In the Trenches: Further insights on produce selling practices

Last time in this space we compared aggressive produce selling with conservative practices. This topic struck home with many readers.

Some shared their thoughts related to an article.

Here are a few of those:

One produce manager wrote, “I couldn’t agree more about selling produce. There is an open space before entering my produce department and I like setting up a big display of a couple summer items like cantaloupes and peaches. It gets big sales. Lately, our supervisor won’t allow us to do that anymore. He said the displays are too overpowering and wants that area left open.”

A second produce manager wrote, “As far as produce displays go, we are really starting to do some crazy things. Our new policy now is that we can’t have waterfall spillover displays on any items. They want all areas clear in the department. Normally, I would extend some featured items off tables onto cartons to sell more produce. No more. They won’t allow it. I don’t like not being able to go after the sales.”

I will never understand why management ties the hands of produce managers when it comes to aggressive selling. I always thought this business was all about selling mountains of product.

An abnormal change has come into play today. Somewhere along the line we seem to have lost focus on what this business is all about — selling plenty of produce. There’s a fundamental disconnect here. So now the question becomes, how much less profit can a company afford to surrender by stifling its own sales?

This sudden defiance of enthusiastic ways to sell produce is quite disturbing and most puzzling. These orders from headquarters are especially shortsighted since the constant struggle to earn profit under today’s extreme competition is all based around building sales.

The latest modern management protocol is to keep store areas clear and less cluttered. That’s quite understandable to a point, but should it have to mean clearing out every selling display in the process? That’s managing the sales downward and indisputable evidence that it will only be a matter of time until a company completely fails.

When produce managers are told to take down a waterfall display or not to set up auxiliary wing units alongside a table end it discourages their drive to sell aggressively.

I have seen some policies that contain two deceptive standards. Many stores spot cases of grocery items in the aisles to be stocked at a later time. Stacks of cartons on carts sit in the aisles blocking customers from their shopping needs. How does this fit in with the policy of keeping areas uncluttered? Allowing this to occur really becomes hypocritical.

The most pivotal decision we all make is how to sell massive amounts of produce in the store. There are four types of selling groups in order to meet this goal:

1. Preservative Selling: This method is meant to protect the business you already have from your competitors. Keeping the customers that normally shop your stores has to be a reason to place an emphasis on more enthusiastic selling displays.

2. Aggressive Selling: Increasing your sales to take away customers from competition is necessary to add business. This selling is to show your quality is better than your competitors and to create a demand for it.

3. Promotional Selling: This is about incentives to draw customers to your stores in the way of weekly ads, coupons, contests or special deals. You need extra floor displays to accomplish a sales increase.

4. Push Selling: This approach puts items in front of customer’s faces. These are in the form of shipper display units and other fixtures to be placed in strategic locations of the store to create impulse purchasing for incremental sales.

Eccentric controls on the methods to sell produce have become barriers to sales. These unreasonable obstacles are getting in the way of doing ambitious business.

Corporate management that denies produce managers to set up dynamic selling displays may survive just as long as the sales are favorable. When those sales end up sinking in the tank, that same management team will have to answer for it.

(Ron Pelger is the owner of RonProCon, a produce industry advisory firm. He is also a produce industry merchandising director and a freelance writer. He can be contacted at 775-843-2394 or by e-mail at ronprocon@gmail.com.)

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