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Store Profile

   What's new at Winn-Dixie

Floral plays an important role in this company’s fresh makeover.

by Cynthia L. McGowan

    Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. is a company on the move. The 521-store chain is in the midst of an aggressive remodeling campaign, and floral is a key component of the company’s fresh and local strategy.
     The venerable company, founded in 1925, emerged from Chapter 11 two years ago with a solid formula for success, analysts say. “Winn-Dixie appears to have its own very clear strategy that it’s sticking to—in terms of remodeling stores and crafting them to the needs of the neighborhood—and that’s a very significant, positive sign,” Bill Bishop, chairman of retail consultant Willard Bishop, told Supermarket News for a November article on the company’s turnaround.
     The company’s goal is to have all 521 stores in its five-state operating area—Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi—remodeled by 2013. In the two years since the project began, Winn-Dixie already has completed more than 100 remodels, and it expects to have half the chain finished by 2010.

  winn-dixie stores inc.

HEADQUARTERS Jacksonville, Fla.
OWNERSHIP Publicly held corporation STORES 521, under two banners: Winn-Dixie (510); and SaveRite (11); in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi
SALES $7.3 billion in fiscal year 2008, according to the Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
STORE SIZE Varies, averaging from 36,000 to 56,000 square feet
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Average one to three per store
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral departments in many stores; limited service in others; full-service stores offer FTD flowers-by-wire service and event work
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAYS Valentine’s Day, followed by Mother’s Day



focusing on demographics
     The remodeled stores aim to appeal to five key targets: Hispanic, urban, affluent, resort and kosher. Each store is merchandised and marketed based on one or more of those core demographics, with additional local touches.
     The common thread among all the remodels is an emphasis on fresh. The perishables departments are at the front of the stores, with floral leading the way. “Dynamic perishable presentations are the foundation of a fresh image in any supermarket,” explains Cindy Hanauer, director of Winn-Dixie’s floral operations. “Placing floral and produce at the very front of our stores sets the stage for the shopping experience throughout.”
     The stores also have a decidedly upscale feel, featuring a color palette of inviting earthtones including greens, oranges and yellows. Produce’s green walls are set off by gleaming hardwood floors. Modern wood merchandisers display colorful fruits and vegetables, with spotlights putting the focus on the fresh wares. The deli offers convenient meals to go and artisan breads. Some stores in affluent areas even have wine stewards.

floral’s key role
     The floral operation also merchandises by demographics, Ms. Hanauer confirms. For example, the customer base in an Orlando, Fla., store Super Floral Retailing recently visited is both affluent and Hispanic, and the product selection and merchandising are geared toward those demographics.
     In the Orlando store, vignettes of floral products are found throughout the large department, all aimed at capturing customers’ impulse sales. At the entrance, a large consumer bunch display, featuring more than 70 types of flowers and foliages, attracted immediate attention during Super Floral Retailing’s visit. A huge banner overhead proclaimed, “Mix and Match Your Way to a Beautiful Bouquet.” Another large display was full of festive products targeted to Hispanic customers. Items included Spanish-language celebration balloons, tropical plants and bright bouquets.
     Another vignette was a pink-themed display filled with products promoting breast cancer awareness, and still another one was a delightful fall/Halloween promotion. The department also had a large open cooler full of colorful bouquets, arranged from lowest price to highest, with the price points prominently displayed on easily visible signage. A separate, three-door cooler held beautiful arrangements created by the store’s floral manager, Inga Mahoney.

  keys to success

FRESH IMAGE To set a tone of freshness, floral and produce are at the front of newly remodeled stores. In addition, all floral products have a “sell-by” date.
CUSTOMER SERVICE To help florists interact with customers, a weekly e-newsletter offers talking points about featured floral products. Customers can have arrangements made while they shop, and the floral departments are staffed during the times of busiest store traffic.
TRAINING The floral operation has designated trainers for new employees. Continual training is offered in the weekly e-newsletter and at company meetings.
DEMOGRAPHICS Key demographics are identified for each store, and the product mix is tailored accordingly.
GETTING THE WORD OUT Winn-Dixie spotlights its florals on weekly newspaper ads and on its Web site, In-store traffic and word-of-mouth also drive floral sales, most of which are impulse.



