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Store Profile

A fresh approach

Harmons underscores its commitment to floral with the addition of a design center.

by Cynthia L. McGowan
 

Harmons, a family-owned, 12-store supermarket chain headquartered in West Valley City, Utah, has focused on offering the freshest selections to customers since the company’s founding in 1932. That intense focus on fresh includes the floral operation, which was revamped in 2002 to include a state-of-the-art distribution and design center.
“Harmons really prides itself on the fresh-food departments,” including floral, produce and meat, says Jack Van Klaveren, the company’s director of floral sales and distribution. And to differentiate itself from “big box” stores and their discount prices, the company has placed even more emphasis on those departments in recent years as it takes a quality, fresh approach to the supermarket experience.
According to the company’s Web site, Harmons was the first “super store”
in Utah, offering services such as a post office, bakery and dry cleaner all under one roof. That flair for innovation continues with the recent remodeling at Harmons’ Brickyard location in Salt Lake City, which Super Floral Retailing toured in June.
The $3.2 million project resulted in a store that offers a complete selection of natural and organic food, with a staff of chefs preparing from scratch gourmet fare like wild salmon, artisan bread and pastries. At the cheese kiosk, customers can select from 80 varieties. Sausage is made in the store. The company has a single-day program for ground beef—if it isn’t sold in 24 hours, it is replaced. The store sells recipe-ready chicken and has one full-time employee devoted to trimming it. Harmons measures fresh in hours, not days.

 
Harmons inc.
 
 
OWNERS The Harmon family; CEO and Chairman Terry Harmon died in August 2006
HEADQUARTERS West Valley City, Utah
STORES 12, all in Utah: Salt Lake City, Orem, Ogden, Roy, St. George and South Jordan
PRESIDENT Dean Peterson
SALES $336 million in 2005, according to The 2006 Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
ESTABLISHED 1932
EMPLOYEES 2,000
AVERAGE STORE SIZE 65,000 to 82,000 square feet
FLORAL EMPLOYEES One to two per store; seven designers in the companywide design center
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service with custom designs, weddings and funerals; delivery; and FTD flowers-by-wire service
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAY Mother’s Day
director, FLORAL SALES AND DISTRIBUTION Jack Van Klaveren
WEB SITE www.harmons.com

 

floral at the front
The fresh approach extends to the floral department, which is in the front of the store near the entrance and the checkout stands, taking up about the width of three supermarket aisles. A banner overhead proclaims: “Harmons, Your Neighborhood Florist. We Do Special Occasions, Great Gift Ideas, Funerals.”
The department has several merchandisers full of lush bouquets and vibrant upgraded blooming and green plants. Mr. Van Klaveren says bouquets, which range from $7.99 to $15.99, previously were displayed in coolers. Moving the bouquets out to where customers can see and touch them more easily increased sales, he says. Bouquets include a 16-stem rose bouquet for $12.99 and a 24-stem bouquet of roses, spray mums, lilies and fillers for $15.99. Pricing signage on bouquets says, “Fresh Selection.”
The company doesn’t offer flowers by the stem, but it sells four consumer bunches for $10 for shoppers to mix and match. Flowers featured in that program include Gerberas, Hypericums, Alstroemerias and spray mums.
Plants include cacti, merchandised in a Mexican-themed vignette, from $1.99 to $3.99; bonsai and lucky bamboo plants displayed together with Asian-style gift items; potted miniature roses for $5.99; and 4-inch azaleas for $6.99.
An octagonal cooler with rotating shelves lets customers see, from all sides, a variety of arrangements ready to grab and go. Arrangements range from $19.99 to $59 and include a dozen-rose vase design for $45.99 and a basket design of lilies, snapdragons and daisy spray mums, also for $45.99.

the design center
All the arrangements sold in the store and at all Harmons floral departments are made at Harmons’ 12,500-square-foot distribution and design center in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley City, about nine miles from downtown Salt Lake City. The design center was opened four years ago as part of Harmons’ effort to enhance its floral operation and add home delivery.
Today, seven full-time designers make arrangements for the stores as well as for all call-in and walk-in orders placed by customers. The design center offers about 30 styles of arrangements to Harmons’ stores and customers, and it also takes special orders. Alma Filipovic, production manager and head designer at the center, says the styles include several vase and basket designs, arrangements for special occasions like anniversaries or new baby arrivals and “designer’s choice,” “where a designer can do something new,” she says.
The stores’ floral managers order arrangements, bouquets and consumer bunches from the distribution center based on their expected needs and customer preferences. Orders are placed two weeks out.

