, most final walk-throughs by the produce merchandiser resulted in a list of overlooked details to finish: Restocking something, working in a new or missed item, adjusting scales or rearranging lighting, banners or décor.
With the store restocked and produce at perfection, the grand opening ribbon was cut. We were ready for business.
Next week: Handling postremodel business. Part 3 of the three-part series.
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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