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Store Profile

Focus on the future


Commitment to training keeps Dick’s Piggly Wiggly’s floral designers ahead of trends.


by Cynthia L. McGowan

Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, Inc. keeps shoppers coming back to its full-service floral departments by offering cutting-edge designs, fresh products and excellent service. One of the keys to the nine-store chain’s high customer satisfaction is its commitment to employee training.
Dick’s Piggly Wiggly is a subsidiary of wholesaler Fresh Brands, Inc., of Sheboygan, Wis., and most of its nine stores are in southwestern Wisconsin, with one each in Illinois and Iowa. The company, originally called Dick’s Supermarkets, was purchased by Fresh Brands in 2001, and the name was changed in 2006.
The company philosophy, says Floral Specialist Diane Schulte, is, “We’re here for our customers to give them the best product and the best service we can, from the top down.” Dick’s Piggly Wiggly takes pride in offering an extensive deli department, a wide selection of fresh produce and quality meats that include Certified Angus Beef.
 
 
dick’s piggly wiggly, inc.
 
 
HEADQUARTERS Sheboygan, Wis.
PARENT COMPANY Fresh Brands, Inc., a subsidiary of Certified Grocers Midwest, Inc.
STORES Seven in Wisconsin, one in Illinois and one in Iowa
DICK'S PIGGLY WIGGLY SALES $85.9 million (estimated) in 2006, according to Hoovers, Inc.
EMPLOYEES 794
FLORAL SERVICES All nine stores have full-service floral departments, offering custom designs, sympathy and wedding work, delivery and FTD flowers-by-wire
FLORAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO SALES 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent of Dick’s Piggly Wiggly’s sales comes from floral
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAY Valentine’s Day
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Three per store, on average
FLORAL SPECIALIST Diane Schulte
WEB SITE www.shopthepig.com

 

the blooming basket
In floral, the company’s commitment to quality is evident from the moment customers see the departments, most of which are at the front of the stores. Floral is important to Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, Ms. Schulte says, “because we realize that it draws in a lot of customers to the store.”
It does so with an inviting selection of fresh flowers, blooming plants, silk designs and giftware, all in an upscale “store-within-a-store” setting. Some of the departments, called The Blooming Basket, are located in alcoves in the stores, with their own tile flooring, giving the effect of separate floral shops.
Each Blooming Basket has, on average, three full-time floral designers. The Monroe, Wis., location—the chain’s largest—has five full-timers and three part-timers.
New hires undergo extensive education through the use of training manuals that Ms. Schulte wrote. They also watch videotapes and “work side by side with the designers in the department or me to learn the basics of the floral department,” Ms. Schulte says.

design seminars
But the training doesn’t end with basic floral techniques. Dick’s Piggly Wiggly floral employees have the opportunity to receive training throughout the year in an effort to bring fresh, new ideas and cutting-edge designs to customers.
“There’s just so much out there in the floral industry to utilize and learn and to make your job exciting and new,” remarks Ms. Schulte, who says taking advantage of learning opportunities helped her advance in the company, where she started as a designer and worked her way to her present position in 1999. She arranges seminars for the floral employees about twice a year on topics she chooses, and a recent seminar was about new and updated sympathy designs. “I wanted anything but basic,” she says.
Ms. Schulte teaches the classes herself or hires florists who are members of the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD). If she hires out, she helps the instructors write the curriculum.
Dick’s Piggly Wiggly often partners with the company’s wholesalers to conduct the training, and the wholesalers supply products, share the cost and often provide lunch. “They’ve been great to work with and very supportive,” Ms. Schulte says. “They figure the more [the designers] learn and know, the more we purchase. It comes back both ways.” The seminars take place at the wholesalers’ locations or in company meeting rooms.
All of the floral managers go to the training. If a store has enough employees, it will send a second designer to the training, too.
Floral employees have other opportunities for training, too. The Wisconsin & Upper Michigan Florists Association (WUMFA) has a Center for Education that travels around the region and teaches courses on floral design. “Anybody who wants to go to them can,” Ms. Schulte says of Dick’s Piggly Wiggly floral employees. “We pay the fees for the classes.”

 
keys to success
 
 
TRAINING Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, Inc. emphasizes continuing education to keep floral employees on top of trends.
DESIGNS Customers respond well to Dick’s Piggly Wiggly’s stylish designs, making arrangements the No. 1-selling floral product.
FRESH PRODUCTS Floral employees follow care-and-handling procedures to make sure customers are getting flowers that will last.
GIFTWARE The floral specialist and managers attend gift shows to find new products.
MERCHANDISING The departments, called The Blooming Basket, look fresh and inviting, and merchandising displays change often to keep customers’ interest.
SERVICE The stores offer custom designs, wedding services, funeral tributes and delivery. Each store makes from 10 to 50 deliveries a day.

 

trying new ideas
It’s an investment appreciated by the floral designers. “They just love [the training] because it re-energizes them,” Ms. Schulte notes. “They love getting together with each other and sharing ideas and just comparing notes. And they just love coming back and digging in and trying new things and seeing how the customers react.”
That’s a point echoed by Julie Kline, floral manager of the Monroe store. “It’s exciting to go to the classes,” she says, “because we usually immediately put what we’ve learned into play.”
For example, Ms. Kline says, the recent sympathy seminar yielded an easel design she had never tried before. She took it back to her shop, “and I bet we made a dozen. They’re beautiful, and no one else has done it” in the area.
“It’s fun to be able to give something new to the community. And people like it, and they come back and ask for it,” she says.

stylish designs
That response to Dick’s Piggly Wiggly’s designs has made arrangements the company’s top floral product. Ms Schulte reports selling about 300 tabletop designs on an average week.
“We try to be very trendy with our floral design,” she says, citing the use of linear techniques, stylish containers and specialty flowers including callas, Hydrangeas, tropicals and colorful Florigene Ltd. carnations. Prices range from $10 for vase designs to more than $100 for elaborate arrangements. Customers can order ahead, choose designs from the coolers or have them made while they shop.
Ms. Kline agrees that The Blooming Baskets have set a standard for quality in their communities. “Our shop in this small town [population 10,700] is known for its current, updated design,” she says, adding that nothing is sold unless it is “meticulously perfect.”

 
why the name?
 
