Focused on customer satisfaction
Friendly, knowledgeable florists enhance the shopping experience at this Milwaukee-based grocery company.
by Cynthia L. McGowan
Engage the customer. That’s how Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc. approaches retailing, and in floral, it means innovative merchandising; customer-focused employees; and fresh, date-coded products that keep shoppers coming back for more.
Roundy’s, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., is a company on the move, growing from 61 stores in 2002 to 153 today and earning it a place on Stores magazine’s 2006 list of the nation’s fastest-growing retailers. Roundy’s gained those stores mostly through acquisitions after it was purchased in 2002 by private equity firm Willis Stein & Partners of Chicago, Ill., and transitioned from a grocery cooperative/wholesaler to a strictly retail operation. The $4.0 billion company now operates four banners in Wisconsin and Minnesota: Pick ’n Save, Copps, Rainbow and Metro Market.
|| roundy's supermarkets, inc.
HEADQUARTERS Milwaukee, Wis.
CHAIRMAN AND CEO Robert Mariano
OWNERSHIP Privately owned by Willis Stein & Partners of Chicago, Ill.
STORES 153, under four banners: Pick ‘n Save (94), Rainbow (31), Copps (27) and Metro Market (1), in Wisconsin and Minnesota
SALES $4.0 billion in fiscal year 2007, according to the Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
STORE SIZE 25,000 to 130,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT size Average 600 to 1,000 square feet
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Average two to four per store
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral departments in most stores; some have FTD and Teleflora flowers-by-wire service
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAYS Mother’s Day, followed by Valentine’s Day
DIRECTOR OF FLORAL OPERATIONS And PROCUREMENT Kathy Hession
FLORAL CATEGORY MANAGER Rebecca Eckblad
WEB SITE www.roundys.com
corporate support for floral
Nearly all 153 stores have full-service floral departments, and corporate support for floral starts at the top. “Floral adds a tremendous point of distinction in our stores,” says Robert Mariano, Roundy’s chairman and CEO. “The colors and textures really set off the entire store, and our customers love it.”
In fact, Mr. Mariano has served as a past Super Floral Show speaker. “On many occasions he has walked the show floor to show his support for our floral team,” remarks Kathy Hession, director of floral operations and procurement. “I don't think I’ve ever been to a presentation of his where he hasn’t mentioned his flower shops to the audience.”
Mr. Mariano’s support includes the resources to make sure that floral programs created at the corporate level are well executed at all four banners. The corporate floral team includes Ms. Hession, a 2004 Produce Marketing Association Floral Marketer of the Year and a Super Floral Retailing editorial adviser who joined Roundy’s in 2004; a floral category manager; a category analyst; an assistant buyer; five merchandisers; an administrative assistant; and a liaison to the company’s district directors.
“Clear and direct communication” is the key to getting the same message to all the floral departments, comments Rebecca Eckblad, the floral category manager. Every week, she sends out a “road map” that lays out, two weeks in advance, promotions, featured advertising items, display expectations and more.
“It addresses every department in what they should be doing,” Ms. Hession says, calling it “our bible.” The floral merchandisers use the road map to execute each week’s plan in the stores.
For holidays, Ms. Hession prepares a “fine points” document that includes day-by-day instructions for the two weeks leading up to the event. “It’s everything that they need to know to execute successful holidays, from their schedule, to the hours, the merchandising plan, to the ad items, to the delivery dates,” she comments.
Ms. Hession and Ms. Eckblad also have weekly conference calls with the merchandisers to discuss how the programs are working at store level and any issues that arise. To address immediate needs, e-mails are sent to the floral managers through the company’s internal communication network, called “Connect.”
setting the tone
The floral departments’ locations in the stores vary, but new stores showcase floral at the front, usually next to produce. “Those two departments really set the tone of the store,” Ms.Eckblad observes.
Most new Roundy’s stores in each banner are built in the company’s “fresh store” concept, an upscale format that focuses on perishables and “has all the amenities,” Ms. Hession says, such as olive and soup bars; an in-store bakery; and expanded produce, meat, seafood, organic and natural foods sections. Ms. Hession says the floral program for the fresh and conventional stores, known in the company as “core stores,” is the same although there are some differences. For example, the floral team determined fresh store customers are more willing to buy larger bouquets with higher price points than core store customers, so smaller, similar bouquets were designed for the core stores at lower price points. The fresh stores have the company’s more experienced managers and designers, and they handle more event work than other locations.
