The produce department at Just Food is one of the fastest growing, best performing co-op produce departments in the United States. Not only does Just Food have an amazing produce manager, Val Critser, who sources some of the most beautiful product, farmers who supply us with high quality produce, but we have a community that supports the department with their shopping dollars. Defying the trend seen nationally, our produce department continues to post strong sales increases compared to previous years. In order to support this growth, and to continue serving the needs of our members, the Co-op has decided to expand the present footprint of the department.
The current configuration does not allow for lingering around the displays to carefully select the best item. Rather it forces you down a narrow “chute” and makes members feel hurried by the flow of traffic behind them. By expanding the area, traffic flow will be more natural, there will be space to take your time as you peruse the displays, allowing those behind you to pass by and continue shopping, more room to highlight the incredible local produce we are privileged to sell, and improved display fixtures that will make restocking easier for our employees.
Where will we find the room for this?
As one department shows an increase in sales, another department shows a decrease and that is our bulk department. Just Food mirrors the national trend in bulk and is showing a drastic decrease in sales. Of course we support the bulk business and would not consider eliminating it from the Co-op, but we must allocate the selling space we have to the departments our members shop the most. Bulk is still an important part of our business and we want to help this department reach its potential. The department will undergo a facelift of sorts. The current bulk dispensers are 5 gallon bins and we will move to a smaller profile 3.3 gallon bin. These smaller bins are more aligned with the size other co-ops use and will ensure product is fresher since it will be rotated more often. This facelift will include new, easier to read labels for the bulk bins with nutrition information, local and organic identifiers prominently featured on the labels. Some items will be discontinued. We studied sales figures for a full year in order to determine which items needed to make their exit. An bulk item that was also available in the packaged grocery section was likely discontinued over a similar selling alternative not available elsewhere in the store. Once our bulk offerings are condensed, and one side of the department is empty, we will move the international aisle over to the vacated space.
This fresh new look is in direct response to owner feedback, is aligned with our Ends of supporting our local foodshed, and supports the sales trends we are seeing in our store (even though it conflicts with some of the information we are hearing about nationwide trends). The planning process for this began about 7 months ago with careful analysis of the data, and has been developed from idea to reality in partnership across several departments in the Co-op. Retail Manager Sherri Meyers says “From finance, to grocery to produce, to pricing – everyone has taken a role in making sure we deliver on our promise to our members. This project is a huge step towards our expansion goals and will position us to capitalize on a department with great sales growth. Our members are going to love the new look and we are excited to deliver it!”
Currently, some items are being reduced for quick sale and some shelves may have empty spaces. This is intentional. We are clearing the way! The fixtures have been ordered and we anticipate their arrival the first week of November. We will update you when we have a firm date for the debut of our new and improved produce department. Until then, know that when we make changes, they are made to better serve our members and to support our Ends.
This change will help us sell more good food, create more good jobs and do more good in the community.
Written by Sherri Meyers, Retail Manager