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Store Profile

Promoting the benefits of floral

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, Conn.
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 floral.”
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 addition, 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.”
Bozzuto’s inc.
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
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


encouraging growth
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 it.”
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 store.
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!”


popular plants
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.

IGA honor
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 distribution centers.

additional offerings
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. Brancifort says.
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 judged on.”

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

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