The floral departments in both fresh store and core store formats, ranging in size from 600 to 1,000 square feet, brim with colorful, seasonal products. “Fresh is our focus,” Ms. Eckblad says, and stylish display fixtures and soothing green walls provide an ideal backdrop to showcase the floral offerings.
A large area of the department is devoted to the European Flower Market, where customers can choose from more than 28 varieties of flowers in consumer bunches, including roses, Gerberas, lilies and chrysanthemums, at three bunches for $12. The flowers are arranged by color for maximum impact and ease of shopping. Each European Flower Market has its own unique statuary to draw customers in, such as a cherub, an Asian goddess or a fountain.
Shadow boxes or glass shelving puts the spotlight on high-end giftware selections. The floral team keeps an eye out for trendy décor pieces and stocks only a few of each piece, selling them for as much as $50.
Color is an important element of Roundy’s merchandising. Roses, a signature item for the company, are arranged in the coolers by color. For example, one door may showcase all red roses, with an eye-catching red-rose arrangement on the top shelf and buckets of red roses on the lower shelves. Another door may hold pink roses in the same configuration. Color also is the reason Roundy’s chooses to stock mostly blooming plants rather than foliage plants.
The look of the departments changes often to keep customers’ interest although the fixtures stay in the same place. “We feel the layout of the department has to stay consistent regardless of what store you’re shopping at and regardless of what week you’re shopping,” Ms. Eckblad comments. “Consistency is key. When you walk into a grocery store, you always know where to find the milk. You should always know where to find the roses, just the same.” Floral managers’ creativity comes into play with themes, color choices and product selection from the corporate order guides.
|| keys to success
CUSTOMER SERVICE Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc. seeks to eng age customers, aiming to enhance the shopping experience and boost shopper loyalty. Every customer is expected to be acknowledged by an employee.
FRESHNESS Roundy’s date-codes all its floral products, helping ensure customers get maximum life for their products.
HOURS The floral departments are staffed during key traffic patterns so customers will have florists available when they need them. Hours go as late as 9 p.m. daily in some stores, and they are extended on holidays.
encouraging impulse sales
Most floral departments offer custom designs and prom services—a “huge” business for Roundy’s, Ms. Hession says—and some handle weddings and funerals. The biggest sales, however, come from impulse buys. “We’re in the business of providing for last-minute needs,” Ms. Eckblad says, and that includes creating arrangements for customers while they shop.
The company encourages those impulse sales in a variety of creative ways. It has a weekend “baker’s dozen plus one” rose promotion every Thursday through Sunday, offering 14 60-centimeter roses for $12.99. The bunches are available only at the entrance to the stores to encourage both impulse and incremental sales, and “they’re very popular,” Ms. Hession comments.
Another strategy works in tandem with the bakery department. “Bakery’s a big one for us, even on a weekly basis,” Ms. Hession remarks. When the bakery managers take orders for birthday cakes, they ask the customers if they need balloons. Floral managers also check the cake orders midweek to see what types have been ordered, and they inflate complementary balloons so they’re ready when customers come in to pick up their cakes.
But the most effective tactic by far is talking with and engaging customers, Ms. Hession reveals. “Engaging the customer is a big thing,” she says. “We found out that 80 percent of the customers will purchase what they pick up, so if we’re there and we suggest, ‘Smell this hyacinth,’ nine times out of 10 they’re going to walk away with it. But you have to have that interaction.”
To encourage such interaction, Roundy’s designed the floral departments so that florists do all their work, including designing and processing, in full view of customers. “There are no back rooms,” Ms. Hession points out. Even the backup cooler is on the sales floor. The idea is to have the floral staff on the floor at all times, engaging with shoppers.
customer service as a core value
And that kind of engagement is a key part of Roundy’s emphasis on customer service, which Ms. Hession calls “one of our most precious commodities. And not just in floral; customer service is just No. 1 with us. It is such a core value.”
Roundy’s makes sure employees maintain their focus on customer service through training and talking points. The floral team offers “shift starters,” one-page fliers that give florists ideas on what to say to shoppers about their products. For example, if a customer is interested in orchids, a shift starter gives the floral manager “things to say to engage the customer, like where they originally came from and the care and handling,” Ms. Hession says.
