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Store Profile

Drawing customers in at
Gordy's County Market

Floral department's excellent merchandising creates shopper excitement.

by Cynthia L. McGowan

     The floral department at Gordy’s County Market in Eau Claire, Wis., draws customers’ attention thanks to the merchandising skills of an award-winning floral manager/buyer. And once customers come into the department, a tempting selection of brightly colored florals and plants entices them to touch, smell and buy.
     Gordy’s County Market is one of three supermarkets owned by Gordy and Donna Schafer in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire, Wis. “We’re a hometown store and very community oriented,” says Jenna Kopp, a Schafer family member who helps manage the company’s holdings, which also include two hardware stores, two gas stations and a garden center.
     Those local ties are one way Gordy’s seeks to differentiate itself from the competition. Ms. Kopp says Gordy’s offers local and unique products, including its own smokehouse that makes sausage in-house. The bakery creates wedding cakes; the deli offers meals to go as well as catering services; and the liquor department, after a remodeling, soon will offer wine-and-cheese tastings.
     Most important to Gordy’s, though, is customer service. “We’re known for our service and our quality,” offers Ben Weiss, manager of the Eau Claire store. Mr. Weiss says of Mr. Schafer, the owner, “He believes, and makes us all believe, that the customers are the reason we’re here. They’re number one.”
     Agrees Ms. Kopp, “Customer service is very important to us. It comes from the top management on down, to set the example to the employees.” That means customers are greeted as they walk in, they receive assistance when they’re in the aisles and every employee says hello to customers when walking by. “Customers should never get out of here without a least a few ‘hi’s’ said to them,” Mr. Weiss emphasizes.

  gordy's county market

HEADQUARTERS Chippewa Falls, Wis.
OWNERS Gordy and Donna Schafer
SALES $29 million in 2007, according to the Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
UNITS Three supermarkets, two hardware stores, two gas stations and one garden center, in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire, Wis.
EAU CLAIRE STORE SIZE 52,000 square feet
COMPANY EMPLOYEES 500 total; 200 in the Eau Claire store
FLORAL EMPLOYEES One full-time and five or six part-time in the Eau Claire store
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral department in Eau Claire, including custom designs, weddings, funerals, delivery and BloomNet flowers-by-wire service; self-service florals in one Chippewa Falls store and smaller end-cap-style florals in the other
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAYS Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Mother’s Day
FLORAL'S CONTRIBUTION TO STORE SALES Averages 0.7 percent to 1 percent at the Eau Claire store
WEB SITE (the company is planning to debut a new Web site soon)



floral’s importance
     Floral also plays a key role in Gordy’s retail strategy. “Floral is very important to our company,” Ms. Kopp reveals. “It’s a draw for people,” and gets more customers into the stores. The Schafer family bought the Eau Claire store from Supervalu, Inc. three years ago, and Ms. Kopp says having a thriving floral operation already in place under the direction of Floral Manager/Buyer Patty Malloy was a happy result. “We were excited to have Patty on board because we knew of her reputation with flowers,” she recalls.
     Underscoring floral’s importance, the company is moving the department to the front of the store at the entrance, from its current spot in a front corner. “We’re putting it right up front when you first walk in because we feel the beauty of the flowers and the way Patty always has her department looking is going to make [the impact of floral] even better,” remarks Mr. Weiss.

grabbing attention
     Mr. Weiss’ comment refers to Ms. Malloy’s talent as a floral merchandiser, one who knows how to present her products to best effect. “I’m always resetting the department,” at least weekly, if not more often, Ms. Malloy confides, “and trying to keep the products looking fresh and new and exciting.”
     Ms. Malloy points out that many customers are coming into the store more than once a week, so it’s important to change the look of the floral department to grab their attention. “Plus,” she adds with a laugh, “it gives you the opportunity to clean the shelves off.”
     Her merchandising skills have been rewarded with multiple wins in the “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest, sponsored by Super Floral Retailing and Börgen Systems. Ms. Malloy won the Grand Award in 2004, and she has received a total of seven Honor Awards, for the Color, Signage, Cross-Merch-andising and Sensory Appeal categories.
     Displays for special promotions often involve clever themes, complete with props and catchy slogans. For example, one year’s Administrative Professionals’ Day promotion included a real computer keyboard as part of the signage, with wording reminding customers to show their appreciation to their assistants. Another prop was a poster designed to look like a legal pad. One sign told customers, “For an Office with a View, Buy Flowers Today!”
     Ms. Malloy says she starts with the products she is going to sell and then develops the theme. “From there, you look at what colors you can blend with the display,” she says, “and what products you can cross-merchandise with it.”
     After that comes the signage, which she admits can be more challenging. “Sometimes I’ll think of things right away, and other times it takes me a little longer,” she says of her process to write clever, catchy slogans. When she finds the process more challenging, she’ll brainstorm with her staff until something comes to mind. Her Grand Prize-winning display in the “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest was a colorful circus display with slogans including “Decorate Your Home with the Greatest of Ease with Daisy and Mum Plants” and “Juggling for Great Gift Ideas? Come to Floral Expressions ... We’re Here to Help!”
     The displays are effective at drawing shoppers into the department. “I’ve got some customers who tell me that they’re coming through the floral department just to see what’s new and what we’ve got going on right now,” Ms. Malloy remarks.
     In addition to in-store merchandising, the company advertises florals in local newspapers and on the radio. Gordy’s highlights two floral items a week in the newspaper advertisements, and “I have customers who come in asking for the ad items, so that exposure is important for the department,” Ms. Malloy shares.
     This spring, Ms. Malloy did the voice-overs on radio spots highlighting the store’s floral selections, adding more visibility to the department. “People have noticed that,” she says. “They’ve asked me, ‘Are you the one on the radio’?”
     In addition, the company promotes Ms. Malloy’s “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest wins. “Every time Patty wins one of these, we make sure our local newspapers are aware of it, and they usually run a little article,” Mr. Weiss says. “That always helps, when the community sees that we have an award-winning florist here in the store.”