 
According to Piggly Wiggly’s Web site, www.shopthepig.com, the origins of the company’s name remain a mystery. Clarence Saunders, who founded the company in 1916 in Memphis, Tenn., was “curiously reluctant” to explain the name’s origin, the company says.
The Web site goes on to say: “One story is that he saw from a train window several
little pigs struggling to get under a fence, and the rhyming name occurred to him then. Someone once asked him why he had chosen such an unusual name for his organization, and Saunders’ reply was, ‘So people will ask that very question.’ He wanted and found a name that would be talked about and remembered.”
Today, there are more than 600 Piggly Wiggly stores in 16 states, primarily in the Southeast. Most are independently owned and operated.

 

procedures for freshness
Achieving that standard means offering not only stylish designs but also flowers that are fresh and long lasting. The Blooming Baskets’ tagline is “The Fresh Difference,” and the floral operation takes steps to make sure that’s more than just a slogan. “We take pride in having the freshest product around,” Ms. Schulte says.
Products, which are procured from two area wholesalers and from Fresh Brands’ distribution center, are delivered to the stores six days a week. Flowers and plants that aren’t sold within seven days are pulled from the shelves, “so the customers get the best benefit of the life of the products,” Ms. Schulte says.
Training comes into play in this area, too. Ms. Schulte has developed a care-and-handling policy for the stores to follow to make sure that all floral products are properly processed.

department “ownership”
To ensure the stores have the right products for their customers, floral managers do their own ordering. They choose from products Ms. Schulte coordinates through the distribution center and wholesalers, and they also can order directly from wholesalers if they have special needs.
“They know what happens day to day in their departments as far as the ebb and flow of sales, and it gives them ownership of their departments,” Ms. Schulte says. “It makes them more in charge of what they buy so they can keep a tight grip on merchandise markdowns or shrink.”
Floral managers also accompany Ms. Schulte to gift shows in Chicago, Ill., at least once a year. “They can ask sales reps questions so they understand the product lines,” Ms. Schulte says, “and they’re able to sell the products better by informing customers of what the trends are with the gift items.”
Ms. Kline says her customers like the department’s line of quality, trendy giftware, which includes candles, plush, statuary and garden rocks. “It’s uniquely different, and they don’t have to go out of town to get it,” she says.

 
thriving wedding business
 
 
Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, Inc. provides complete wedding services including set-up, if requested. The company handles as many as five weddings per weekend per store.
Wedding prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. “We have a huge one coming up this summer that I’m proud of,” confides Diane Schulte, floral specialist. “It’s over $15,000.”
The company gets its wedding business through bridal fairs and referrals from satisfied couples. Ms. Schulte also sends letters to newly engaged women offering the company’s services. She gets their names from the bridal fairs and by reading the engagement announcements in local newspapers.

 

bouquets and plants
Other popular products in the departments are bouquets, the company’s No. 2 floral product after arrangements. Ms. Schulte estimates the company sells 25 to 30 cases a week, with a case holding an average of 15 bouquets. She has found that customers prefer lower-priced bouquets—$3.99 or $5.99—and that a $7.99 bouquet is “stretching it.”
A typical $5.99 bouquet has six to eight stems of carnations, spray mums and other flowers. On the week Super Floral Retailing spoke with Ms. Schulte, the featured $5.99 bouquet was composed of glittered, tricolored daisies.
The most popular plants are 4.5-inch blooming plants, priced at $3.99 to $5.99. Larger plants sell well for sympathy work and hospital deliveries. “The smaller sizes are more the impulse buys,” Ms. Schulte says. To encourage those impulse sales, each department merchandises the smaller plants on a table at the front.
Other merchandising efforts include weekly displays that promote products featured in the company’s newspaper ads. The company usually features three products in the ads.
During holidays, Dick’s Piggly Wiggly also gets the word out about its floral products through radio advertising, merchandising displays, in-store signage, cross-merchandising and coupons that are sent out with flower deliveries.

praise from customers
But the most effective way to spread the word about one’s business is by keeping customers happy and coming back. For Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, that means giving customers over-the-top service in addition to high-quality products.
Ms. Schulte’s floral training for new employees includes customer service. “We have certain steps that we make sure they’re doing and learning,” she says, such as greeting customers with smiles and using the correct phone etiquette.
And customers respond to Dick’s Piggly Wiggly’s formula for success. “We receive many accolades on the freshness of our products and the uniqueness of our designs,” Ms. Schulte remarks. “At times, [customers] will mention, ‘I especially enjoyed the special touches that you put into the design or even just the special care you gave me. You made the product what I wanted it to be.’”
Ms. Kline says she hears such comments from customers, too. “We’re always getting personal thank-yous,” she says. “And that makes it all worthwhile.”

Photos courtesy of Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, Inc.

You may reach Cynthia L. McGowan at cmcgowan@superfloralretailing.com or by phone at (800) 355-8086.


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