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store profile

Full-service florals

Inserra Supermarkets Inc. makes a connection with customers thanks to high-quality products and excellent service.
     by Cynthia L. McGowan

Freshness, quality and service: These are the traits that have helped Inserra Supermarkets Inc. grow into one of the nation’s largest privately owned companies. These qualities extend throughout the company to all departments including floral, where an experienced staff can handle customers’ floral needs from custom designs to weddings and events.

    The family-owned Inserra Supermarkets, based in Mahwah, N.J., owns 21 ShopRite stores in northern New Jersey and southern New York. With more than $1 billion in sales last year, it was ranked No. 423 on Forbes’ list of “America’s Largest Private Companies.” As a member of the Elizabeth, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corporation, the nation’s largest retailer-owned cooperative, Inserra can take advantage of volume buying to offer customers competitive pricing and high-quality products.

prototype store

    Inserra’s newest store, a ShopRite that opened in Lodi, N.J., in July 2007, incorporates the company’s values of freshness, quality and service and will serve as the prototype for future new stores and remodels, remarks Ellen Rumler, the company’s director of floral, commercial bakery and snacks. “We’re constantly, as a company, remodeling our stores and keeping them updated,” she says.

    The Lodi store has 70,000 square feet of grocery-store innovations. Three chefs make fresh sushi daily, and customers can dine on their selections in the food court. The farmers’-market-style produce section brims with fresh selections of fruits and vegetables, including both local and more exotic fare. A huge gourmet foods and international cheese section is illuminated by a beautiful domed artificial skylight.

    The store has an upscale bakery as well as full-service seafood and meat counters. With a “Dexter” Deli Express system, customers can place their orders and pick them up when they are finished shopping. As part of its commitment to customer service, the company has a rule that lines at checkouts should have no more than three shoppers each, including the person checking out.

 
 

inserra supermarkets inc.


 
 


HEADQUARTERS Mahwah, N.J.
PRESIDENT AND CEO Lawrence R. Inserra Jr.
OWNERSHIP Inserra family
STORES 21 ShopRite stores, in northern New Jersey (20) and southern New York (1)
SALES $1.25 billion (estimated) in fiscal year 2008, according to the Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
INCORPORATED 1961
STORE SIZE Averages 60,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE Varies; newest store in Lodi, N.J., has an 840-square-foot department
COMPANY EMPLOYEES 4,500
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Averages one to two full-timers per store
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral departments offering wedding and event services; custom designs; delivery through online ordering service
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAYS Mother’s Day followed by Valentine’s Day
FLORAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO TOTAL COMPANY SALES Varies by store
DIRECTOR OF FLORAL, COMMERCIAL BAKERY AND SNACKS Ellen Rumler
WEB SITE www.shoprite.com
 


 

floral as the first impression

    In floral, the 840-square-foot-department has a “store-within-a-store” feel. Like other Inserra ShopRite floral departments, it is located at the front of the store, where it helps set a first impression of freshness for the entire store. The floral department employs color to draw customers in—“It’s almost like a magnetic appearance,” Ms. Rumler comments. “You only have a certain amount of seconds to catch their eyes, and if it’s all green, it doesn’t do anything. But that color brings them into the department.”

    A round merchandiser filled with more than 30 varieties of flowers in consumer bunches greets customers. They also can choose from a large selection of mixed bouquets, arrangements in the refrigerated display case, plants and balloons and other hard goods. Statuaries and other novelties also are used in displays to attract attention.

    Because the layout of each store differs, the company
leaves it to the floral managers to design the looks of their departments. They change displays weekly, Ms. Rumler says, to keep the attention of the company’s loyal returning customers.

    Signage also is important to the floral operation’s success; all products have price and identification signage. Ms. Rumler says customers appreciate knowing about the products they are buying. Wakefern supplies signage,
and the stores also have their own sign printers.

the importance of service

    A key factor in keeping shoppers returning is the service they receive, Ms. Rumler observes. “We know our customers,” she remarks, and the floral managers give them personal attention, greeting them by name and always with a smile. Excellent service is company policy from the top down, Ms. Rumler reveals. “We know there’s a lot of competition out there, especially in our area, and customer service is number one,” she says.

   The floral managers are usually found right in the departments, where they can help customers find the perfect selections. They often offer to create bouquets from customers’ consumer bunch selections while they finish their shopping, without charging for the service. “When we give it to them, it’s all wrapped with cellophane, tissue paper and a chiffon bow,” Ms. Rumler shares. “It’s gift ready.”

 
   Someone is always available to take care of customers’ floral needs, Ms. Rumler comments. The floral managers start their days when the stores open, at 7 a.m. After they leave, part-time associates take over in the evening. In addition, if no one is in the department, signage directs shoppers to the customer service department for floral help.

experienced staff

    The departments are staffed by experienced floral managers. At the Lodi store, Floral Manager Lenore Conklin has more than 30 years of floral experience, and the company’s other florists boast similar longevity. Ms. Rumler describes them as “dedicated and extremely talented,” and they offer customers a full range of floral services, including custom designs, corporate events and weddings “We really do cater to [customers’] needs,” Ms. Rumler confirms.

    To keep the floral managers’ skills up to date, Ms. Rumler, who has been with Inserra for 27 years, is often in the stores demonstrating new techniques. In addition, they attend two shows a year offered through Wakefern, where they receive training, see new products and discuss plans for upcoming holidays.
 

