The Produce Aisle with Armand Lobato ( Photo by The Packer staff )

There’s something about an abundantly stocked produce department.

“Abundant” conveys many messages to your customers. A newly stocked full display shouts “fresh!” The bountiful look conveys a subliminal message that because the display is abundant, the produce is a value. 

Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much of it on display, right?

Alternatively, when a produce department is not fully stocked, it sends a lesser message: You’re running low on inventory, or all you are offering is what’s left over. And because there’s no abundance, the customer may feel you’re not giving your best efforts in regard to quality, selection, attention or service.

When customers feel like this, they simply don’t buy very much.
I’ve witnessed this, and I bet you have too: A customer walks up to a corn display, and seeing it neglected, with messy husks everywhere, it just kills the moment. They shake their head and walk away. (Now that summer’s in full swing, this is an area that needs constant attention).

That’s an example of less-than-desirable execution. Produce departments need adequate hours, well-trained staff, and good old-fashioned hustle to keep everything fresh and well-stocked.

Sometimes fixtures are the culprit of why a department doesn’t appear abundant. I’ve seen low- or moderate-volume stores struggle with too many display fixtures or ones that are too large. So even if the produce displayed is clean and rotated, because the fixtures are too large or deep for the sales volume, the result is low stock levels. No abundance. 

If this is the case, a good supervisor can work with the produce manager and achieve an abundant look in one of two ways.

The first way may be to do a merchandising reset and remove a few dry table fixtures and put them into storage. Then, with less linear display room and reduced space allocations, this can make the department look more abundant, once fully stocked. 

I don’t care much for this method, however. Produce is best merchandised with wide space allocations. Reduced fixtures or surrendered display space have a way of becoming permanent, and it’s difficult if not impossible to reclaim lost real estate.

The other method, and one I prefer, is to “dummy up” the fixture bases in low- or moderate-volume stores. Most chains use some type of approved filler material such as foam, or simply use what you have on hand: crates, cardboard, etc. Anything to prop up the base wherever needed so that when you do stock the produce, the end result is product stocked not so deep as to invite excess shrink, easy to rotate, and a display that’s super fresh and super full to reach the abundant look.

It wows them every time.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected].

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