exciting merchandising
     The floral department layout in each store stays consistent so customers know what to expect. What changes is the product lineup, reflecting major and secondary holidays, cultural and regional celebrations, seasonal changes and events like breast cancer awareness. “Consumers have responded greatly” to the company’s focus on events important to them, Ms. Hanauer confides, and “from our perspective, it’s a lot of fun to do; it’s exciting to change.”
     Two new programs are testing consumer response to environmental initiatives in floral. Winn-Dixie recently introduced “02 for You,” which points out the environmental qualities of plants, and “Planting the Seeds for the Future,” which showcases flowers and plants packaged with biodegradable sleeves and pots. Ms. Hanauer says that instead of guessing whether consumers want environmentally friendly floral products, Winn-Dixie decided it was time to find out. “I saw the need for the retail side of the industry to step forward and get sustainable floral products in front of consumers,” she says. “Putting them in front of customers is the only way we can provide guidance back to our suppliers on how to help us build programs for the future.”
     The pilot programs have informative signage and brochures that explain the benefits of the products, attractive wood shelving and appealing products. Ms. Hanauer says it’s too early to give results, “but what I’m hearing back is that the customers are responding favorably.”

logistics of a large chain
     It takes a well-coordinated team and excellent communication to make sure that the merchandising programs created at the corporate level are executed at the stores. “Our department has diverse experience on all sides of the floral industry: operations, procurement, logistics, visual merchandising and training expertise,” remarks Ms. Hanauer, a fourth-generation florist who has been on the mass-market side since 1973. “That really helps us communicate to our supply partners better and communicate to our retail associates as well.”
     Another communication tool is Ms. Hanauer’s weekly e-newsletter—“Cindy’s Monday Morning Eye-Opener”—which includes display plans and goals for the week. It goes to all the corporate floral staff, floral managers and store directors.

training for service
     In addition to focusing on fresh and local, Winn-Dixie has made customer service a core company value. Peter Lynch, the chairman, CEO and president, told Supermarket News for the November article that the company increased labor spending by $6.6 million in the first quarter of 2008. “We’re putting millions back into labor,” he told the weekly publication, “and we do not plan on taking it out.” Ms. Hanauer confirms that service and training help differentiate the floral operation from the competition. The highest-volume stores offer FTD flowers-by-wire service; delivery; and wedding, sympathy and event work. All stores offer basic custom designs, such as corsages and vase arrangements.
     To ensure each florist has those skills, Winn-Dixie has two designated floral trainers in each of its 26 districts who teach new employees all the basics of the department, including how to order products, plan budgets, build displays, work with customers and create floral designs. Training also takes place during the floral operation’s thrice-yearly planning meetings.
     The company’s floral team also offers how-to advice and talking points about the featured products. “We think it’s important for our floral managers to communicate well with the consumers,” Ms. Hanauer shares. Information such as the story behind the name of a plant or its history “really helps our floral managers become more comfortable interacting with customers.”
     Those efforts to foster customer-employee interaction pay off, Ms. Hanauer says. Consumers are encouraged to give feedback on any store associate, and “we read positive feedback from many of our customers on our floral associates,” she remarks. Customers often thank the floral managers for “saving the day.”

fresh products
      To keep satisfied customers coming back, Winn-Dixie makes sure to offer a large variety of fresh florals. The category managers and buyers procure products directly from growers, and the floral managers order from corporate headquarters based on their store demographics and volume. All floral products go through one of five distribution centers and then to the stores.
    “Bouquets and consumer bunches sell best,” Ms. Hanauer describes. The company also is seeing a resurgence in plants, and Ms. Hanauer believes the economy is a factor. “There may be a perception out there that plants last longer,” she observes, “and therefore, ‘If I’m going to spend $10, I’ll buy a plant because that’s going to last three or four months or a year.’”
     Ms. Hanauer says a key factor that helps Winn-Dixie stand out is its date-coding program. All products have an easy-to-see sell-by date, and she says the program is part of Winn-Dixie’s commitment to fresh. “We think it’s important for the customers to clearly see that Winn-Dixie is serious about offering only the freshest floral products,” she remarks. “We are proud of it.”

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

Most photos courtesy of Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.

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