 

the wedding business


 
 


    Weddings are an important part of the floral business at Inserra Supermarkets Inc. The company, through its 21 ShopRite stores, handles about 100 weddings a year, ranging in price from $400 to $1,500 and up.

    Brides hear about Inserra’s wedding services through word-of-mouth and in-store displays, shares Ellen Rumler, the company’s director of floral, commercial bakery and snacks. During wedding season, the floral departments have display tables with mock wedding cakes and sample bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres.

    In addition, the stores have kiosks with wedding books from Colombian grower Vistaflor, which also will supply a complete wedding package, including bouquets, corsages and centerpieces, that Inserra can receive within 10 days of ordering. Most of the time, however, brides want to customize their wedding florals, Ms. Rumler says.

    Consultations take place in the floral departments, where brides can see the large selection of flowers available for weddings. “We do everything from lilies to roses to Anemones to orchids,” Ms. Rumler remarks. “Whatever they want, we will accommodate them.”

    Brides don’t sign a contract and aren’t asked to put down a deposit. There is no set price sheet for customized weddings because of the variation in flower prices, but Ms. Rumler says an average bride’s bouquet starts at $50. Prices also include delivery and setup at the venue. Inserra tries to book no more than three weddings companywide in a weekend to ensure there is enough labor to handle both the nuptial flowers and in-store needs.

    Ms. Rumler reminds that timing is everything when it comes to wedding flowers. The flowers in the bouquets have to be at their peak; no one wants a bouquet of roses in bud form or lilies that haven’t opened. “We time everything to ensure that the flowers are perfect on the day of the wedding,” she says.

    An indication of the company’s success with weddings is its repeat business. Inserra has handled wedding flowers for more than one sibling in a family, and the company often provides florals for its employees’ weddings. It is gratifying to be there during the important events in people’s lives, Ms. Rumler says. “We take pride in what we do.
 


 

favorite products

    Fresh flowers—consumer bunches, bouquets and arrangements—compose just more than 50 percent of floral sales, Ms. Rumler shares. Of those products, consumer bunches are the top seller at $3.99 each or three bunches for $10. The more than 30 varieties for sale include orchids, Hydrangeas, Lisianthuses, Gerberas, Agapanthuses and Alstroemerias, and the best-sellers are spray mums and miniature carnations.

    A dozen-rose bouquet, priced from $9.99 to $12.99, is the next best-selling item after the consumer bunches, followed by mixed bouquets at $5.99 to $7.99. Blooming and foliage plants, ranging in price from $7.99 to $12.99, also sell well. Ms. Rumler reports strong sales for Phalaenopsis orchid plants at $15.99. A selling point for Phalaenopses is their easy care, she remarks, and the floral managers make a point of sharing with customers care information, both verbally and on cards with the plants.

ensuring freshness

    Floral managers order products for their own stores, making sure they have the right product mix for their customers. Inserra procures most of its floral products from Wakefern, and the products are delivered from the cooperative’s warehouse as often as seven days a week. Wakefern sources flowers globally, Ms. Rumler shares, including from South America, Canada and California—“wherever they can get the best quality.”

    The seven-day-a-week delivery ensures freshness, and the floral managers take care to promptly process the flowers for maximum vase life. And if a customer has any problem, the product will be replaced, even without a receipt. “We stand behind our flowers,” Ms. Rumler asserts.

    Wakefern also provides in-store support when asked, Ms. Rumler comments. “If there is a special event going on and we need their help, they will send somebody to the stores,” she says, recalling a time when she had more than 100 arrangements to create for three events in three days. “They helped me out tremendously,” she remembers.

getting the word out

    Inserra advertises its florals weekly, and the ShopRite Web site, www.shoprite.com, gives florals prominent attention. Loyal customers, drawn by the freshness, quality and service they receive, also spread the word about the floral departments. Remarks Ms. Rumler, “If they’ve ever bought flowers from me before, they always come back.”
 

 

keys to success


 
 


 MERCHANDISING Inserra Supermarkets Inc. uses color and a large selection of fresh florals to draw customers into its floral departments. The displays change weekly to keep customers’ interest high.

SERVICE The stores offer full-service florals, and most of the floral managers have been with the company for 20 years or more, giving them the experience to meet customers’ needs.

PRODUCTS The floral operation is known for fresh, high-quality flowers. The stores have a large assortment of flowers in its consumer bunch program, and customers like to mix-and-match to create their own bouquets. Stores receive floral deliveries seven days a week, ensuring maximum freshness.

CONVENIENCE Customers can have flowers delivered through Wakefern Food Corporation’s “ShopRite From Home” Web service at www.shoprite.com. In addition, Wakefern has partnered with Vistaflor, a Colombian grower, to offer nationwide delivery through the ShopRite Web site.
 


 

 

 

profitable partnership


 
 


    Inserra Supermarkets Inc. is one of 44 independently owned companies that belong to the Wakefern Food Corporation cooperative. Those 44 members own and operate more than 213 supermarkets in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware under the ShopRite and PriceRite banners.

    Wakefern, based in Elizabeth, N.J., is the nation's largest retailer-owned cooperative. Founded in 1946, it now operates 2.5 million square feet of warehousing, serves more than 4.5 million customers a week and employs more than 50,000 people. Wakefern had sales of $10.6 billion in fiscal year 2008.

Source: Wakefern Food Corporation, www.wakefern.com, and Supermarket News Top 75 Retailers for 2009

 

Reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan at cmcgowan@superfloralretailing.com or (800) 355-8086.

Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.