the system
Ms. Filipovic describes an efficient production system. “We make everything fresh,” she says. Arrangements are made for the stores no more than one day ahead of delivery. She makes a daily production schedule of what needs to be made that day in the large, roomy workroom, which has several metal tables with tools and a wall of sinks. As arrangements are finished, they are moved to the distribution center’s 2,000-square-foot cooler.
Work at the design center is organized for maximum productivity. Certain styles are assigned to the same designers, and the arrangements are created in assembly-line fashion to enhance the efficiency of the operation.
That’s because in addition to supplying those arrangements ordered ahead by stores, the designers handle daily call-in and walk-in business. During a typical week, the company’s two refrigerated floral delivery trucks make a total of 60 runs for home deliveries of flowers to a 40-mile area surrounding Salt Lake City, in addition to deliveries to stores. Each truck sports the Harmons logo; phone number; the words “Harmons, Your Neighborhood Florist” and “We deliver”; and a huge, beautiful photo of fresh flowers. The design
center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to noon
on Saturdays.
By taking the design labor out of the stores, the center frees up floral department employees to spend more time interacting with customers. When in-store customers want special orders, they simply place the orders through the floral employees on duty, who in turn convey them to the design center via telephone or online. The orders are delivered the same day either to the stores or to the customers’ homes, according to their preferences.

 
keys to success
 
 
DESIGN CENTER Harmons has an efficient design and distribution center that produces all the arrangements for the company’s 12 stores as well as for events and home delivery.
SKILLED DESIGNERS Several of the designers in the design center had experience in floral before Harmons hired them.
FRESH PRODUCTS The company has a strict seven-day freshness policy, which helps ensure customer satisfaction with their
floral products.
MERCHANDISING AND MARKETING The look of the floral departments changes often to catch the attention of impulse shoppers. Signage in the stores and on the delivery vans also gets the word out about Harmons’ florals. The company advertises floral in its weekly ads.

 

event business
Adding to the design center’s duties is its growing wedding, funeral and event business. The company handles about seven weddings a week during peak wedding season. The company includes set-up and delivery if the couples request it.
Wedding consultations take place in the retail area of the design center, which has the look and feel of a traditional retail floral shop. A cooler holds arrangements for sale, and upgraded plants are attractively merchandised throughout the retail area. Gift items such as plush, candles and candleholders are intermingled with the plants. Ms. Filipovic and the assistant director of the design center, Jaleen Gaisford, handle wedding consultations at a desk near the entrance to the design center.
The company handles big events, too. “We did one party for a girl’s 18th birthday, and her mom wanted a full house of unique bamboo arrangements,” Ms. Filipovic recalls. “It was incredible.” After Ms. Filipovic and the delivery driver set up the arrangements for the party, the mother asked them to stay for a while and introduced Ms. Filipovic to the guests as the floral designer. “I was so proud,” she says.
To make sure the designers create arrangements that will make customers like the 18-year-old’s mother happy, the company endeavors to stay up to date on floral styles. Staff members read magazines and attend trade shows, and Ms. Filipovic, who has relatives in Europe, brings back trends from her visits abroad. In addition, the company tests new arrangement styles in employees’ homes before selling them.

 
training floral employees
 
 
Like many floral operations, Harmons sometimes pulls from other areas of the store to staff its floral departments, often resulting in employees who have no experience in floral and must be trained.
Jack Van Klaveren, Harmons’ director of floral sales and distribution, says he always asks potential employees why they want to work in floral. “The single biggest answer is, ‘Well, I like flowers,’“ he remarks. “I quickly remind them that what we do is a lot of cleaning, a lot of watering, cleaning, and more watering, and so forth, so it’s not what they think it is. Flowers are beautiful, but it’s a lot of work.”
Those who decide to take the challenge go through Harmons’ “Better Basic” program, which gives them an introduction to the floral department including sanitation, product assortment, equipment, marketing and cost management.

 

freshness policy
That commitment to customer satisfaction also includes a strict seven-day freshness policy, Mr. Van Klaveren says. Any floral products not sold after seven days are removed from the shelves. “It may look good, but it’s no longer for sale,” he says. The company also expects that flowers sold before or on the seven-day threshold should last another seven to 10 days in consumers’ homes.
Harmons receives its products from growers in California and South America. Shipments of bouquets and production flowers, mostly drypacked, arrive two to three times a week and are processed by a crew that includes Harmons’ delivery drivers before the designers start working with them. Floral managers order plants directly from growers, and they are delivered to the stores, not to the design center.

repeat customers
The fresh products, stylish designs, appealing merchandising in the stores and addition of delivery appear to be paying off, as Mr. Van Klaveren notes, “We’re more and more becoming a destination for floral.” He reports that the floral operation contributes about 2 percent to total store sales companywide.
Ms. Filipovic says repeat customers are the “best compliments” for the design center. She tells of a businessman who told her that Harmons floral meets all his gift-giving needs. “He doesn’t have time to shop, and he said he finally found a shop that he just has to give an address to and he’s done,” she relates. “He knows that it’s going to be taken care of.” And that’s one of the keys to Harmons’ success—meeting needs, one satisfied shopper at a time.

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


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