“Why does this store keep moving things around?” is an oft-heard comment from shoppers, looking to quickly maneuver through the store, pick up all their usual items and head for home.

The short answer is, of course, “Fresh produce is seasonal. It’s just something we naturally have to do.”

Some argue that re-merchandising doesn't make much difference and is not worth the added labor, but if you continuously rearrange produce displays it helps drives sales and gross profit. Regularly creating a new look makes customers shop the department. Normal updates suggest high quality and freshness – key draws for perishables and especially for produce.

Ad and Seasonal Items

Weekly advertised specials are a natural reason to rotate displays. Are you planning to expand on a current display space, or move the lead item(s) to a more prominent location? Many customers forego reading the flyer and base their weekly purchasing decisions on the ad displays they see.

Ensure shoppers can’t miss what’s on ad or seasonal favorites by placing the item in a high-traffic area. Make a secondary display and don’t be afraid to move a display to a new location during the week at some point if sales are sluggish.       

End caps

The largest and most visible part of a fixture, also known as an end cap, is an ideal place to show off fresh produce. Make a merchandising plan a week or two ahead of time, and simply by rearranging only the end caps, the produce department will have an entirely new look each week without having to compromise the premise of what each fixture is based upon (i.e. apple table, citrus table, dry vegetable table, potato and onion table, etc.).

Consider displaying original shipper cartons as part of the display to emphasize the display, using the power of a produce brand for further support.

Moveable fixtures?

Do you have nesting-style tables or other fixtures that are equipped with wheels? How about orchard bin-style fixtures that can easily be moved using a pallet jack? Then you have a tremendous merchandising advantage!

Fixtures such as these are designed to be moved. Yet many produce managers get into a rut and leave everything in one place for weeks on end. Even if all you do is swivel each row of fixtures 180 degrees every week or so, you’ll be amazed at the results.

Customer say things like, “I didn’t know you carried mangoes,” and “Look, here’s the heirloom tomatoes I was hoping you’d stock,” and “How long have you carried exotic tropical fruit?” – even though you have always carried the items they mention.

It’s because you’ve compelled your customers to come out of their predictable, pinball shopping routine, and they are looking at your produce department with new eyes – or at least with a new perspective.


Clock on the mantle

Are some produce managers reluctant to remerchandise regularly? Of course. To the naysayers that don’t think there’s much advantage I offer this short story:

Imagine your produce department like any other arranged room in your home. Such as in the living room for example, where you have a clock on the mantle and have had it for many years. To the point you don’t even notice it any longer. That’s what happens when you are reluctant to change your produce department merchandising schematic. Shoppers get so used to seeing products where they always are, and like the clock on the mantle, begin to lose interest or don’t even notice.

So, move the clock.

Produce managers are typically the self-starting type. They look for ways to build sales and are sometimes reluctant to admit that a simple but frequent rearranging will much difference. However, in just about every overnight, remerchandising reset ever done by this aging produce scribe, business shot up at least 10% (usually between 15% to 20%, especially to start) in like week, comparable sales.

You’ll take that increase, right? Who wouldn’t?

In so many similar efforts, remerchandising produce departments was a great way to highlight otherwise slow-moving items. In one case, a senior clerk scoffed and said, “I don’t care what you guys do, we’re only going to sell one case of lemons a day.” We widened out the facings of the regular display, gave it some vibrant color breaks. Then we made a secondary display near the tomatoes-on-vine (even a nicer color break).

The sales report the next week said it all: Seven cases of lemons sold all right, per day.

Produce by its very nature is ever-changing. By making frequent, subtle remerchandising changes, customers tend to embrace that what you’re doing. In fact, frequent changes make their shopping experience new and interesting to the eye.

It’s what we do best: Keeping it fresh.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected]


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