The weekly road map also offers selling points. The more florists know about their products, Ms. Hession observes, “the easier it is for them to communicate with the customers.”
To make sure employees are giving customers topnotch florals, Roundy’s also offers continual training in design and care and handling. At a companywide event last fall, floral managers attended seminars on both designing with fresh products and balloons. Roundy’s also is planning to send all the floral managers to a design workshop at a Chicago wholesaler. They’ll go in groups of 25 over a four-day period.
In addition to keeping skills updated, the training serves to re-energize the floral staff. After the workshops, Ms. Eckblad shares, floral managers say “they can’t wait to get back to work the next day; they’re so motivated and so excited to put to use some of the things that they saw or learned. It’s just this whole new energy that’s created out of those training sessions, and you can feel it in the stores for weeks and months after, an excitement and enthusiasm level that’s dynamite.”
And they’re enthusiastic to begin with, Ms. Hession says. “It’s more than just a job” to them, she comments. Floral managers are competitive and try to outdo each other in sales. That competitive streak is encouraged with merchandising and sales contests, weekly monitoring of sales and a “top 20” list of stores by sales that goes out on the road map.
|| classes for customers
One way the floral departments at Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc. engage customers is through design workshops in the stores. The only cost to attendees is an inexpensive vase for their arrangements; vendors supply the flowers for free.
Customers love the seminars, reports Kathy Hession, director of floral operations and procurement, who has received thank-you notes from attendees. Floral managers also enjoy sharing their talents with customers.
Best of all, customers get to know their local floral managers by name, says Rebecca Eckblad, floral category manager. “The next time customers have a floral need, they’re going to think of us and that floral manager first, and they’re going to think of them as their neighborhood florist.”
Adds Ms. Hession, “And that’s our goal, to be the florist of choice in your neighborhood.”
The departments’ best-selling products are bouquets, starting at $6.99. Higher-end bouquets include lilies, roses, Gerberas and unusual foliages like lily grass. All bouquets are hand-tied. “The construction behind them is wonderful,” Ms. Eckblad shares.
The consumer bunches in the European Flower Market also are good sellers.
Customers “love selecting and mixing-and-matching and making their own arrangements,” Ms. Eckblad observes. Growing in popularity is a flowers-by-the-stem program in the fresh stores. Single stems include peonies, Oriental lilies, Viburnums, Hydrangeas, orchids, gingers, birds-of-paradise and Proteas.
Roses in any form—consumer bunches, bouquets, arrangements and stems, from 60 centimeters to 80 centimeters—are hot sellers. A dozen roses for $50 are customers’ favorite arrangement, but Ms. Hession says some rose arrangements have sold for as high as $200.
Best-selling blooming plants, from $7.99 to $39.99, include chrysanthemums, azaleas, orchids, Hydrangeas and callas. The departments also offer Gardenia and azalea topiaries.
meeting customers' needs
Roundy’s procures its floral products from South America, Costa Rica, Europe, Canada, California and Florida. Most of the products are sourced directly from vendors, but some stores order from wholesalers to fulfill special orders.
Ms. Eckblad sends the floral managers a weekly order guide with the floral offerings, letting them buy for their needs and customer demographics while allowing a standardized program. Products go to one of three distribution centers and are sent to the stores within two days, ensuring the “absolute freshest product,” Ms. Eckblad says.
That commitment to freshness is the reason the company date-codes all its florals, from bouquets to plants. The company determines how long it takes the flowers to get to the stores from their origin, and then puts a five- or six-day in-store date code on the products. At the end of that period, the products that aren’t sold are thrown away, with no exceptions.
The company doesn’t advertise its date-coding, but customers notice the difference. “Time and time again we hear from the customer how our product outlasted any competitor’s,” Ms. Eckblad shares. “We hear it almost every day.”
And Ms. Hession says ensuring freshness is just another way to provide excellent customer service. “In my mind, we’re the caretaker of that product,” she says. “We don’t own it; we’re just taking care of it. The consumer is the end owner.”
Photos courtesy of Roundy's Supermarkets, Inc.
You may reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan by e-mail at
email@example.com or by phone at (800)