“We’re going to pump you up!” 

So said Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon of “Saturday Night Live,” as part of a recurring sketch portraying muscle-bound Austrian body-builders Hans and Franz. 

Pumping up or building massive produce displays is not uncommon during the holidays. This goes a little against the norm, though, doesn’t it? Usually, this produce scribe emphasizes only a few layers or widening display facings at most, allowing for ease of rotation.

Holidays tend to alter how retailers do business. Think Black Friday.

Prior to a major holiday such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, I always built up my displays, especially before the busiest few days. This meant all the dry tables (onions, potatoes, citrus, apples) were rotated properly, then stocked to the hilt.

Especially with all ad and power (high-volume) items, we’d build massive spillover displays on end-caps. Sometimes the pre-holiday build-up included shipper or orchard bin displays, also stocked bountifully and spilled over. I allowed the wet rack to be stocked only a little extra over normal, as this area needs constant attention and is not conducive to added inventory.

Our goal? To achieve as close to a grand-opening presentation and stock levels as possible.

It took a lot of extra work, perhaps an extra-early or overnight shift or two, to achieve, but especially with a modest or higher-volume store, it was definitely worth it.

The question I used to get at this point from some of my less-experienced clerks was, why? How does this help?
If the produce department is stocked like this — fresh, level and extra full — it helps in several ways.

First, with added inventory used as part of displays, the holding power can help withstand heavy shopping rushes. 

This minimizes the need for clerks to have as many stocking carts or drag pallets onto the sales floor. This allows your customers to shop unimpeded, while clerks can be on hand to maintain displays and help customers.

Second, a near grand-opening look with pumped-up displays spurs sales. Large displays convey a sense of abundance and value to shoppers. Think about how ad displays are built a day ahead of time. That large produce display (at regular price) sells much more than normal. So, build up your holiday stock levels, abnormally, for best sales impact.

Third, if a produce department is so well-stocked prior to the holiday crunch time, it helps productivity. Clerks can keep up with stocking easier because the displays are holding up to the extra traffic. 

Also, this transfers heavier inventory items to the sales floor, instead of clogging up the back room — which makes putting loads away, keeping up with prep work and keeping organized that much easier.  

Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud.

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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