Selling Autumn Produce

As we move into the month of October, most produce departments around the country breathe a sigh of relief. The maintenance of the summer soft fruits, melons and ready-to-eat tomatoes are no longer overwhelming the labor budget as such items as winter squash and apples take center stage. Although your department certainly deserves a rest from the intensity of summer product care, it's important to not have too much of a letdown. There is a tendency to have so much confidence in the popularity of items such as apples, that we turn them loose on their own and don't always give them the marketing/merchandising support that can truly allow these items to flourish during the Autumn season. Here are a few recommendations for moving forward with your hot Autumn produce items:

Right now apples should be your lead item in the produce section. Immediately upon entering your department, customers should see a dynamic and brilliant apple display spilling over with their favorite varieties! If you have not reset your department yet to feature apples, then the time is now. Apples and pears should be the hottest ticket in produce for the next couple of months. In addition to a very creative, full and dynamic display, there are a couple of other ways to enhance your apple sales. First, it's important to make sure that your shoppers know that the new crop is out. Because apples have become a year round item most people lose track of the actual season. Letting them know that they are eating a piece of fruit that was just picked as opposed to one that was harvested 10 months ago is very significant. Signage is a great way to inform your customers that what they are eating is fresh. Placing a bright colored sticker or starbust that reads "New Crop" on the various apple signs can be very helpful to your shoppers. Going a step further, you can also make sure that these new crop fruits are making their way into the mouths of those who walk into your section. Sampling apples is very effective for increasing their sales. Because apples will brown shortly after cutting, it's best to forgo the usual passive demos and just be very present in the department, talking up the new crop fruit and slicing apples on the spot for samples. Sharing with your customers the crisp and flavorful experience of these new crop apples is a near guarantee to increase apple sales. Make sure that both you and your staff are also familiar with the taste of each new apple. Your customers are trust your recommendations and this is especially true when what you refer to them is based on the experience of actually tasting them yourself.

New crop pears can often be overshadowed by the more popular apple varieties, but this time of year is excellent for this luscious fruit. One of the challenges that most shoppers face with pears is knowing exactly when they are ripe and ready to eat. Because pears ripen from the inside out, they will typically feel a bit firm on the outside even when they are perfectly ripe. A good test for ripeness is that when the stem end yields slightly to gentle pressure, the fruit is ready to eat, even if the rest of the pear feels a bit firm. Most people tend to wait until the pear is very soft all around and at this point they are very likely to end up with a mealy tasting pear. Sampling pears can be a huge boon to this fruit's sales, but make sure that you are sampling them when they are at the peak of their ripeness.

Winter Squash:
A large, mixed, bountiful display of hard squash is one of the more beautiful sights in a produce department. It's also nice how well they hold while on display, making it easy to have a large abundant look. These squash tend to do quite well during the Autumn months and particularly leading into the Thanksgiving holiday. Take advantage of this time now to be introducing your shoppers to the different varieties and become educated about the different flavors of the various squashes. Go online or look in a book and find out how these squashes compare in flavor and texture. How they taste, what sort of texture they have, and how to prepare them are perhaps the three most common questions asked about the hard squashes. The better prepared you are to field these questions, the better your squash sales will be!

Good luck with your Autumn sales - it's a great time to be doing produce!