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

“You’re being transferred.”

These are words that a produce manager may or may not wish to hear. However, especially in medium to larger grocery chains, it’s a common occurrence. Originating from the produce director, a district manager or affected store managers, transferring produce managers is done for several reasons, such as produce managers having proven themselves to be capable of handling more. 

This is perhaps the best situation a produce manager can hope for, transferring to a busier location. Frequently, a newly promoted or developing produce manager begins or spends time in a lower-volume store. 

Lower-volume stores are a proving ground. With lower volume, a produce manager is compelled to make do with less. Fewer labor hours to work with, less means to drive sales while having perhaps a greater shrink potential. This pushes the produce manager to show some creativity in order to meet sales and profitability goals. Getting transferred to a busier store demonstrates that the chain has confidence in the manager.

Another reason: a produce manager is struggling. Sometimes a produce manager’s performance has not met expectations. It happens. Fortunately, many chains will transfer someone, usually to a lower-volume operation so the produce manager can regain stronger skills and composure.

Perhaps a new store opening or even a remodel is imminent. Occasionally, when a new store or big remodel is a few months away, a chain may opt to transfer a produce manager in to assume control, especially if the chain projects the store to be cutting-edge and higher-volume.

Then there’s the periodic shakeup. This has always been a curious reason — move managers around “just because” — but it does occur in many chains. In a given region, four or more produce managers may abruptly transfer about simultaneously in a musical-chair type of situation.

The reasoning to rearrange managers from their supposed comfort zones and transfer into their new assignments carries the hope that this will usher in some new blood, generate new merchandising ideas, build sales and, along with this, increase gross profits.

Sometimes it’s a personal or commuting consideration. Sometimes a chain actually looks out for their own. Say, for example, a produce manager has been commuting an hour or more each way to their store for years, meeting expectations, and an opportunity arises to relocate him or her to a store closer to home. No better reason or outcome for this kind of transfer. 

So many reasons and situations spark produce manager transfers. Ultimately these happen as chains try to match up their managers’ talents and working chemistry to the right locations. 

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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