San Francisco-area gourmet supermarkets delight their savvy customers with premium flowers perfect for entertaining.
by Cynthia L. McGowan
Draeger’s Markets is a four-store, family-owned company that bills itself as “an epicurean adventure.” The San Francisco-area upscale stores wow customers with a heady mixture of fresh colorful florals, gourmet fare and dazzling merchandising for an effect that The New York Times once likened to a “veritable supermarket Disneyland.”
Draeger’s stores are located in or near the affluent Silicon Valley, the area of Northern California that is home to high-tech companies and their high-income employees. The company has chosen to make these well-to-do customers its primary market by specializing in fine foods; premium florals, wines and housewares; and excellent customer service.
|| draeger's markets
HEADQUARTERS South San Francisco, Calif.
OWNERS The Draeger family
CHAIRMAN, CEO, PRESIDENT James Draeger
SALES $76.5 million in 2006, according to the Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
STORES Four, all in the San Francisco area: Danville, Los Altos, Menlo Park and San Mateo (flagship store)
STORE SIZE Danville, 43,000 square feet; Los Altos, 22,000; Menlo Park, 48,000; San Mateo, 64,000
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE Averages about 200 square feet
EMPLOYEES About 600 total
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Averages two per store
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral departments including weddings, funerals, events, delivery and FTD flowers-by-wire service
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAYS Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving
FLORAL DIRECTOR Clarence Fung
WEB SITE www.draegers.com
"pleasures of the table"
“Our theme as a company is that we represent the pleasures of the table,” says Richard Draeger, company co-owner and vice president. Toward that end, Draeger’s offers all the ingredients for what it calls on its Web site “an incomparable culinary experience.”
The flagship store in San Mateo is 64,000 square feet of sensory delights. Customers enter through a light-filled, two-story atrium and are greeted by a floral department brimming with fragrant and brightly colored flowers and plants. The store’s stylish décor of blond woods, off-white accents and track lighting is designed to put visitors in the mood to linger over their shopping.
The huge produce department boasts more than 500 varieties of fresh selections available every day. The bakery prepares a delectable assortment of cakes, pastries and breads made from scratch. More than 250 varieties of cheese can be found in the cheese department, including handcrafted imports from Europe. The wine department has 20,000 bottles of wine from more than 2,500 selections. The meat department specializes in aged Midwest-ern beef and pork, and offers house-made sausage. Made-to-order sushi is available at the sushi bar, and fresh caviar is flown in from the Caspian Sea.
An escalator takes shoppers upstairs to the housewares department, branded as Draeger’s HOME, where they can find a large assortment of high-end cookware, tableware and party goods as well as more than 3,000 cookbooks. “The housewares department is a very popular department,” Mr. Draeger says, “and, in fact, it’s a very prominent part of our format.”
Brands represented in the houswares department include All-Clad Metal-crafters, Viking Range Corp., Le Creuset and Venetian glass maker Salviati. Customers also can order housewares at Draeger’s Web site, www.draegers.com, and a recent search found a beautiful vase from Salviati for $395. Another listing offered a trio of products from Match, Inc.: a wine cooler for $400, a wine decanter for $295 and a “Toscana Round Casserole” for $600.
Draeger’s also has a year-round cooking school, with classes taught by renowned chefs such as Jacques Pépin and Charlie Trotter. The classes, ranging from $55 to $75 a person to attend, often are sold out.
The San Mateo store even has an upscale, white tablecloth restaurant, Viognier, which is named for a grape variety originating from the Northern Rhône region of France. Draeger’s Web site says its fare “blends classic French techniques with California’s bounty of fresh food.” A menu posted online shows entrées ranging from $24 to $45. It received the “Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence” from 2002 to 2007.
|| keys to success
MERCHANDISING The floral departments are at the front of the stores, and the emphasis is on color to catch customers’ eyes. Draeger’s Markets’ Vice President Richard Draeger says the displays entice customers to touch and feel the florals, which encourages them to buy.
FRESH FLORALS Floral products are sourced from mostly local growers and wholesalers, and supplemented by imports. The flowers go to a central warehouse for processing and are sent to the stores the same day. Stores receive floral deliveries every day.
CUSTOMER SERVICE The company emphasizes its commitment to customers by offering full-service floral departments that can handle weddings, funerals, special events and more. Mr. Draeger comments, “They come to depend upon us for every single type of floral need that they’ve got.”
GETTING THE WORD OUT Draeger’s advertises its florals in local weekly newspapers and on its Web site. Internet reviews and repeat customers also help spread good word-of-mouth.
floral's important role
Floral has a key role in Draeger’s emphasis on the pleasures of the table. “It’s all about entertaining,” Mr. Draeger remarks. “It’s really what customers come to us for,” and that includes flowers for those social occasions, including dinner parties, events and weddings. And although Mr. Draeger declined to give specific sales figures, he did say that floral is an important department for Draeger’s.
Most floral sales are impulse, thanks to the departments’ prominent locations at the entrances to all four stores and to their colorful and fresh offerings. Floral Director Clarence Fung says the departments received that prime space thanks to the philosophy of the late Frank Draeger, one of the company’s founders. “His comment was that the flowers set the tone for the store,” Mr. Fung recalls.