  keys to success

MERCHANDISING The floral staff changes the department at Gordy’s County Market at least once a week and uses attractive displays with attention-getting signage to draw customers in.
CUSTOMER SERVICE Gordy’s philosophy of offering excellent customer service comes from the top down. In floral, it means a full-service department that can offer customers the styles they want.
THE RIGHT PRODUCTS The floral department stocks products that are the right selections and price points for the store’s demographics.



full-service shop
     Also important to customers is the level of service the department provides. Ms. Malloy and a staff of five or six part-time florists offer a full-range of floral services, including custom designs, weddings and funerals. They keep the six-door floral cooler fully stocked with designs for shoppers to grab and go and also will create arrangements for customers while they shop.
     The store also offers delivery through a courier service twice a day, but if a customer needs a delivery outside the designated times, the store will use its own van. “One way or another, it gets delivered on time,” Mr. Weiss affirms. The store charges $7 for in-town deliveries and $15 for those outside the city limits.

careful product selection
     Ms. Malloy says she carefully considers her customer demographics when choosing products and price points. Her store is in a more blue-collar area of town, and “We need to be more competitively priced or at least have a good value for the price,” she observes. Ms. Malloy, who also manages and buys for the self-service floral department in one of Gordy’s Chippewa Falls stores, sources floral products from wholesalers and Supervalu, receiving shipments three times a week.
     Color also is important to Gordy’s customers. Ms. Malloy describes the department’s signature item as roses by the stem in several color choices, including red, pink, white, orange, yellow, lavender and bicolors. “We sell a lot of roses that way,” Ms. Malloy says, at $2 a stem.
     Bouquets with bright, eye-catching flowers such as Gerberas, carnations and Alstroemerias are a top seller at $4 to $6 each. Arrangements start at $7 for bud vases and go to about $30 for larger designs. A favorite for gift-giving is a design that uses a coffee mug as the container so the recipient will have a usable keepsake. Another popular one is a cube-shaped container filled with Gerberas.
     The store carries both blooming and foliage plants although Ms. Malloy says blooming sells better, probably due to the long winters in Wisconsin. “It’s cold and wintry here for five or six months, and so even before we get spring, people want that color,” she remarks. Favorite blooming plants include Cyclamens in 6-inch pots for $13, African violets in 4-inch pots for $5 and Gerberas in 4-inch pots for $7.99.
     Giftware sells well, too. The selection includes picture frames, decorative vases, plush and candles. Gift bags and tissue paper also are available for added convenience. “It’s easy for people to come in and pick something up on their way to a party,” Ms. Malloy says.

  christmas: all about poinsettias

     At the floral department in Gordy’s County Market in Eau Claire, Wis., Christmas means poinsettias. Last holiday season, the company sold more than 1,000 pots to area churches alone, on top of the many sold in the store.
     “I have to tell myself every year that the only thing I’m going to sell is poinsettias,” Patty Malloy, floral manager/buyer, says with a laugh. “The week before Christmas we do a fair amount of pine arrangements, but beyond that, I cut back on bouquets and other types of plants because it is strictly a poinsettia holiday.”
     Ms. Malloy says she first targeted churches for poinsettia sales in 1989, and she now serves more than 30 churches. She offers a 5 percent discount off the usual $7.99 price for the plants. To keep things simple, she doesn’t give the churches preferences in colors for pot covers.
     Last year, she recalls, “it seemed like they all wanted their poinsettias on the 22nd of December.” She had two pallets of plants delivered on one day to her store, and after counting out the plants for each church and marking the boxes with the names and addresses, they were delivered to their destinations the next day.
     Ms. Malloy orders her Christmas products in early November and creates displays midmonth. For in-store poinsettia promotions, she showcases the plants on what she calls a “poinsettia tree” in her department. It’s a three-tiered hexagon fixture that she covers with a holiday print on the bottom, like a Christmas tree skirt, and displays the plants on.
     In addition, the floral department has a mass display of poinsettias in an open area of the store near produce. Ms. Malloy has found that early in the season, nontraditional colors including painted poinsettias sell well, and closer to Christmas, the reds are strong.
     The entire store gets into the Christmas spirit, offering an open house around Thanksgiving. The store departments decorate their areas, tables are set up for product sampling and floral showcases arrangements. “It’s a very busy two days,” says Ben Weiss, store manager, and serves as a great way to get customers into the store and excited about its Christmas products.
     Ms. Malloy says she hasn’t yet made plans for her Christmas 2008 display, but one thing’s for sure: Poinsettias will be a big part of it.



trained florists
     The floral department has a strong training program to ensure employees are offering top-notch service. Ms. Malloy starts new employees with an orientation, followed by instruction in basic design and later more advanced arrangements. Employees also attend training offered about three times a year in the area by the Wisconsin & Upper Michigan Florists Association (WUMFA).
     Ms. Malloy, who has more than 25 years in the floral business, including experience in traditional retail floral shops, a silk flower shop and a greenhouse, keeps her own skills up to date through the WUMFA seminars. She also enters WUMFA design contests, and won two first-place awards this past spring. In addition, she attends wholesalers’ design shows and The Super Floral Show, and she reads trade publications.
      The continual training is part of the floral department’s strategy to stay on top of trends and be a destination for shoppers. Comments Ms. Malloy, “I have people that come from the other end of Eau Claire just to buy flowers from our floral department, so we know we’re drawing people.” sfr

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

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