We recently heard from an old friend who has served as a produce manager for one of the “Big 3” supermarket chains for over 25 years. He works in a strong store with total sales of around $710,000 a week of which produce accounts for about $85,000.
What is interesting is that our friend, who rarely has taken off more than a day at a time, recently took off two weeks.
The vacation was well-earned but very expensive for his employer.
Turns out that produce sales dropped over $15,000 a week while he was gone.
This had nothing to do with seasonality; comparable weeks last year were strong, and the weeks before and after his trip this year were strong.
The biggest cause seems to be ordering. He orders aggressively, and when he is gone, the department staff seems afraid to order too much produce.
In one sense, this just shows the enormous importance of produce managers. So programs such as the United Fresh effort — sponsored by Ready Pac — to recognize great produce managers is valuable.
Of course, what we really need to do is study what makes a produce manager great and then develop a training program to accomplish that.
PMA’s old video program, developed by Pundit friend and partner Stan Silverzweig and funded by Chiquita back when John Bayliss called the shots, went a good part of the way there.
If a good produce manager can boost sales by 20%, then improving produce managers is one of the most profitable investments the produce industry can make.