The Fresh Market's Teri Miller: Playing the Long Game—Become the Retailer Customers Want
- by Teri Miller
GREENSBORO, NC - In this industry, we often hear that fresh produce is not for the faint of heart. When you have been around for as long as I have, words like resilience, passion, and strength are not just terms you throw around. They are necessary for survival. While nothing compares to what the current state of the industry is facing, I cannot tell you how often I have walked through an unknown and been thankful for what I learned on the other side.
I’m entirely used to the impact that Mother Nature, recalls, and financial crises have on our industry. Even the seasonal challenges brought on by the transition of growing areas keep us on our toes. Now, I will not group COVID-19 into the traditional ups and downs that we face, but we still can find the best versions of ourselves and our companies despite it all.
Product demand is high, and produce grows at its own pace. It’s funny—we all know this while some of the most intelligent people don’t grasp that simple rule. Meanwhile, exposure, social distancing, and self-quarantine have impacted the availability of the labor force. Growers and shippers are doing their best to find ways to protect their people, their assets, and their legacies without risking the business. So, the supply chain needs to modify their expectations of how to work with one another.
What the norm was 10 weeks ago may not be viable now. I encourage all of us to pause and take the time to understand these changes and work together for a solution that best suits the customer—the people who need food. And it’s the responsibility of this industry to continue to support the public in a fashion that supports “doing the right thing.”
There will be impossible moments when the right thing is subjective or buried in fear or chaos. But, our intentions do count, and they will hopefully fuel our actions.
While grocery retailers are reaping the benefits of this situation, it is short-lived. This happened overnight, so we should not bank on the continued revenue growth. What we should be is proud that we can meet the needs of our customers and treat them with respect and appreciation. Because, regardless, customers choose who they want to shop with and be loyal to. So, let’s be the retailer our customers want.
I’m very fortunate to be in a business that is not losing sales nor furloughing associates. I’m sure you have seen the announcement of these businesses hiring. For me, it’s a small blessing during this time that there are opportunities of income for those who need it. At the same time, these jobs can provide an understanding and an appreciation of what this industry deals with every day.
For me personally, I have peace in my heart and mind that this is a situation that is out of our hands. I trust that it will run its course, and we will come out of this strengthened. For those that are sick or have passed needlessly, I grieve and pray for the comfort of their families. I trust that people are doing all they can to control this situation.
I am thankful that my family and friends are relatively healthy and safe. I am especially grateful to be in this industry. I’ve worked in government, manufacturing, and non-grocery retail—for me, there is nothing that compares to the produce industry!