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

I compare good signage in produce department to a goalie in hockey; no one thinks how important the goalie is until the game is on the line.

Meaning, for signage, that in the chaos of a store remodel or new store opening, sometimes the sign kit isn’t even opened until it’s nearly too late. 

Only then does the reality sink in on the setup crew that the kit doesn’t come pre-assembled. In fact, nothing is organized and it takes 10 times longer to sign the department than necessary. 

And what’s left of the sign kit? It gets pushed into a backroom corner in disarray until the poor victim has to deal with it again. Time and resources wasted.

On a regular basis in an average store the sign kit is often a jumbled mess that a manager or clerk dreads having to file through, looking for the right sign frame, the correct product description header, the right size numbers. You get the drift.

That’s why this is a good time of year to tackle the sign kit. January is a relatively slower month to catch up on these kinds of projects.

There’s no good single way to do this. 

However, I used to assign my assistant or best-organized clerk to the job. I’d schedule at least a half-day for them to take the kit to a quiet setting such as a meeting or conference room. Then let them break the whole kit down and re-organize it, so that broken or missing pieces are identified and ordered.

Then I directed them to reorganize the kit, breaking it down into big units of “fruits” and “vegetables” and “specialty” as well as “organic,” in a similar manner, so that clerks can quickly find the parts they need in the future. 

Then in each unit further organize the kit so any produce person can find what they need alphabetically, or in commodity groups such as apples or citrus — or on the veg side groups such as leafy greens or root vegetables — and so on. 

Whatever way you choose to organize your sign kit, simplicity and consistency should be the goal.

I know I said this should be set up so that any clerk can easily navigate the sign kit. And productivity remains the ideal. However, keep in mind that the fewer hands handle the sign kit, the fewer the chances it will get disorganized all over again.
 
So my sign kit rule was simple: the produce manager, the assistant or the designated clerk are the only ones with access to the kit.

If the kit is organized and handled carefully, then signing and price changes go from chaos to smooth sailing. 

Signing is a daunting task. But it needn’t be so.

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 lobatoarmand@gmail.com.

 
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