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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (800)
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