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Store Profile

Full Service Victory

Stater Bros. Markets store in West Covina, Calif., wins the 2007 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest.

by Cynthia L. McGowan

When it’s your first Valentine’s Day as a full-service floral department, you want to let customers know what you’re capable of. You need a display that captures their imaginations and their sales.
That was the thinking behind an oversize “doghouse” that served as the focal point for the Valentine’s Day display this year at Stater Bros. Markets’ Store No. 106 in West Covina, Calif. The huge display captured not only customers’ attention but also the grand prize in the 2007 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest, sponsored by Super Floral Retailing and Börgen Systems.
The display, with the theme “Puppy Love: Let Stater Bros. Help You Stay Out of the Doghouse,” was created by Angie Olivares, floral clerk; Vanessa Nemeth, store associate; Mike Esquibel, produce manager; Jason Taylor, assistant store manager; and Bob Becker, store manager. Liane Temple, floral director for Stater Bros., accepted the Börgen Cup on their behalf from Arden Börgen, founder of Börgen Systems, during the Keynote Luncheon at The Super Floral Show in June in Columbus, Ohio.
Later in the month, officials from Börgen Systems and Stater Bros. presented the Börgen Cup to the winners during a special ceremony at the store. Ms. Temple told Super Floral Retailing that Stater Bros. “is extremely proud of [the store team] for taking this on and representing our stores.”

the move to full service
The West Covina store recently had completed a remodeling that added a seafood department, upgraded the deli and bakery, and moved floral from the produce department to the front of the store, Mr. Becker says. Before the remodeling, which was unveiled to the public on Dec. 6, floral was a self-service department offering a small selection of bouquets, arrangements and potted plants.
With the remodeling, floral became a full-service department, offering customers bountiful choices of cut flowers, bouquets, arrangements, potted plants, home-décor items and custom designs. The department is at the entrance to the store, setting a tone of freshness and quality as customers enter.
Planning for Valentine’s Day began at the end of December, just a few weeks after the change. Ms. Olivares wanted to create a memorable display that would get customers excited about Stater Bros.’ floral offerings and keep them coming back long after the holiday was over. “I thought, ‘We have to do something really big, something to capture everyone’s attention, to let them know we have a full-service floral department now,’” she recalls.
stater bros. markets
CHAIRMAN and CEO Jack H. Brown
STORES 163 in Southern California (in San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Kern counties); the company also owns Heartland Farms dairy
SALES $3.5 billion in fiscal 2006
ESTABLISHED 1936 by twin brothers Cleo and Leo Stater
stores’ average size 30,000-45,000 square feet
WEST COVINA STORE SIZE 38,000 square feet
FLORAL SERVICES All 163 stores have floral, with services depending on store size; many provide custom designs, weddings and events
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Average one per store


a big display
That’s exactly what she and the team created in the “Puppy Love” display, which featured a 12-foot-tall by 12-foot-long “doghouse” that could be seen throughout the store. “It was a really big display,” Mr. Becker marvels. “The pictures don’t do it justice.”
The doghouse had two entry points and had open sides, making products easily accessible to customers. Shopping carts could fit inside, adding to the accessibility. Inside and outside the doghouse, customers found bouquets, arrangements, plants, plush, balloons, candy and much more.
The designers created the theme with two meanings in mind. It was both a humorous approach to those who might need help “staying out of the doghouse” during Valentine’s Day, and it also aimed to appeal to animal lovers who treat their pets like members of the family.
As part of that appeal to animal lovers and to get both customers and employees involved in the promotion, the store invited them, through fliers, store signage and word-of-mouth, to bring in photos of their dogs. Ms. Olivares and Ms. Nemeth decorated the photos like valentines and then posted them on the doghouse. They kept careful records so the photos could be returned to their owners at the end of the promotion. “That was a lot of fun,” Mr. Becker recalls. “It got a lot of interest and people involved.”
The promotion had the intended effect. “It was amazing how much our sales went up,” Ms. Olivares reports—57 percent from Valentine’s Day 2006, in fact. Mr. Becker adds that sales the day before and the day of the holiday were “astronomical,” and there was little product left over.

