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A display to fall for

Schnucks in Jefferson City, Mo., wins the 2009 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest.

     by Cynthia L. McGowan

    When two departments work together, they can produce amazing results. That’s what Floral Manager Mary Stegeman and Produce Manager Nick Littrell of Schnucks in Jefferson City, Mo., discovered when they teamed up to create a “Fall Fun Fest” promotion last year. Their colorful display, bursting with the best of both departments’ autumn bounty, earned them the grand prize in the 2009 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest, sponsored by Super Floral Retailing and Börgen Systems.

    The display, featuring a huge cardboard walk-through turkey as its focal point, wowed customers as soon as they walked into the store. Inside the floral department, which is at the store’s entrance, large signage proclaimed “Fall Fun Fest” in lettering painted to resemble rustic logs. Overhead, large, colorful leaves appeared to be falling from the ceiling.

    Ms. Stegeman and Mr. Littrell made sure their departments offered shoppers everything they needed for fall celebrations. The cornucopia of products ranged from apples, gourds, pumpkins, cider, candy and wine to balloons, potted mums, Kalanchoes, crotons, ornamental grasses, bouquets of sunflowers and Alstroemerias, and arrangements ready to grab and go from the cooler. The entire department was filled with a color palette of orange, yellow, brown, green and burgundy, evoking a fall tableau.

    Michael Schrader, floral director for Schnucks, says fall is a natural time for cross-merchandising, with the floral operation’s hardy mums and produce’s apples and pumpkins. “We do a lot of cross-merchandising,” he confirms, “but Mary just went above and beyond what we normally do for a display because that’s one of the things that she’s really good at.”

    The judges in the contest agreed, awarding Ms. Stegeman an expense-paid trip to The Super Floral Show in Atlanta, Ga., in June, where she was presented the crystal Orrefors Börgen Cup by Arden Börgen, CEO and founder of Börgen Systems, during the Keynote Lunch. She also received hotel accommodations.


schnuck markets, inc.


St. Louis, Mo.
Scott C. Schnuck
STORES 106, including five Logli stores, in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin
SALES $2.5 billion (estimated) in 2008, according to Supermarket News’ “Top 75 Retailers for 2009” listing
STORES' AVERAGE SIZE 63,000 square feet
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Average two per store
1 full time and 2 part time
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral departments in 101 stores, offering custom designs, weddings and events, delivery and FTD flowers-by-wire service
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAYS Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day
FLORAL DIRECTOR Michael Schrader
Mary Stegeman


floral and produce team up
    Ms. Stegeman credits Mr. Littrell for the idea to work together. “It all started when Nick said he wanted to build a display with produce and floral,” she recalls. Mr. Littrell is known in the store for designing effective produce displays, and the artistically inclined Ms. Stegeman creates all the in-store signage. Their talents would combine for a perfect merchandising match.

    A fall display was ideal because of its cross-merchandising possibilities and also because the slower summer months allowed more time to devote to working on the promotion. Ms. Stegeman started saving the cardboard she needed for the signage and turkey in June, and their construction took about two weeks.

    The team decided to have the display ready by early September. “We wanted to have it up for as long as we could,” explains Ms. Stegeman. It was up through Thanksgiving, and vignettes and appropriate products were added for National Boss Day (Oct. 16) and Halloween.

    In the planning stages, Ms. Stegeman, who says she changes the look of her department often to keep customers’ interest piqued, decided early on that
she needed an eye-catching element. She spied a garden arbor in the liquor department, and it inspired her to make the turkey. “I thought, ‘It would be neat to have a turkey to walk through.’ So then I just found a way to create it.”

    Because her apartment was too small for the immense project, she borrowed her store’s co-manager’s garage for the turkey construction. Without a pattern or template, she painted the Pilgrim-hat-wearing turkey onto the cardboard pieces with tempera paint. “I laid the arbor down on the cardboard and kind of drew around it and cut from that,” Ms. Stegeman describes. The turkey was then taken in pieces and assembled at the store.

    Ms. Stegeman completed other elements of the display at her home, including painting the cardboard leaves, signage and rustic-looking cardboard “fencing” that surrounded some of the vignettes. “For a while, my apartment smelled like a sixth-grade art class,” she exclaims. The team’s do-it-yourself, frugal approach saved on expenses, with the materials for the display costing only $30. Ms. Stegeman also received time off for the hours she worked off site.


keys to success


MERCHANDISING Employees have the tools to create effective merchandising displays, as shown when the floral and produce departments at Schnucks in Jefferson City combined their strengths to design a fall display that wowed shoppers and increased sales.

Schnucks keeps customers coming back by offering fresh, long-lasting products. Floral managers order them through the company’s 48,000-square-foot floral distribution center in St. Louis, Mo.

SERVICE Customers can go to Schnucks for all their floral needs, including custom designs, weddings, sympathy and events.

Floral associates receive training to make sure they are offering customers the services they expect.


keeping customers coming back


    Customer engagement and fresh products are the keys to repeat floral sales, advises Mary Stegeman, floral manager at Schnucks in Jefferson City, Mo. “We get a lot of the same customers,” she describes. “A lot of repeat business.”

