Inserra Supermarkets Inc. makes a connection with
customers thanks to high-quality products and excellent service.
Freshness, quality and service: These are the traits that
have helped Inserra Supermarkets Inc. grow into one of
the nation’s largest privately owned companies. These qualities
extend throughout the company to all departments including
floral, where an experienced staff can handle customers’ floral
needs from custom designs to weddings and events.
The family-owned Inserra Supermarkets, based in Mahwah,
N.J., owns 21 ShopRite stores in northern New Jersey and
southern New York. With more than $1 billion in sales last year,
it was ranked No. 423 on Forbes’ list of “America’s Largest
Private Companies.” As a member of the Elizabeth, N.J.-based
Wakefern Food Corporation, the nation’s largest
retailer-owned cooperative, Inserra can take advantage of volume
buying to offer customers competitive pricing and high-quality
Inserra’s newest store, a ShopRite that opened in
Lodi, N.J., in July 2007, incorporates the company’s values of
freshness, quality and service and will serve as the prototype
for future new stores and remodels, remarks Ellen Rumler,
the company’s director of floral, commercial bakery and snacks.
“We’re constantly, as a company, remodeling our stores and
keeping them updated,” she says.
The Lodi store has 70,000 square feet of
grocery-store innovations. Three chefs make fresh sushi daily,
and customers can dine on their selections in the food court.
The farmers’-market-style produce section brims with fresh
selections of fruits and vegetables, including both local and
more exotic fare. A huge gourmet foods and international cheese
section is illuminated by a beautiful domed artificial skylight.
The store has an upscale bakery as well as full-service
seafood and meat counters. With a “Dexter” Deli Express system,
customers can place their orders and pick them up when they are
finished shopping. As part of its commitment to customer
service, the company has a rule that lines at checkouts should
have no more than three shoppers each, including the person
inserra supermarkets inc.
HEADQUARTERS Mahwah, N.J.
PRESIDENT AND CEO
Lawrence R. Inserra Jr.
STORES 21 ShopRite
stores, in northern New Jersey (20) and southern New York
SALES $1.25 billion (estimated) in fiscal year 2008, according
to the Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience
STORE SIZE Averages 60,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE
Varies; newest store in Lodi, N.J., has an 840-square-foot
Averages one to two full-timers per store
Full-service floral departments offering wedding and event
services; custom designs; delivery through online ordering
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAYS
Mother’s Day followed by Valentine’s Day
FLORAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO TOTAL COMPANY SALES
Varies by store
DIRECTOR OF FLORAL, COMMERCIAL BAKERY AND SNACKS
floral as the first impression
In floral, the 840-square-foot-department has a
“store-within-a-store” feel. Like other Inserra ShopRite floral
departments, it is located at the front of the store, where it
helps set a first impression of freshness for the entire store.
The floral department employs color to draw customers in—“It’s
almost like a magnetic appearance,” Ms. Rumler comments. “You
only have a certain amount of seconds to catch their eyes, and
if it’s all green, it doesn’t do anything. But that color brings
them into the department.”
A round merchandiser filled with more than 30 varieties of
flowers in consumer bunches greets customers. They also can
choose from a large selection of mixed bouquets, arrangements in
the refrigerated display case, plants and balloons and other
hard goods. Statuaries and other novelties also are used in
displays to attract attention.
Because the layout of each store differs, the company leaves it to the floral managers to design the looks of their departments. They change displays
weekly, Ms. Rumler says, to keep the attention of the company’s
loyal returning customers.
Signage also is important to the floral operation’s success;
all products have price and identification signage. Ms. Rumler
says customers appreciate knowing about the products they are
buying. Wakefern supplies signage, and the stores also have their own sign printers.
the importance of service
A key factor in keeping shoppers returning is the
service they receive, Ms. Rumler observes. “We know our
customers,” she remarks, and the floral managers give them
personal attention, greeting them by name and always with a
smile. Excellent service is company policy from the top down,
Ms. Rumler reveals. “We know there’s a lot of competition out
there, especially in our area, and customer service is number
one,” she says.
The floral managers are usually found right in the
departments, where they can help customers find the perfect
selections. They often offer to create bouquets from customers’
consumer bunch selections while they finish their shopping,
without charging for the service. “When we give it to them, it’s
all wrapped with cellophane, tissue paper and a chiffon bow,”
Ms. Rumler shares. “It’s gift ready.”
Someone is always available to take care of customers’
floral needs, Ms. Rumler comments. The floral managers start
their days when the stores open, at 7 a.m. After they leave,
part-time associates take over in the evening. In addition, if
no one is in the department, signage directs shoppers to the
customer service department for floral help.
The departments are staffed by experienced floral
managers. At the Lodi store, Floral Manager Lenore Conklin
has more than 30 years of floral experience, and the company’s
other florists boast similar longevity. Ms. Rumler describes
them as “dedicated and extremely talented,” and they offer
customers a full range of floral services, including custom designs, corporate events and
weddings “We really do cater to [customers’] needs,” Ms. Rumler
To keep the floral managers’ skills up to date, Ms. Rumler,
who has been with Inserra for 27 years, is often in the stores
demonstrating new techniques. In addition, they attend two shows
a year offered through Wakefern, where they receive training,
see new products and discuss plans for upcoming holidays.
the wedding business
Weddings are an important part of the floral business
at Inserra Supermarkets Inc. The company, through its
21 ShopRite stores, handles about 100 weddings a
year, ranging in price from $400 to $1,500 and up.
