the benefits of
Wholesale distributor Bozzuto’s Inc. shows stores how flowers
can grow their bottom lines.
by Cynthia L. McGowan
Bozzuto’s Inc., a wholesale distribution company that serves
more than 700 stores, mostly IGA, from Maine to Maryland, has a
staff dedicated to showing its retailers the benefits of floral.
And that emphasis is paying off, for both the stores and the
company, a 61-year-old family-owned business based in Cheshire,
Bozzuto’s serves a wide range of supermarkets, from low-price
“value” stores to high-end, upscale retailers. The floral
offerings in the stores vary widely, too. Many have full-service
departments, but some are just getting started in floral. “Our
biggest task,” says Jason Brancifort, Bozzuto’s floral category
manager, is to prove to those stores “that they can sell
That also means showing them why floral is important to their
bottom lines. Remarks Greg Veneziano, director of produce and
floral, “We’re really stressing how a nice floral department
increases total store sales.”
To that end, Bozzuto’s offers a wide variety of high-quality
floral products, maintains a state-of-the-art distribution
system that keeps those products fresh and long-lasting, and
provides support and training to the stores it serves.
support for floral
Bozzuto’s serves mostly independent operators and a few chains,
including eight corporate stores under the Adam’s Hometown
Markets banner in Connecticut. Mr. Brancifort says Bozzuto’s
tailors the floral program to meet each store’s needs. “They’re
all different,” he notes, and one program won’t fit all.
Helping Mr. Brancifort and Mr. Veneziano make sure each store
gets that individual, specialized attention are the company’s
floral merchandiser, Patricia Buzzelle, and six produce/floral
merchandisers. And corporate support for floral extends to the
top of the company. Mr. Brancifort says that Michael Bozzuto,
chairman, president and CEO, believes in “promoting florals
through Bozzuto’s as the first thing that our customers are
going to see as they walk into the stores, to present that
freshness and bright color to their customers.” In
Steve Heggelke, senior vice president of merchandising,
procurement and advertising, “is very involved in floral,” Mr. Veneziano says.
That support has resulted in impressive sales gains. While the
company declined to release specific figures, Mr. Brancifort and
Mr. Veneziano did share that Bozzuto’s sales of bouquets have
tripled in the past two years. Plant sales, Mr. Brancifort says,
“are a lot higher than that.”
OWNERS The Bozzuto family; founder Adam
Bozzuto died in 2002
HEADQUARTERS Cheshire, Conn.
STORES SERVED 700; Bozzuto’s Inc. owns eight stores under
the Adam’s Hometown Markets banner, all in Connecticut
CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO Michael A. Bozzuto
SALES $1.1 billion in 2005, according to Supermarket News
FLORAL EMPLOYEES 30 (not including warehouse employees
who also handle floral)
FLORAL SERVICES Stores’ services range from self-service
to full-service with custom designs, weddings and funerals;
Bozzuto’s provides cut flowers, plants and hard goods as well as
merchandising, marketing and administrative support
director, produce and floral Greg Veneziano
FLORAL CATEGORY MANAGER Jason Brancifort
FLORAL MERCHANDISER Patricia Buzzelle
Part of the gain is attributed to Bozzuto’s encouragement of
stores to carry more floral. “We’re getting more customers that
would carry flowers only at Easter to carry flowers on a steady,
consistent basis,” Mr. Veneziano says.
The company is doing that by taking a slow and patient approach.
For example, Ms. Buzzelle might take a case of a “hot item” that
Bozzuto’s is offering and encourage a store to see how it sells
over a weekend. “She’ll come back that following Monday and see
how they did with that one case,” Mr. Brancifort says. “Once we
start to build their confidence, we’ll increase their cases from
one case a weekend to two, three, four and just keep building
Bozzuto’s also works to grow the floral business of stores that
already have floral departments. The independent West Side
Marketplace in Rocky Hill, Conn., for example, saw a nearly 300
percent sales increase during one Easter thanks to Mr. Brancifort’s merchandising assistance. The floral department has
shown so much growth with the help of Bozzuto’s that the store
has added a floral supervisor, Mr. Brancifort reports. “That is
what we are all about at Bozzuto’s, helping our customers
succeed and build business,” he says.