In San Mateo, that tone is one of freshness and variety. A huge island of bouquets, grower bunches and flowers by the stem, all in metallic buckets, dominates the center of the department. Long rows of blooming plants, including orchids, Hydrangeas, tulips and more, entice customers to walk over and peruse the offerings. A cooler full of creative and upscale arrangements beckons customers to take them home. The floral offerings are pleasingly offset by dramatic black, gray and white ceramic flooring.
The idea is to catch customers’ attention with a burst of color, Mr. Fung reports. “We emphasize setting up the stand as colorful and fresh as possible,” he says.
Underscoring the commitment to freshness, the stores get floral deliveries every day. The company obtains most of its floral products from local growers, especially from nurseries in the fertile Half Moon Bay area of California. Mr. Fung also goes to the San Francisco Wholesale Flower Mart every morning at about 3:30 to procure fresh local flowers and plants. In addition, the company sources products from South American growers through its wholesalers.
Mr. Fung does most of the buying for the stores, but floral managers do have the ability to buy products for their stores that fit their own clientele. Florals that Mr. Fung buys first go to the company’s warehouse in South San Francisco, where they are processed and sent to the stores the same day.
The company doesn’t proclaim its freshness in signage, preferring to let the florals speak for themselves. Mr. Draeger says the stores cater to highly educated, discerning consumers who expect fresh florals. “The customers are very sophisticated, and they sure know what they’re buying,” he comments.
Mr. Fung agrees with Mr. Draeger’s assessment of the company’s floral customers. “They’re the sharpest buyers around,” he says. “They’ll tell you when something is not right.”
|| the word on the 'net
Draeger’s Markets has received overwhelmingly positive reviews on the consumer review Web site www.yelp.com, which calls itself the “ultimate city guide.” Yelp gave Draeger’s four out of five stars based on 130 consumer reviews. Here is a sampling of those comments.
• “I come here mostly for the flowers, bakery, cards and water, but there is practically everything you need here.”
• “Where to begin? The amazing flower selection, better than most flower shops? The upstairs “gift center” and housewares bigger and better than Macy’s? Or just the overall amazing imported foods, deli items and organic selections.”
• “I love their little flower shop! I can never seem to find good Oriental lilies in the city, and it was such a surprise that Draeger’s has beautiful, high-end florist-quality lilies that I’ve never seen before. Another plus is when your special someone surprises you and you come home to a vaseful of them sitting on your desk.”
• “This is a great store to browse in ... it has so many interesting foods—sauces, marinades, spices, chocolates. Looking at the international food section is like traveling around the world in 30 seconds. Their desserts are scrumptious, their floral department is beautifully perfect, their deli department has great food to go, and their cookware department upstairs is divine.”
To satisfy these savvy customers, Draeger’s offers large bunches and bouquets of premium grade flowers. “They absolutely want large bunches,” Mr. Draeger remarks, “because they reside in these fairly large homes,” and a little arrangement won’t look right. “It’s got to have presence.”
Draeger’s has started offering customers its own bouquets that a designer creates in the warehouse. Mr. Fung says customers are responding well to the bouquets, which sport seasonal and specialty flowers like snapdragons and Gerberas and retail for $24 and $36. The company also offers vendor-created bouquets, featuring flowers including chrysanthemums and carnations, selling for $14 to $20. Mr. Fung says the Draeger-created bouquets have more stems than the vendor bouquets.
The stores offer flowers by the stem, but customers prefer grower bunches, Mr. Fung says. The most popular bunch is 10 stems of locally grown Irises for $9. He also reports that locally grown tuberoses do well, selling for three stems for $7.99. Indeed, in an online customer review of Draeger’s, a shopper wrote, “The tuberose flowers here are one of a kind. I can’t help but come in every few weeks and pick some up for my home.” (For more reviews, see “The Word on the ’Net,” Page 26.)
Blooming plants do well, Mr. Fung says, especially Hydrangeas. They retail for $19.99 for 6-inch pots with four or more blooms. Tulips are also popular, selling for $12.99 for 6-inch pots. Foliage plants aren’t as strong, but he reports recently selling a ponytail palm for $160.
The company does a good business with orchid plants, Mr. Fung remarks, especially Phalaenopses at $36 for a 6-inch pot. Draeger’s doesn’t offer cut orchids often but will take special orders from customers for them. “That’s my job, to get what the customer wants,” Mr. Fung says.
meeting customers' needs
That attitude toward customers infuses the whole culture at Draeger’s. Observes Mr. Draeger, “We’re going to pretty much give them whatever it is they want.” In floral, that means a full-service department that can handle customers’ every floral need.
Shoppers can have arrangements created while they shop, they can call ahead on a direct line to the floral department to discuss and order custom designs, or they can choose from stylish arrangements arrayed in the fully stocked coolers. Prices for arrangements range from $35 to $95 and up, Mr. Fung says, and all are made in the stores or the warehouse.
The company usually hires floral employees with previous experience and then trains them in the Draeger’s philosophy of freshness and quality. Says Mr. Fung, “I tell everyone I hire, and the floral managers, ‘If you wouldn’t take it home, then take it off the shelf.’”
You may reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan by e-mail at
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