Thanksgiving produce planning with Rusty Blade

Thanksgiving produce planning with Rusty Blade

I was reading at my desk when Russ T. Blade popped out from behind some old Halloween décor. “Rusty” is the miniature imaginary produce manager who occasionally appears to talk shop.

Me: I rarely see you this time of year, Rusty. Here to share some leftover candy?

Rusty: Hardly. I do want to talk about something impending and more important: Thanksgiving.

Me: The holiday completely centered around food? And family. And food?

Rusty: It can catch produce managers off guard, especially after a relatively slow six weeks or so leading up to the holiday. 

Me: Thanksgiving in the produce aisle has a lot of moving parts.

Rusty: Now is the time for produce managers to review their marketing plans with their store manager or produce supervisor. Produce marketing success doesn’t just happen — it takes planning and execution.

Me: First thing I used to do was draw out my merchandising plan. 

Rusty: Yeah, since it’s basically traditional holiday items that’s safe to do ahead of time. Product placement is important: Where to build Idaho potato displays for mashing; celery, parsley, onions for stuffing; green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, herbs and berries for desserts. 

Me: Added facings and spillover displays for all “power items” is a must. Same with relish items: green onions, carrots, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, summer squashes, cukes and more.

Rusty: The plan has to be made now, especially if the produce manager plans on using secondary displays to boost volume and spread out customer traffic, so shoppers aren’t bunched up in one area. Those extra displays help, but it’s important to secure the real estate now.

Me: Once the merchandising plan is made, what’s next?

Rusty: Then I’d determine how my orders were going to be written. Since the bulk of Thanksgiving shopping hits hardest the weekend before and the few days leading up to the holiday, I’d plan when I was building what displays, how much inventory to bring in and how to spread it out so everything is fresh.

Me: It seems an effective labor schedule was an absolute must as well.

Rusty: Writing a schedule for the week prior to Thanksgiving, the week of the holiday, and even post-holiday cleanup helps a lot. If done ahead of time that’s one less task to worry about when things get busy. 

Me: I always had luck scheduling overnight shifts. Breaking down loads, cleaning, and getting a jump on prep made things go smoothly.

Rusty: A good plan makes for the best everything: productivity, sales, gross profits, the least shrink and happy shoppers. All things to be thankful for.

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 [email protected].

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