Literature, Trout Fishing & Fresh Food Departments

I bought a book the other day. There is nothing surprising in that as I buy quite a few. The book’s title, “How to catch a fish”, should also not raise any eyebrows. I do enjoy trout fishing and catching a “fish” in this instance means trout.

What is fascinating though is the author’s approach. Kevin Ireland is no mug. He is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed writers and has published four novels, two memoirs and fifteen volumes of poetry. He also likes trout fishing and has taken a very methodical approach in his book. Izaak Walton, the 17th century English author revered in trout literati circles, wrote in the Compleat Angler that “… fishing was employment for his idle time… that was not idly spent… a rest to his mind, a diverter of sadness, a moderator of passions… a procurer of contentedness; and that it begat habits of peace and patience in those that professed and practiced it.”

Ireland introduces readers in his introductory chapters to the fishing memories of his youth, which did not just involve trout but plenty of fishing just off Takapuna Beach. He follows these tales with five chapters entitled General Technicalities, Rods, Reels, Lines & Hooks and Casting About, before moving on again to lighter fare. The underlying message throughout the book is that anyone who grasps the essence of these five chapters cannot but be successful at catching trout – after all, what else is there to know?

The serious trout fishermen amongst you might beg to differ – but think about it for a moment. If one masters the essential tools and practices outlined in these five chapters – what else matters?

Managing a fresh produce department also comes with its essential five elements. Lets call them Product & Merchandise Knowledge, the Multideck/Mirrorback, the Produce Bin/table, the Produce itself and the Administration/Pricing structures that need to be adhered to.

Get it right and you won’t catch fish like Kevin Ireland, but customers. Get it wrong and your customers will sail straight past your department and head out the door towards that greengrocer (or baker or butcher for that matter) in the same complex or just around the corner.

In the bakery, knowing how to operate the ovens becomes part of the necessary product knowledge, but this is not just about learning how to turn the oven on and off, for example. Of even greater importance is understanding how dough turns into saleable product, how the poppy seeds stay attached to the bread roll and being able to coordinate one’s baking cycle with the time slots of strongest customer demand.

I am not for one minute suggesting that you should all rush off and write a book, but at the very least you should spend a few minutes trying to define what the five essential elements are in your fresh food department. Then, attempt to come up with a plan on how you can improve your performance in each of the five areas in order to catch more customers.

A fisherman is often also referred to as an angler. You will be pleased to know that this word is derived from the Old High German word ango – an instrument for fishing! I have no idea what the Old High German term for successful retailer would have been, but I am fairly certain that they would have had one!

So, how about investing into some quality thinking time – and then go straight on to the next level of catching more customers consistently, because you will have grasped the essence. Or do I need to come around and demonstrate that “ve haf vays und meens?”

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