marks of a winner
The store’s display had all the elements that go into a winning display, including:
THEME Once team members saw some of the items they would be selling for Valentine’s Day, they knew the theme was a winner. “There were items that tied in perfectly,” Ms. Olivares recalls, such as puppy-dog plush and candy sold from a box that looked like a doghouse. “These were all the signs telling us to do it,” she jokes.
The theme’s clever play on the two concepts of dog lovers and lovers in trouble gave the store a multitude of creative tie-ins. The doghouse got customers’ attention, and the store’s use of their pet photos got them involved.
SIGNAGE A large banner at the front of the doghouse proclaimed “Puppy Love” in foam lettering. Well-made, easy-to-read signage gave price points and item names. Signage featuring fire hydrants, dog bones and paw prints was placed throughout the display and helped carry out the theme.
COLOR HARMONY The team chose the traditional Valentine’s colors of red and pink, with some purple. The two roof sections of the doghouse were a bright red, drawing even more attention to the display. The colors combined to make a pleasing palette.
STAND-ALONE DISPLAY The doghouse was its own stand-alone display, and it served its purpose well. It got customers to come to the floral department, and it also held a multitude of products, neatly arranged on shelving. Plants and bouquets surrounded it to tempt customers as they walked by.
Mr. Taylor, the assistant store manager, built the doghouse from Ms. Olivares’ sketches. He got wood from The Home Depot and built the sturdy structure in about four days on the store’s back dock. “We had to think about safety first,” Ms. Olivares says, so Mr. Taylor made sure the doghouse would withstand touching by curious customers. “It did take a little bit longer because of that,” she shares, “but, in the end, it was well worth it.” An added benefit is that the structure can be used for future promotions with different themes.
CROSS-MERCHANDISING The store cross-merchandised extensively, offering wine, champagne, candy, greeting cards, baked goods and chocolate-covered strawberries.
PRODUCTS In addition to the cross-merchandised products, the department offered a large array of floral-related items. Roses, including dozen-rose bouquets and single stems, were the best-selling items for the holiday. The department also offered mixed bouquets and arrangements. Miniature rose and Hydrangea plants were big sellers, too.
Adding even more interest to the display were balloons, including some that had humorous dog themes. “There were balloons everywhere,” Ms. Olivares says, and they sold well.
Ms. Olivares also created custom designs for customers. “I’m the only designer,” she remarks, so “if I had time, I would do them on the spot, and if not, I would take orders, and [the customers] would come back later that evening or the next day.”

keys to success
COMMITMENT TO FLORAL Stater Bros. Markets’ remodeling efforts have included turning self-service floral departments into full service and moving them to the front of the stores.
FRESH PRODUCTS The company has a “guaranteed” program with its main floral vendor. That means that any product not sold is the responsibility of the vendor, perhaps giving the supplier more incentive to have only the freshest florals. Products are delivered to the stores twice a week.
HOME-DÉCOR LINE Customers have responded well to a line of stylish home-décor products that is offered in the stores with full-service floral.
MERCHANDISING The company has contests to encourage creative and effective floral merchandising. The entire store is encouraged to get involved in the promotions.


customers respond
Customers appreciate the opportunity to purchase custom designs now that the department is full service, Ms. Olivares reports. In fact, “they were ecstatic” when they learned the news, she says. They like the convenience of ordering flowers for proms, anniversaries and other occasions while grocery shopping.
In addition, Stater Bros.’ full-service departments offer a popular home-décor line including candles, tables, mirrors, fountains, permanent flowers and decorative vases. Customers like to see Ms. Olivares’ new selections, asking “OK, what did you get in now?” she shares.
Ms. Temple says all of Stater Bros.’ store remodels have moved floral to the front of the stores. Floral up front not only “creates the ambience and the fresh impact” for customers, she says, but it also “grabs customers right when they walk into the store,” capturing the impulse sales that are so important to the category.
The move at the West Covina store appears to be paying off. “It’s just been tremendous as far as [floral] sales go,” Mr. Becker says, estimating that they have more than doubled.

the value of merchandising
Ms. Olivares, who has been a floral designer all of her adult life, relishes the opportunities that come with working in a full-service department, especially the merchandising side of the business. “I love building displays,” she says. “If you put the time and the creativity into making a nice big display ... that makes the total difference in what your sales are going to be.”
Stater Bros. encourages creative merchandising with floral display contests at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. The contest criteria include creativity, theme, signage, best use of space and cross-merchandising. “We like to get the whole store involved,” Ms. Temple says. The company picks one winner from each of its nine districts, and the “Puppy Love” display won its district.
The West Covina store’s Mother’s Day was even more successful than Valentine’s Day. The floral department drew an oversize flower with a hole cut in the center where children could put their faces and have their photos taken as gifts for their mothers. “Each holiday, we’re just doing better and better in regard to floral sales now that we have a full-service floral department,” Mr. Becker shares.
The next big opportunity is Christmas, and the doghouse structure figures prominently in Ms. Olivares’ plans. “I can’t wait,” she says. “I have a huge idea of what I want to do.”

the honor award winners
Look for articles about the 2007 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” Honor Award Winners in the September and October issues of Super Floral Retailing.

The Honor Award winners are:
BEST SIGNAGE Patty Malloy, floral manager/buyer; Gordy’s County Market; Eau Claire, Wis.
BEST CROSS MERCHANDISING Lisa Tapp, floral manager, Albertsons No. 4176; Weatherford, Texas
BEST THEME DEVELOPMENT Rosie Tippetts, floral manager; and Josh Allen, store manager; Maceys Store No. 1034; Pleasant Grove, Utah
BEST COLOR HARMONY Lori Trotter, floral manager; Chelsey Murray, designer; and Michelle Schultze, floral clerk; Hy-Vee West Des Moines No. 2; West Des Moines, Iowa
BEST USE OF STAND-ALONE DISPLAYS Susan Meehan, produce manager; Barbara Split, floral specialist; and David Tapia, store manager; Publix Super Market No. 663; Brandon, Fla.


Unless otherwise noted, photos are courtesy of Stater Bros. Markets.

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

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