The company also helps stores by sharing the extensive knowledge
of floral that the Bozzuto’s team has. Mr. Brancifort is a
fourth-generation florist who started with Bozzuto’s as a floral
manager at one of the company’s Adam’s Hometown Markets. Mr.
Veneziano once owned commercial greenhouses, and Ms. Buzzelle
has been in the floral industry for more than 30 years.
Bozzuto’s stores tap into that knowledge through the
merchandising help and training the company provides. The
company offers seminars during conferences and regional
merchandising meetings, and the floral team also works
individually with stores, showing them how to build displays and
sell more products. “Our goal is to teach our stores how to
properly merchandise, which translates into additional sales for
our retailers and Bozzuto’s,” Mr. Brancifort says.
Keys to success
MERCHANDISING Bozzuto’s Inc.’s floral team
shows stores how to merchandise effectively and how creative
promotions increase sales, not just in floral but in the whole
PRODUCTS The company is able to meet the needs of its
diverse clientele by tailoring its programs to individual
stores. All products are kept in the cold chain, and the company
works with suppliers to ensure products are high quality.
SERVICES Stores can place last-minute and special orders,
and Bozzuto’s will make sure they get what they need. The
company also provides other support such as weekly newspaper
advertising that features floral items.
EXPERIENCE The members of the floral team have extensive
experience in floral, and they share their knowledge through
training and one-on-one interaction with stores.
the distribution system
Retailers also benefit from the company’s high-tech, newly
expanded distribution center in Cheshire, Conn. Bozzuto’s has
more than a million square feet of warehouse space for all the
products it provides, which range, as Mr. Veneziano puts it,
“from ice cream to floral and everything in between.”
Stores place their floral orders through Mr. Brancifort, usually
about eight to 10 days ahead, but they also can call at the last
minute and add to their orders. “By last minute,” Mr. Veneziano
says, “I mean that a store can call right now and get it on
their truck tonight for tomorrow morning to the store.”
A fleet of about 150 trucks delivers shipments, which also may
include products from other departments. In all, Bozzuto’s
trucks each travel nearly 100,000 miles a year, on average,
delivering about 230 loads a day, according to FleetOwner, a
trucking industry publication.
Stores receive floral deliveries from one to seven days a week,
depending on their volume, and the average is four days a week.
All bouquets are delivered wet-packed, which helps save on labor
at the store level. Mr. Brancifort also includes an
informational sheet on care and handling with each bouquet case,
as well as flower food. “The end result is longer shelf life for
our retailers and longer life for the end users, which has
translated into repeat sales,” he says.
The distribution center has five temperature zones for the
various floral and produce items it handles. “There’s no break
in the cold chain here,” Mr. Brancifort says. Product arriving
at the distribution center “comes right off a refrigerated
truck, goes out to a 34-degree dock and is slotted” for the
correct holding area, such as bouquets in cold rooms or tropical
plants in warmer areas. In addition, the warehouse has a special
machine that prevents ethylene gas from building up.
The company’s three quality-assurance inspectors check all
incoming products upon arrival at the distribution center, and
products are constantly checked while they are in the
distribution center before they are delivered to customers. “By
far, our first priority is to make sure that our customers don’t
get a bad box,” Mr. Brancifort explains. Adds Mr. Veneziano, “We
do know how to handle product.”
customer and vendor loyalty
While the stores have the option of obtaining their flowers
through other suppliers, “most of them order everything from
us,” Mr. Veneziano says. “It’s a preference on their end. Mostly
we’re noted for quality and variety.”
The company gets most of its bouquets—probably 90 percent, says
Mr. Brancifort—from one supplier, which the company declined to
name. “Being loyal to this particular supplier has really paid
off for us” in buying power, consistency in quality and service,
Mr. Brancifort says. “The product is absolutely fresh, and the
price is aggressive. We’ve been able to offer our customers a
better product at a better price.”
