The Job and What's Involved

Greengrocers buy and sell fruit and vegetables. They work in retail outlets, shops or farm shops, selling to the general public. A wholesale greengrocer deals with growers and importers, placing orders and selling on the fresh produce to shops, market stallholders and caterers, including hotels and restaurants. There are also online greengrocers who sell direct to consumers through websites.

The tasks of a retail greengrocer may include:

  • Serving customers.
  • Weighing and wrapping goods.
  • Taking payment and giving change.
  • Giving advice to customers on how produce can be prepared and served.
  • Merchandising - displaying their goods attractively.
  • Keeping the displays fully stocked, bringing produce in from a storeroom.
  • Checking all the produce, making sure that it is fresh and discarding anything that is not of a good quality.

Greengrocers who run their own business may also be involved in:

  • Recruiting, training and managing staff.
  • Range planning and pricing.
  • Totalling till receipts at the end of each day and managing the accounts.
  • Stocktaking and placing orders with suppliers.
  • Overseeing deliveries and organising the storage of produce.
  • Invoicing large customers such as hotels for the goods supplied to them.

Most greengrocers telephone stock orders through to wholesale suppliers. However, some visit regional wholesale fruit and vegetable markets to buy stock, especially if they need to choose seasonal organic produce for stalls or vegetable boxes.

Consumers are becoming more interested in healthy food. This has led to more small businesses selling organic produce through local farmers' markets, and weekly doorstep deliveries of organic vegetable boxes that can be ordered through the internet.

Some greengrocers sell additional items, such as other local produce, flowers, pot plants, homemade cakes or jam. They may also sell seasonal products such as Christmas trees.

Greengrocers who manage their own business usually work long hours. They normally start well before 9am, Monday to Saturday, and some are also open on Sundays. Greengrocers who buy stock directly from wholesale markets may be up as early as 2am, travelling to markets and transporting fresh produce back in time for the start of business.

Full-time sales assistants usually work a standard number of hours a week over five days. In some cases they may work shifts to cover evenings, weekends and bank holidays. Part-time work is possible.

Greengrocers mainly work indoors, and their job involves a lot of bending, lifting and carrying.

Those working in small independent greengrocers usually need a driving licence to drive a van so that they can collect and deliver goods.

The starting salary for a retail assistant in a greengrocer's shop may be around £13,000 a year. With experience, average earnings may be around £16,000 - £19,000 a year.

Experienced greengrocers may earn over £20,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are greengrocers' shops and farm shops that employ retail assistants in villages, towns and cities throughout the UK. Those who are self-employed run their own premises and employ small numbers of people.

The number of greengrocers' shops on the high street is declining. This is due to fierce competition from large supermarket chains. The remaining greengrocers have adapted and developed their businesses to supply a wider market, including restaurants, caterers and hotels. They may also take orders over the telephone, through the internet or fax machines, taking deliveries to local customers. There is an increase in the number of businesses run from units in market halls and farm shops.

Vacancies may be advertised at retail outlets, in local newspapers and at Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices.

Education and Training

There are no minimum qualifications for becoming a greengrocer, but it is useful to be good with figures and have an interest in business. The Diploma in retail business may be relevant for this area of work. Experience of working with customers, selling, or handling cash is helpful. A clean driving licence may be needed.

Some larger retailers may offer Retail Apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

Experience and qualifications in retail or general business and finance may be helpful for those thinking of setting up their own business.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

People who work in a greengrocer's shop are usually trained on the job by more experienced colleagues. They learn retail skills and shop procedures, and may also undertake a food hygiene course and health and safety training.

Large retailers and supermarkets usually provide structured training for their fresh produce assistants and department managers, both on the job and with in-house training courses.

Those on Apprenticeships work towards a Level 2 Certificate or Diploma in retail skills and a Level 2 Certificate in retail knowledge. Those on Advanced Apprenticeships work towards a Level 3 Diploma in retail (in the management, visual merchandising or sales professional pathway) and a Level 3 Certificate in retail knowledge.

It may also be possible to work part time (outside an Apprenticeship scheme) towards these retail qualifications.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A greengrocer should:

  • Be able to communicate and listen carefully to the needs of customers.
  • Have a pleasant and friendly manner.
  • Be reliable and hardworking.
  • Have energy and enthusiasm, as the hours can be long and the job involves a lot of standing.
  • Be knowledgeable about a wide range of fruit and vegetables.
  • Show a willingness to develop new ideas and routines.
  • Be able to handle cash, and keep accounts and records.
  • Be well organised.
  • Keep up with national initiatives concerning health and safety and environmental issues.
  • Have some knowledge of fresh food preparation.
  • Have a good sense of design, to display the produce attractively.

Your Long Term Prospects

Retail assistants may be able to progress to managing a shop or department for a supermarket chain or other fresh food outlet. They may use their skills and experience to transfer to a different area of retail or customer service work.

Self-employed greengrocers have to be innovative and adapt to changing market conditions for their business to survive and grow. With experience, it may be possible to branch out and run a related business. Examples of such businesses include farmers' market units, farm shops, vegetable box suppliers and wholesalers.

Get Further Information

IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution),
Grange Lane, Letchmore Heath,
Watford, Hertfordshire WD25 8GD
Tel: 01923 857141

The National Skills Academy for Retail,
4th Floor, 93 Newman Street, London W1T 3EZ
Tel: 020 7462 5089

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