COMPTON, Calif. -- Ralphs Grocery Co. here has adopted standardized coding for its bulk produce after holding off making the move for some time.
"We thought the benefits would improve price integrity, front-end management and produce shrink," said Kerry Hodges, vice president of produce and floral for the 174-unit chain.
Ralphs made the changeover Jan. 12. "At this point, it's gone very smoothly from the results we've seen," Hodges said.
Hodges said support from top management, information systems and the retailer's marketing department helped make the changeover a success. Before adopting the standardized price look-up codes, Ralphs had an in-house coding system for produce.
The biggest challenge, Hodges said, was educating front-end clerks. In late December, the clerks were given handouts listing produce items with their corresponding PLUs. One week before the switch, they were tested, Hodges said.
Until now, Ralph's wouldn't accept produce with standardized PLUs. Now the retailer wants its product to have standardized codes.
With Ralph's using the same codes now as its southern California competitors, "it makes it easier for suppliers," Hodges noted.
Bryan Silbermann, executive vice president of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., and a chamption of industry-wide standardized coding, assisted Ralphs with its transition. "They were a conspicuous holdout," he said. "Now, they are a conspicuous conversion."
Hodges predicted that the standardized codes will soon take hold throughout the industry. "It's well on its way," he said.