Do You Know Who Our Superheroes’ Superhero Is?

March 2, 2021

By Harold Lloyd, Harold Lloyd Presents

I am so proud our industry is finally getting the “essential” branding it deserves. I distinctly remember in my early 20s getting mocked for thinking I needed a graduate degree to work in a supermarket. Now, you are “superheroes,” right up there with other true professionals, first responders, doctors and nurses.

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of working with 40 department managers (all produce managers in this session) on a two-day online conference. It was a dream come true for me, to work with the level of management typically overlooked by our industry.

The department manager is our Superheroes’ Superhero. They must deal with all the challenges that managing people brings to the table as well as managing the attitudes of the myriad customer types that enter our stores each day.

And yet, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an industry event that included or actively invited department managers. The idea of sending a department manager on a plane to a hotel for a conference apparently is too far-fetched for most budget-conscious retailers.

Fortunately, this pandemic introduced me to “Zoom-ing,” and Zoom we did last week. We Zoomed through topics that department managers had never been given the opportunity to learn. A 40-year produce veteran department manager told me, “I only wish I had this education opportunity 40 years ago.”

Many of the managers were not aware of the following key points:

  1. One employee termination costs a company in excess of $5,000. So, working hard to develop our people is not just a nice thing to do, it’s sound business economics.
  2. The 3-Second Rule: The customer will typically not spend more than 3 seconds making a purchase decision. Our signs and displays must communicate a clear, quick and compelling message.
  3. How the lack of experienced employees scheduled after 5 p.m. can negatively affect sales. Most didn’t know that 50% of our sales occur after 3 p.m., just about the time the manager and other experienced employees leave for the day.
  4. The fact that adding an attractive “New Item” sign to a display will increase sales by more than 30% and that a new item is considered new for up to 30 days.
  5. That each department has a distinct traffic pattern/flow, typically 80% in one direction and 20% in the other. The location of displays, the angle of signs and the width of aisles all must be adroitly managed with this flow in mind to maximize sales.

These are just five of the 50-plus product merchandising, people management and customer relations ideas/principles we discussed in the eight hours we spent together. Proudly, the conference ratings were incredibly positive. I’d like to take the credit for the ratings, but I know in my heart, these Superheroes just enjoyed being treated professionally and given an opportunity to grow as a person and as a produce industry leader. As one Supermarket SMARTS graduate stated, “I feel like I just received a new set of spark plugs.” That comment thrilled me.

If you would like to commit to treating your superhero department managers more professionally, please sign them up for our future classes. This program is a career “bucket list” initiative for me, one I hope to continue for as long as the need exists.

* Click here for a full calendar of Harold’s upcoming sessions. Email to register for the next session. 

For more than three decades, Harold Lloyd has worked with small and large businesses to provide qualified, executive-level assistance. In addition to authoring books on leadership and time management, he spent 10 years leading 1,000 associates as president and CEO of a 14-unit retail organization that included 10 convenience stores and a conventional supermarket. Lloyd is a frequent speaker at industry events including The NGA Show and has partnered with NGA on education programs focusing on areas such as store operations and department management.