Managing a Successful Produce Department


Tim Kilkenny, Produce Buyer at El Cerrito Natural Grocery


In any retail store, the produce department is considered the flagship. It’s a bustling department where things move at a fast pace and change daily. Tim Kilkenny is the Produce Buyer from El Cerrito Natural Grocery in El Cerrito, California. He shares his expertise on what it takes to juggle the daily needs of a produce department. He has been working in the produce industry since 1980 and has been at El Cerrito Natural Grocery for the last 20 years. His duties include a little bit of everything– pricing, signs, stocking the floor, organizing the floor, loading the cooler, and inventory. Learn how Tim approaches his day and runs a successful produce department:

  • Assess Your Needs: At the start of each day, make a quick assessment of your department’s needs for that day. Recognize the high priority items and address those first. Each day will have its own unique challenges.
  • Be flexible: Don’t get thrown off if the day does not go as planned. There are so many variables that you can’t control like staff call-outs, crop failure, miss-picks or no-shows on your deliveries. Even a late delivery can set you back. Breathe and do the best you can!
  • Delegate: Depending on the size of your department, delegate duties to other clerks. You can’t do everything yourself.
  • Know Your Products: Eat what you sell! Since samples cannot be offered to customers during COVID-19, it is crucial to give flavor and tasting notes of what you are trying to sell to customers. This can be done in-person on the floor or even with signage.
  • Know Your Customer: Listen to your customers’ feedback and find out what they are looking for. Their input is important to direct sales and the products you offer. It’s important to help customers feel heard. They will keep coming back if they feel important and have a connection with the store. For example, El Cerrito Natural Grocery is in an area where customers consider themselves foodies. The demographic looks for specialty and hard to find items. Figure out what your customer base is looking for and provide it to the best of your ability.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Always be mindful of proper lifting technique. When you are repetitively lifting and twisting, it is easy to get tired and lose your form while moving and that could lead to injury. Staying hydrated and being well rested contribute greatly to having a successful workday.

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