In the Trenches: Focus on produce, not fluff

Does anybody really need another logo cap, pen or coffee mug?

Oftentimes, I would sit in on a buyer/sales rep meeting. In one meeting, I recall the sales rep taking some giveaway mementos out of his briefcase and placing them on the table in front of the buyer. That’s when the buyer erupted, “I don’t need any more logo pens or coffee mugs. Just sell me some produce!”

Gadgets, coupons, freebies — they all act as marketing strategies to attract customers into making purchases or to shop in a particular store. In other words — fluff.

Programs involving gimmicks or schemes are always limited. They start and end at a predetermined point in time. This doesn’t guarantee loyalty of a customer, as they are “limited time” sales.

Retail contests? They are always fun and exciting when active, but they are also short-lived programs. When the contest ends, many of those customers do not return. Contests usually enhance sales for only a short period rather than for continued growth, so this strategy only rents business instead of retaining it.

Limited marketing perks grow old and become worn-out. The evidence surfaces when the sales start heading downward toward the tail end. That’s the time to realize that customers get tired and bored of a one-time only program.

Of course there is one positive sales influence that always works best — weekly ad flyers. Weekly sales programs that draw shoppers to the stores are on going and help to build regular growth. They don’t rent the business, they build and own it 52 weeks annually.

This business is not difficult to figure out. There are two main principles in generating sales on a steady basis — the weekly ad program and aggressive in-store merchandising. Everything else is fluff.

Crafty catchwords, inflated expressions, bragging statements, gimmicks and novelty programs are ways of attracting attention. They are meant to open the door, but contain a diminutive value.

Instead of all the entertaining diversions, just blitz sales. Selling starts with a strategy.

To capture higher volume sales consistently focus on these few steps:

Procurement: It all starts with buying the product and getting those deals. Go after the high volume items and put them into the stores. Instruct the produce managers on where and how to display the items. This should exceed ad items. The extras will give an enormous boost to sales.  

Ad Development: Concentrate on the front page of the ad flyer. That is the major page of the entire ad. Plan at least two red hot items with attractive retails. The front page impact items are meant to draw shoppers to the store and into the produce department. The inside ad items should enhance the gross profit mix.

Merchandising: This is where the displays do the selling. Be aggressive on the categories that generate high sales. Use waterfall spillover presentations to attract shoppers to displays.

Sales Reps
Sell: Stick to what you are selling. Drop the fancy sales pitch and focus on selling right off the bat. Concentrate directly on the product and the customer.

Find the decision maker: Get to the produce director who makes the final decisions. Make sure to sell the benefits of the product. Always ask for an order. The decision maker can get the ball rolling fast.

Upsell: When the sale is made on the initial items, keep on selling. Always try to sell other items in addition. When you sell the extras, it helps both parties.

Stop concentrating on image all the time. Image is part of the fluff. Start paying attention to selling product and making profit.

Want to build regular on-going sales? Abstain from renting the business on short-term sales. Stop spending your time and energy on shoppers who buy and leave. Put all of your concentrated effort on promoting to shoppers that buy and stay.

Don’t settle for part-time intermittent sales. Be consistent. You can build steady business by eliminating the costly time consuming fluff. Simply build on what you already have to enhance sales — the weekly ad flyer and merchandising skills.

Ron Pelger is the owner of RonProCon, a produce industry advisory firm. He is also a produce industry merchandising director and a freelance writer. He can be contacted at 775/843-2394 or by e-mail at

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