Mr. Brancifort works with the vendor to design the bouquet
recipes, which are changed weekly, with retail prices ranging
from three for $10 to $19.99 each. Rose bouquets are the
company’s best-sellers. He also has embarked on a new project
with the vendor, a “Market Bunch” line, which he hopes will
build Bozzuto’s consumer bunch business. The Market Bunches will
package two four-stem consumer bunches with bear grass in kraft
paper, giving customers “a mix between a bouquet and a consumer
bunch,” he says. They will retail for $9.99.
Ready for anything
The Bozzuto’s Inc. floral team showed its
readiness to respond to a challenge when it was asked to provide
flowers for a wedding 12 hours before the impromptu event.
The wedding happened at Bozzuto’s Fall 2006 Independent Retailer
Conference, which took place this year in August at the Foxwoods
Resort Casino in Ledyard, Conn. Greg Veneziano, director of
produce and floral, says the floral team learned that one of the
retailers in attendance, Benjamin Mapes, produce manager at
Sokol’s Market in Queensbury, N.Y., was going to propose to his
store’s deli manager, Charlamagne Ripley—and have the ceremony
on the spot.
Recalls Jason Brancifort, floral category manager, “Right away,
we got on the phone” and asked the resort’s exposition service
to deliver an arbor to the stage. Floral Merchandiser Patricia
Buzzelle decorated the arbor with stems of roses, and the team
festooned the stage with bouquets, plants and rose petals. “We
did our best to use the product we had on hand to make it look
like a wedding, and of course, we still had to sell product,
too,” Mr. Brancifort says.
When the time came, Mr. Mapes got down on one knee on the stage
and asked Ms. Ripley to marry him. She said yes, and a justice
of the peace walked onstage to perform the ceremony, during
which Ms. Ripley held a Bozzuto’s bouquet. Says Mr. Brancifort,
“You never know what’s going to happen at one of our shows!”
Bouquets are the company’s best-sellers on a weekly basis, but
hardy mums take the No. 1 spot during the fall, when tens of
thousands are sold, Mr. Brancifort says. And in the spring,
hanging baskets also sell by the thousands.
Bozzuto’s offers a wide range of plants to serve the different
needs of its customers, from 4-inch tropical foliage ranging
from 99 cents to $2.99 to passion flowers at $19.99. The
best-selling potted mum is an 8-inch plant that retails at three
for $10. Plant sales make Easter the company’s biggest floral
holiday, with potted tulips leading the way, followed by lilies,
hyacinths and daffodils.
Bozzuto’s Inc., the second-largest distribution
company in the IGA network, has been awarded the IGA President’s
Cup for the past four years, starting in 2003. The award is the
highest honor IGA can bestow on one of its participating
The company also is branching out more into the home dÈcor arena
for its floral departments, an initiative launched by Mr.
Heggelke, the senior vice president of merchandising,
procurement and advertising. At the company’s Fall 2006
Independent Retailer Conference, which drew representatives from
Bozzuto’s clients for a trade show and seminars, new items for
home decor, such as candles, helped floral sales increase 281
percent from last year’s show.
A mainstay for Bozzuto’s is its fruit and gift baskets, which
are handled by the floral team and designed to look as if they
come from a traditional florist shop. They are most popular at
holidays, especially Christmas, but the company is aiming to
sell them as year-round items. The baskets, which retail from
$9.99 to $199.99, combine a variety of fruits, specialty foods
and florals, depending on the occasion and order. “The
opportunities are endless because you just mix and match so many
different things,” Mr. Brancifort says.
Bozzuto’s sold thousands last Christmas, Mr. Veneziano reports.
The floral team, temporary labor and produce employees helped
make the baskets, which were all assembled by hand in a
refrigerated room no more than 24 hours before they were
shipped. “We were very particular on the quality,” Mr.
It’s that attention to quality that has helped Bozzuto’s
increase its floral business and satisfy its customers. “We have
good pricing,” says Mr. Veneziano, “but I think if you check
with our customers, they’ll say that quality is what we’re
You may reach Cynthia L. McGowan
email@example.com or by phone at (800)
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