Keeping it fresh
Culturally and operationally, food cooperatives are uniquely well positioned to leverage the appeal of their fresh produce departments to highlight their store’s individuality and drive sales while simultaneously addressing the real food demands of the communities in which they operate.
In the current climate of ever-increasing competition, there are some specific aspects and general approaches that can help to keep your produce department engaging and a positive influence on the bottom line. Presentation, product selection, and customer service are areas of focus that can help distinguish your fresh program and differentiate your store from the rest of the competitive marketplace.
Here to serve
Customer experience will continue to be a main ingredient in the creation of a loyal consumer base, so paying close attention to customer comments, requests, and purchases provides great constructive feedback and informs the practicality of your approach. Engage with your community. Consistently great customer service delivered with sincerity will put your operation on a firm footing and set the co-op apart from its competition with its own style and organizational personality.
The difference between a produce department that simply looks good and a department that continues to drive sales, promote customer engagement, and contributes positively to the bottom line often comes down to how seriously we pay attention to the finances. The aspects of the fresh departments that make them compelling can also take more time to manage, but these extra steps will support the overall success of the department and ultimately the revenue generated by this important category. The goodwill elicited by a vibrant fresh produce program should not be underestimated.
Promoting real attributes and celebrating differences
In a world of chain store similarity and marketplace saturation, co-ops should play to their strengths and dare to be different. Trying to differentiate your operation in a highly competitive field can be difficult to accomplish, but it can be done. By cultivating a commitment to authenticity in your produce department, your purchasing decisions, and your approach to service, you can distinguish your organization and build this into your brand.