How to Start a Produce Store

by Brian Hill

    Consumers are adding more fruits and vegetables to their diets, and that means more green in your bank account when you start a produce store. Your store doesn't have to be large to attractively display all the produce. Use the windows of the store and the sidewalk outside to entice passersby to come inside.

    Step 1

    List your competitors, their prices and produce stock. Go beyond just produce stores. Include grocery stores, organic food stores, farmers markets and online sites that specialize in fresh produce. Beside each competitor, list why your store will do a better job fulfilling the customers' needs. For example, your prices will be lower while the quality of the produce will be higher, or all your produce will be grown locally and organically.

    Step 2

    Determine the types of produce you'll offer. Analyze your list of competitors to see where the gaps are. Perhaps there's only a limited selection of organic produce or no one offers a wide selection of tropical fruits. Consider selling produce that is used in ethnic cuisines such as Asian or Indian, or unusual produce such as baby vegetables and fruits.

    Step 3

    Plan to stock complementary products. Consider selling freshly squeezed or pressed juice; bottled salad dressings and marinades; nuts, seeds and grains; and dried beans. Flowers and plants are other options that make sense for the produce vendor.

    Step 4

    Find a location near other specialty food shops such as a cheese purveyor, bakery, ice cream parlor, butcher and fish monger if at all possible. The cluster of shops attracts customers to get all their food shopping done in one area. An urban location with heavy foot traffic is ideal.

    Step 5

    Check out licensing and registration requirements. Obtain a business license from your state and city if required. Exactly what's necessary is determined on a state-by-state basis. Produce and food sales purchased for home consumption may or may not require the collection of sales tax. Again, it depends on the state.

    Step 6

    Set up vendor accounts. Once you've determined what kind of produce your store will sell, pick your vendors. Produce is available through wholesalers, import companies, directly from the farm or through markets that sell to the trade -- grocery stores and restaurants -- but aren't open to the general public.

    Step 7

    Develop a marketing program. Some customers will stop in just because they see a new store. Let other potential customers know you're open through fliers, newspaper advertisements, signage and publicity efforts. Draft a series of press releases that highlight the benefits of fresh produce and your store. The series could cover why organic produce is healthier, which vegetables have the most nutrition or interesting facts about vegetables, such as tomatoes were originally considered poisonous. Offer in-store classes in food preservation such as canning, making jams and jellies, and drying fruits and vegetables.

    Tip

    • Displays of seasonal produce with tips on preparation increases sales. Differentiate your services. Take special orders from customers in the store. Sell the produce to gourmet restaurants, private schools and senior centers.

    Warning

    • Go through the produce on a daily basis to remove spoiled fruits and vegetables.

    About the Author

    Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."

    Photo Credits

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