Resetting your produce department

Resetting your produce department

(Before-and-after photos courtesy Brian Dey)

Have you ever walked into your house and decided you want to rearrange the furniture? Maybe you are decorating for a holiday or a birthday party, or maybe you just want your space to have a different or fresher look.  

Once you have made those changes, you realize they give the same exact space a completely different visual. If you did all your rooms, it would look like you live in a different house! Your “rearranging” is the home version of “resetting” a produce department.

The terms reset and produce retail go together like the terms water and ocean. The two really go that hand-in-hand. Changing the counters and displays in the department happens constantly, and we make these changes for so many reasons.

You could be resetting end caps to accommodate an ad item, special promotion or new item; changing up runs to create a different look; expanding or contracting counters and rack spaces due to availability or market situations that exist; and of course revamping on a large scale for seasonal sets. Different reasons, but the same exercise.

I personally love doing resets. They offers weekly – sometimes even daily – opportunities to grow sales and perhaps even introduce a consumer to something new. They also give a fresh visual for shoppers. So who’s ready to rearrange that furniture? Here’s a few “hows” and “whys” of resets.


New ads, new look

Probably the most common reason for a reset is the accommodation of new ads or weekly specials. Each ad brings an opportunity for added sales if the right items are in place on the counters. When you plan out your ads with resetting your endcaps or counters in mind, it is a good practice to set in a mix of product.

Having an endcap of all lower-grossing items is not good for the overall mix of gross profit percentage. Having a higher-grossing commodity tied in with your ad item helps the overall sales and profit potential of that endcap.

For instance, if strawberries are on sale and you decide to make an ad cap of those, tie in other non-ad berries to bring up the margin mix. Resetting to accommodate ads does require some forward thinking.


Adding new items

New items are perfect opportunities to reset cases. That said, these are scenarios in which you really have to look at categories and SKU rationalization to decide if these items will sell well and be a good fit for your department. Remember there is only so much room in your cases.

If you are planning on replacing an item or line, it will take some homework to do the old “subtract to add.” We are seeing this a lot in the value-added categories, as more and more items are becoming available, new flavors are being added to current lines, and the consumer desire for convenience at an all-time high.


Adjusting on the fly

This is one of my favorites because it offers a challenge. Produce is an ever-changing industry – sometimes by the hour – and product availability, quality and price are all potential reasons why we insert items into our sets that we weren’t originally planning on. If one or more items are falling out of line for days or weeks due to any of these reasons, it’s time to cover that space with something else so there are no gaps or holes.

This could simply be expanding on higher-tonnage SKUs or ordering something else to insert in the spot until the trouble item becomes available again.

These instances can be great opportunities to introduce something new into your sets. You just never know what is going to be that next kale!


Changing seasons

Always exciting is the chance to reset your entire aisle to accommodate a new season and the new crops that are hitting the retail produce world. These call for complete commodity switches throughout the entire department and allow for the “in” categories to be highlighted. These seasonal resets are oftentimes the most time-consuming, but when they are completed, they give an entirely different look and shopping selection for your customers.

A lot of times seasonal sets are done overnight or in the very early morning hours to cause as little disruption to the customers as possible. These often-monster resets are usually completed four times a year: fall to highlight apples, pears and harvest bounty, winter to bring to life your citrus category, spring to set your berries, asparagus and other springtime veggies, and summer to show off your stone fruit selections. Those of course are general rules that I have used over the years for these major resets.


Labor scheduling

When you are planning a reset in your department, it is a good idea to schedule for the extra labor these require, especially the seasonal and larger ones. This will make all the counter flipping easier and seamless. It also allows for great team building and adds extra thoughts and ideas to the work ahead.


“Where did you put the … ”

Of course, with department changes comes people wondering why their go-to products are not in the same spots they are used to seeing them. This is a common occurrence and often happens with one item in particular — bananas! Bananas are one of those commodities that just usually lie where they are on a consistent basis. Major sets might have these moved, but overall this is a pretty stable, single-spot product. You might get a lot of questions from customers on where the new spot is for their favorite fruit or vegetable.


Look at these questions as chances to engage in conversations with your shoppers while you are taking them to the new location!

Adjustments are a daily, weekly and monthly occurrence in produce departments. Resets and counter and cap changes are super important. The above examples are only a few personal insights to offer from my experience through the years. Remember, good thought and planning will make a “new” shopping experience for your customer and increase your growth in category sales and profits.

Brian Dey is the senior merchandiser and natural stores coordinator for Ephrata, Pa.-based wholesaler Four Seasons Produce. He’s an industry veteran with a serious passion for helping produce teams to achieve great presentation and results in their departments. You can reach him at [email protected]

Want more expert insight on merchandising from Brian? (You've read the whole article at this point, so of course you do!) Check out his series on wet rack wisdom at the following links, plus his earlier column on creating theater in the produce department.

Wet Rack Wisdom – Part 1 – Crisping

Wet Rack Wisdom – Part 2  – Setting the rack, creating your masterpiece

Wet Rack Wisdom  – Part 3  – Maintaining the rack