    What brings them back? “We always try to engage the customers and give them information because the more information they have, the more comfortable they feel buying things,” she reveals. That means encouraging customers to ask questions, providing them care instructions with their products and offering tips such as which flowers last longest.

    The floral department also makes sure customers get maximum vase life for their dollars. “We’re really picky about keeping everything fresh,” Ms. Stegeman says. “We get a lot of customers, the repeat customers, because our bouquets are always so fresh.”


customers’ reactions
    The assembly of the display was a three-hour team effort involving the store’s co-manager, manager and porter, Mr. Littrell, Ms. Stegeman and a floral clerk. The porter hung all the leaves from the ceiling as well as the turkey’s head. “It was a very heavy display,” Ms. Stegeman explains.

    Customers’ reactions validated the team’s hard work. “They loved it,” Ms. Stegeman reveals. “They were just thrilled.” And the added attention to the department increased sales, she confides.

    Both children and adults loved going through the turkey, and Ms. Stegeman discovered a dual purpose to the oversize prop. Along with serving as a focal point, it got people to go to the back of her 1,000-square-foot department. “We have kept the arbor up since then because it has worked so well in bringing customers more into the department,” she says.

the winning elements
    Elements that helped make the display a winner included:

THEME The entire floral department was devoted to the “Fall Fun Fest” theme. The turkey prop set the tone, and falling leaves, log-lettered signage, fencing, a pumpkin patch and autumn florals and produce all contributed to the feeling that customers were part of a fall festival.

SIGNAGE The signs were a key part of the display’s success. Because they all were created by Ms. Stegeman, they coordinated well. She painted all the lettering on cardboard, and it was easy to read and eye-catching. Some of the signage was in shapes such as pumpkins and logs, keeping with the fall theme.

COLOR HARMONY The orange, brown, burgundy, black, yellow and green hues chosen for the display elements perfectly complemented the fall products. The result was an attention-getting display that made customers want to get closer and touch the products.

CROSS-MERCHANDISING Produce was an important part of the promotion. Customers could choose from Missouri-grown apples, gourmet candy apples, cider and much more.

FLORAL PRODUCTS Hardy mums, ranging from $4.99 to $8.99 for 6-inch pots, were the top-selling floral items during the promotion. The department stocked more than usual and had a subsequent sales bump. Ms. Stegeman included them with the cross-merchandised products as well as in their own free-standing display.

    “Bouquets were really strong, too,” she reports. Mixed bouquets of fall-colored Alstroemerias, sunflowers, lilies and spray mums ranged from $6.99 to $14.99. Customers also were treated to upgraded plants such as Kalanchoes and rubber plants. A cooler, with fall leaves painted on the doors, was full of “grab-and-go” arrangements. In addition, autumn-themed foil balloons floated above the floral and produce merchandise.

    The resulting display, one that delighted customers, children and contest judges, was worth the effort, Ms. Stegeman reveals. “We knew it was going to take quite a bit of time,” she recalls. “Just the thought of it could be a little bit daunting, but once we got started, we found the time to do it, and I’m glad that we did.”

floral's importance to schnucks


    Schnuck Markets Inc., headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., places a high priority on floral, comments Michael Schrader, floral director. The company “really values the service part of our department,” he remarks, and backs up its commitment to floral with full-service departments in 101 of the chain’s 106 stores.

    Mr. Schrader cites Schnucks’ layout for new stores and remodels, which gives floral a high-profile position. “We have great exposure in all of our new footprints, at the front of the stores,” he says. That front location makes a big difference in sales, he points out. After a recent remodeling in which floral was moved to the front from the back of a store, “we had, right off the bat, a 40 percent increase in sales.”

    Schnucks also shows its commitment to floral through the service it provides. The company offers custom designs; FTD flowers-by-wire service; and sympathy, wedding and event work. The floral operation’s 48,000-square-foot distribution center in St. Louis houses its “Focus on Design” design center, where 12 designers and four wedding coordinators handle full-service weddings. “It’s part of our whole philosophy of how we operate,” Mr. Schrader remarks. “We’re not just a cash-and-carry florist.”

    Training is important to making sure customers get the service they need. Schnucks partners with FTD for training, including its Certified Master Designer program. In addition, Rhonda Lynn-Moeckel, AIFD, serves as Schnucks’ training coordinator and offers classes throughout the year. Confirms Mr. Schrader: “Part of our recipe for success is for our department managers to be floral experts.”


the honor award winners


    Look for articles about the 2009 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” Honor Award winners in the September and October issues of Super Floral Retailing.

The Honor Award winners are:

HONOR AWARD FOR BEST SIGNAGE Emily Kopp and Casi Fults; Publix Super Market No. 1057; Brentwood, Tenn.

HONOR AWARD FOR BEST CROSS-MERCHANDISING Patty Malloy; Gordy’s County Market; Eau Claire, Wis.

Lin’s Marketplace; St. George, Utah

HONOR AWARD FOR BEST COLOR HARMONY Sherrie Palmer and Annette Sandquist; Hy-Vee; Fort Dodge, Iowa


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

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