Brides hear about Inserra’s wedding services through
word-of-mouth and in-store displays, shares Ellen Rumler,
the company’s director of floral, commercial bakery and
snacks. During wedding season, the floral departments have
display tables with mock wedding cakes and sample bouquets,
corsages and boutonnieres.
In addition, the stores have kiosks with wedding books
from Colombian grower Vistaflor, which also will
supply a complete wedding package, including bouquets,
corsages and centerpieces, that Inserra can receive within
10 days of ordering. Most of the time, however, brides want
to customize their wedding florals, Ms. Rumler says.
Consultations take place in the floral departments,
where brides can see the large selection of flowers
available for weddings. “We do everything from lilies to
roses to Anemones to orchids,” Ms. Rumler remarks.
“Whatever they want, we will accommodate them.”
Brides don’t sign a contract and aren’t asked to put
down a deposit. There is no set price sheet for customized
weddings because of the variation in flower prices, but Ms.
Rumler says an average bride’s bouquet starts at $50. Prices
also include delivery and setup at the venue. Inserra tries
to book no more than three weddings companywide in a weekend
to ensure there is enough labor to handle both the nuptial
flowers and in-store needs.
Ms. Rumler reminds that timing is everything when it
comes to wedding flowers. The flowers in the bouquets have
to be at their peak; no one wants a bouquet of roses in bud
form or lilies that haven’t opened. “We time everything to
ensure that the flowers are perfect on the day of the
wedding,” she says.
An indication of the company’s success with weddings is
its repeat business. Inserra has handled wedding flowers for
more than one sibling in a family, and the company often
provides florals for its employees’ weddings. It is
gratifying to be there during the important events in
people’s lives, Ms. Rumler says. “We take pride in what we
Fresh flowers—consumer bunches, bouquets and
arrangements—compose just more than 50 percent of floral sales,
Ms. Rumler shares. Of those products, consumer bunches are the
top seller at $3.99 each or three bunches for $10. The more than
30 varieties for sale include orchids, Hydrangeas,
Lisianthuses, Gerberas, Agapanthuses and Alstroemerias, and the best-sellers are spray
mums and miniature carnations.
A dozen-rose bouquet, priced from $9.99 to $12.99, is the
next best-selling item after the consumer bunches, followed by
mixed bouquets at $5.99 to $7.99. Blooming and foliage plants,
ranging in price from $7.99 to $12.99, also sell well. Ms.
Rumler reports strong sales for Phalaenopsis orchid
plants at $15.99. A selling point for Phalaenopses is
their easy care, she remarks, and the floral managers make a
point of sharing with customers care information, both verbally
and on cards with the plants.
Floral managers order products for their own stores,
making sure they have the right product mix for their customers.
Inserra procures most of its floral products from Wakefern, and
the products are delivered from the cooperative’s warehouse as
often as seven days a week. Wakefern sources flowers globally,
Ms. Rumler shares, including from South America, Canada and
California—“wherever they can get the best quality.”
The seven-day-a-week delivery ensures freshness, and the
floral managers take care to promptly process the flowers for
maximum vase life. And if a customer has any problem, the
product will be replaced, even without a receipt. “We stand
behind our flowers,” Ms. Rumler asserts.
Wakefern also provides in-store support when asked, Ms.
Rumler comments. “If there is a special event going on and we
need their help, they will send somebody to the stores,” she
says, recalling a time when she had more than 100 arrangements
to create for three events in three days. “They helped me out
tremendously,” she remembers.
getting the word out
advertises its florals weekly, and the ShopRite Web site,
gives florals prominent attention. Loyal customers, drawn by the
freshness, quality and service they receive, also spread the
word about the floral departments. Remarks Ms. Rumler, “If
they’ve ever bought flowers from me before, they always come
keys to success
MERCHANDISING Inserra Supermarkets Inc. uses color and a large
selection of fresh florals to draw customers into its floral
departments. The displays change weekly to keep customers’
SERVICE The stores offer full-service florals, and most of the
floral managers have been with the company for 20 years or
more, giving them the experience to meet customers’ needs.
PRODUCTS The floral operation is known for fresh, high-quality
flowers. The stores have a large assortment of flowers in
its consumer bunch program, and customers like to
mix-and-match to create their own bouquets. Stores receive
floral deliveries seven days a week, ensuring maximum
Customers can have flowers delivered through Wakefern Food
Corporation’s “ShopRite From Home” Web service at
In addition, Wakefern has partnered with Vistaflor, a
Colombian grower, to offer nationwide delivery through the
ShopRite Web site.
Inserra Supermarkets Inc. is one
of 44 independently owned companies that belong to the
Wakefern Food Corporation cooperative. Those 44 members
own and operate more than 213 supermarkets in New Jersey,
New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and
Delaware under the ShopRite and PriceRite
Wakefern, based in Elizabeth, N.J., is the nation's largest
retailer-owned cooperative. Founded in 1946, it now operates
2.5 million square feet of warehousing, serves more than 4.5
million customers a week and employs more than 50,000
people. Wakefern had sales of $10.6 billion in fiscal year
Source: Wakefern Food Corporation,
Supermarket News Top 75 Retailers for 2009
Reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 355-8086.