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A Wal-Mart Example – What Is The Produce Industry To Do When Its Showroom Isn’t Executing Well?

Here at the Pundit, we spend lots of time discussing industry initiatives to increase produce consumption,  and in Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, we often run pieces such as “Ten Solutions To Selling More Grapes” that are focused on merchandising technique.

Yet we visit a lot of retailers, and a confluence of factors — economic, regulatory, etc.— are leading retailers to reduce both hours worked in departments and the expertise of the employees available. This means that industry sales are increasingly pressured by poor retail execution. We stumbled across an extreme example.

We were off visiting the Jr. Pundits at summer camp and had a cause to visit the Wal-Mart Supercenter #2547 in Monticello, New York. It was a busy Sunday. The area has a large Hasidic Jewish population that doesn’t shop Saturdays, so Sunday is the big day. Plus lots of camps in the area had visiting weekend when we were there. All this, of course, was completely predictable and, presumably, was planned and staffed accordingly. With so much opportunity to sell produce, we were excited to see how Wal-Mart was merchandising.

We used the entrance opposite the food section but were pleased to see Wal-Mart followed expert advice and had set up a secondary display by that entrance that featured “Market Fresh Specials” – specifically bananas.

Then we observed the state of the display. Take a look:

Perhaps we caught them at an inopportune moment just as they were restocking? Not at all. We hung around the store for two hours, mostly so we could monitor what they were going to do with this display. The answer: Absolutely nothing.

The price is cheap, but if it is so cheap that it precludes competently stocking the stores, does it actually produce value?

Retailers — and Wal-Mart is the biggest of them all — are the showrooms of the produce industry and its products. Incompetent retail execution prevents the trade from effectively marketing its products.

Most of the “business reviews” in the trade are one-sided, with retailers telling vendors how they are doing and what to do. We need to have a dialog go the other way, where the industry can get retailers to focus on presenting fresh produce in a better light.

The Pundit’s family used to own some supermarkets, and if this incipient Pundit ever allowed a display like that to exist, even for one minute, the Pundit Poppa would have fired his own son.

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