“What’s on the agenda this week?”

So many times, a store or district manager will throw out that comment. It’s more of a greeting than a question, in a way, as so much of what a produce manager does is routine: start the week with a department manager meeting, review last week’s sales, labor and so on. 

However, a good produce manager, like a shrewd chess player, must always be thinking several steps ahead when it comes to the long-term outlook.

Consider, for example, this time of year. In late February, there is spring and St. Patrick’s Day ahead and school spring breaks. Passover and Easter follow in early April, a big holiday period and much of it centered on food. 

The next think you know, there is Mother’s Day, school graduations, Memorial Day, and, of course, the good ol’ summertime.

How time does fly. So, our shrewd produce managers out there really ought to be thinking about all this now, in sleepy late February — and in regard to so many things.

Summer help: You absolutely cannot procrastinate on this topic. I’ve seen too many produce managers wait until late May to start working on finding the added bodies they’ll need to cover the extra hours that coincide with added summer volume in produce. By then it’s too late, and who they end up is usually not effective.

Think of it this way; as your seasoned clerks take summer vacation time, your produce department’s busiest period is covered with the least-experienced clerks. 

It’s best to identify, hire and start to train however many people you will need for summer now. Even if it’s just a few hours per week, it’s better than waiting and hoping things will fall into place at the last minute.

Merchandising space: Think you can use outdoor sidewalk space for straight-load watermelon drops like last year? Or believe you will automatically be allowed to use the front lobby area or other peripheral real estate for secondary displays? 

Never assume anything, as you’re not only competing with the chain down the street, but with other departments inside your own store, who may also covet the same seasonal merchandising territory. This is the time to stake out this real estate with your store manager, who can help ensure you will have whatever space you envision for the upcoming months and beyond.

An effective produce manager always has several balls in the air: Wrapping up last week’s ad, dealing with this week’s ad, and planning for the upcoming ad.

But that’s just in the here and now. The effective manager also has to have a plan for at least the immediate future.

“Plan your work. Work your plan.” — Anonymous


What do produce customers really want? 
Always handle that produce with care 
Produce manager tip: Take action on those stocking disasters


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