Fall is Just Around the Corner
A few weeks ago, I sent a memo to summer. “Slow down, you’re moving too fast!” I’m sorry to report that summer missed that memo. So, even though it is still the middle of August, and judging by the temperatures, the reality is (from a merchandising perspective) summer is over.
Vacations are ending, schools will soon be opening, and college students are returning as we speak. Families will be returning to their regular routines of having dinners together, packing school lunches, getting ready for “tailgate parties”, and other related fall activities. Consumer buying patterns will begin to switch to more formal menu purchasing. Retailers are still in full swing “summer mode” with stone fruit displays, bins displays of corn, watermelons, cantaloupes, and local produce displays. But soon this will all change. Now is the time to shift gears, and start thinking about fall merchandising.
We are beginning to “talk fall” with the produce managers. We are planning and discussing the strategies for the fall changeover so there will be no missed sales opportunities as the seasons change. Some of the things we’ll be considering and discussing are:
Case and Department Cleaning: Before we can begin remerchandising, stores will have to schedule case cleaning to prepare for the resets. Over the summer, cases get mighty dirty, as cleaning schedules fall behind because of vacations, and volume. Case cleaning is vital to efficient refrigeration, and also to providing an inviting shopping experience for the customers. Produce managers will have to plan on getting this cleaning completed soon, before we begin rearranging cases.
Determine Supply Needs: We’ll evaluate our customers’ supplies and equipment, and order new and additional items where needed. Frequently, baskets, grips, and crates get shop-worn, and need replacing. We’ll want to do that when we reset.
Establish Set-Up Plans: We’ll draw up “plan-o– grams” (visual representations of a store’s products or services) for the fall fruit merchandising. This is more of a transition rather than a formal reset. Summer fruits wind down slowly as the winter citrus and apple crops begin to gear up. There is a “crossover” period where both commodities will be selling. The counters need to be set so one season just kind of “runs into the other”. The plan will be to have this happen without major changes every time something comes into season, or goes out.
Timing is Critical: We’ll determine the timing of the “display turnover”. Watermelon bin displays, cantaloupe bin displays, table displays of stone fruit and corn will all soon need to be replaced with fall items. Bins of cauliflower, bins of broccoli, bins of cabbage, potatoes, apples, and citrus will all soon have to take their place on display. Once again, this will happen gradually, but it can catch you “sleeping” if you are not thinking ahead.
Outdoor Plans: We’ll be planning “sidewalk/outdoor” sales. Mums, pumpkins, winter squash, corn stalks and hay bales are right around the corner. We already have surveys out for orders of pumpkins and bird seed. Plans have to be made to capture these extra sales while the window of opportunity is open.
Category Management/Variety Checks: We’ll be doing winter variety checks with our category management sheets. Over the summer we sometimes lose sight of the ancillary items in the department. Huge incremental sales can be gained if we can return the departments to full variety. We’ll need to be sure a strong variety of birdseed is brought in. We’ll review the raisin and nut sections to replace varieties that have fallen through the cracks. We have to look at herbs, dressings, recipe kits, juices and drinks, jarred fruits, snack packs, and other back-to-school items. Opportunities are abundant!
Lets Not Forget the Vegetables: With consumers doing more home meal preparation, we have to re-evaluate the exposure and variety of the cooking vegetables. Vegetables will become a much larger portion of our sales as we head into the fall. We’ll be considering adjustments that will maximize sales in the vegetable cases.
All of these plans will come together as we head into September and October. We’ll be setting reset dates in the coming weeks, and the activity levels will begin to build. So, as the temperatures begin to cool, the Retail Services Department will be heating up. Reset season is upon us, and for us, the fun is just beginning!