It’s easy to envision: It’s midsummer. Your senior clerks are rotating in and out, using up their vacation time. Meanwhile, the produce department is staffed, handling the year’s busiest volume and sales with the least experienced clerks. 

It happens every year in most produce departments. Temporary produce clerks. Some are borrowed from another department, or transfer from another store. They try their best, but they don’t have the speed, the product knowledge, or the “hands” to keep up in a busy environment. Which raises the question: Can anything be done to help this scenario?

In a word, training. By identifying additional help now, training these same people ahead of time in the weeks and months to come, you can best face the common challenge that presents itself each summer. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.


recruitingRecruiting. This is an important initial step. Most added summer help in a produce department are recruited clerks who are already in the confines of your store. Sometimes it’s a cashier that prefers to spend summers working in produce. Other times it means a promotion for a courtesy clerk, or perhaps there’s a former employee looking to build up some cash while on his college summer break. It doesn’t hurt to even over-recruit a bit, in case someone isn’t able to work out. The important thing is to identify how many extra bodies you’ll need to fill your summer schedule and get them committed and locked in early. 





Scheduling. Once you’ve got your roster in place, talk to your store manager. Take along some pre-written mock schedules to present your case. Review how each added clerk is going to affect the summer schedule, sales, and especially the effect on gross profit if not handled and prepared for ahead of time.






trainingTraining. As summer approaches, consider working your new clerks into your existing schedule. Each week, have them stock alongside your most accomplished clerks. By shadowing the experienced people to begin with, the new or added clerks will learn how to trim, how to rotate, cull, and do some basic stocking. As summer nears, schedule the same new clerks to manage on their own to build stocking know-how and increase speed. Monitor their progress carefully. The more time and training you can invest ahead of the summer rush, the better off everyone will be, come crunch time.





benefitsBenefits. So you need a few pointers to help sell the store manager on investing in some training hours before summer sets in? Try points such as: Productivity. You don’t want bare tables or low stock conditions to greet summer customers, do you? Coverage. If an experienced clerk has to extend their shift (for all the lack-of-summer help exists), that means paying overtime. No store manager likes overtime.






more benefitsMore Benefits. Need more ammo to take with you to sell the boss on additional pre-summer training? How about increased sales? The better the produce department is staffed, the better the coverage, the better the stock conditions, the better the sales. Simple. How about the end result of the presentation? Good gross profit margins. Trained clerks know best how to keep up with customer demand. They know how to receive, care for and handle fresh produce. Well-trained clerks have a discerning eye for what is (and what is not) acceptable quality, and the end result is higher profits and less shrink.

On the other hand, untrained produce clerks throw money away. So with summer just a couple months down the road, there’s still time to act. By identifying the extra summer help needs now, getting them on the schedule ahead of time, and working in some good old-fashioned training, there’s no telling how much you’ll accomplish this summer in the produce department.

Then again, there will be plenty to tell when the summer season goes smoothly. d

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