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A sweet Valentine's Day Display

Stop & Shop in Toms River, N.J., wins the 2010 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest.
  by Cynthia L. McGowan

     It all started with a chocolate fountain. Dawn Houseworth, floral manager at Stop & Shop No. 808 in Toms River, N.J., knew she wanted one in her Valentine’s Day display, and it inspired her to create an “Old Tyme Cafe” that charmed shoppers and the judges of the 2010 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest, sponsored by Super Floral Retailing and Börgen Systems.

     Mrs. Houseworth’s grand-prize-winning display was near the entrance to the store, and the chocolate fountain, two large balloon arches and signage promising “sweets, treats and fresh flowers” immediately captivated customers. Bistro tables topped with “lollipop” arrangements enhanced the candy shop theme, as did the department’s arrangement display case, which was highlighted with tulle to resemble wrapped candy.

     Mrs. Houseworth and her floral team made sure to offer customers everything they needed for Valentine’s Day.
The product selection included mass groupings of bouquets and dozen roses, arrangements, blooming plants, balloons, candy, baked goods, and dips and fruit near the fountain. In addition, the display had an area for two associates to create custom arrangements while shoppers watched.

     Jack Wilson, category and sourcing manager—floral for Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover, shares that Mrs. Houseworth’s winning effort is reflective of the caliber of the company’s store-level associates, lauding their “incredible enthusiasm, talent, creativity and customer skills.” Mrs. Houseworth’s display “really exemplified that creativity,” he adds.

     The judges agreed with that assessment, awarding Mrs. Houseworth an expense-paid trip to the International Floriculture Expo in Miami Beach, Fla., in June, where she was presented the crystal Orrefors Börgen Cup by Arden Börgen, CEO and founder of Börgen Systems, during the Keynote Breakfast. She also received hotel accommodations.

getting started

     The winning display was a team effort, Mrs. Houseworth acknowledges. “Store management was definitely supportive of the whole event,” she shares. Her floral team of three part-time employees helped in the building of the large display, and the produce department contributed items for dipping in the chocolate fountain.

     She began planning the display around Thanksgiving, when she thought of the chocolate fountain. “That was my main idea,” Mrs. Houseworth recalls. She then needed a theme to encompass the fountain and decided that an old-fashioned candy shop would be perfect for Valentine’s Day. “Once I came up with my theme, it just took off,” she remarks.

     Finding a chocolate fountain to rent was more difficult than anticipated, and when Mrs. Houseworth located one at a party store two months before Valentine’s Day, she immediately booked it. She also rented a trellis for the fountain, put tulle and candy-shaped signage on it and called it “Fountain Café.”

     Mrs. Houseworth took advantage of slow periods in January to start creating the signage. She wrapped rectangular boxes with white and red cellophane to give them the appearance of old-style candy and applied scrapbook-style wording that read “sweets, treats and fresh flowers” to them. She later hung the signage from the center of one of the balloon arches. Other signage, also with scrapbook-style lettering, enticed
customers to pick up bouquets and roses at the second balloon arch.

     The arches “made a big impact when you walked in the store,” Mrs. Houseworth remembers. PVC pipe gave them their structure. The arches helped draw attention to the focal Valentine’s Day products, including vases of roses in attractive carry bags that were ready to grab and go.

     That focus on the products was key to the success of the display, points out Pat Dwyer, senior director of floral sales and procurement for Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover. “When you look at Dawn’s display, you see this nice big display, and it certainly grabs attention,” he reminds. “But the thing that really grabs the attention is that it’s about the product and about selling product and getting people engaged.”



stop & shop / giant-landover


Quincy, Mass.
STORES 561, in Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Virginia
SALES $17.9 billion in 2009, according to the Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
ESTABLISHED 1914 (Stop & Shop); 1936 (Giant-Landover)
STORE SIZE Ranges from 35,000 to 70,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT size Ranges from 800 to more than 2,000 square feet
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Average three to four per store
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral departments in most stores, offering custom designs, weddings and events

a memorable week

     The display occupied a space reserved at the front of the store for special holiday promotions. That space was being used for a Super Bowl promotion in early February, so Mrs. Houseworth and her team built the display a week before Valentine’s Day.

     “It was an adventurous week,” Mrs. Houseworth recalls—the area was socked by two major snowstorms. Fortunately, she had anticipated bad weather and had picked up the chocolate fountain before the storms hit.

And when the display all came together, customers showed their appreciation. “I can remember having customers saying ‘ooh’ and ‘aah,’” Mrs. Houseworth comments. Some told companions who had stayed in their cars that they had to come in and see the display. “I had a lot of people just stand there and look around and tell me that they had to take it all in,” she shares.

     The chocolate fountain, which was free, served to keep customers in the department and engaged with the staff. “People loved it,” Mrs. Houseworth exclaims. “It definitely was a conversation place.”

the winning elements

Elements that helped make the display a winner included:

THEME Everything about the display fit with the “Old Tyme Café” theme. The candy-shaped signage, chocolate fountain and bistro tables all served to create an old-fashioned candy shop ambiance.

SIGNAGE The signage was an important attention-getter for the display. It all was created in the same scrapbook style, producing a harmonious look for the promotion. The signage identified for customers where Valentine’s Day favorites such as roses and bouquets were located. Candy-shaped signage also added a whimsical touch.

COLOR HARMONY Red, appropriate for Valentine’s Day, was the dominant hue, and it was complemented by white and pink. The colors in the signage, balloons, trellis, tulle and other elements in the display all worked together to help draw customers’ eyes to the Valentine products.

CROSS-MERCHANDISING The chocolate fountain created a perfect opportunity for cross-merchandising. Mrs. Houseworth used the store’s salad bar to create an attractive display case housing dips, chocolates and fruits favorable for dipping. In addition, the floral department offered candy, baked goods and giftware.

FLORAL PRODUCTS The display offered “just about anything you can possibly need” for Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Houseworth says. Roses were the primary focus and the top-selling item, and they were available in a variety of configurations, from single stems to arrangements, for customers. “I have a very big rose clientele,” she shares, attributing that in part to how she presents those favorite flowers.

     For example, Mrs. Houseworth turned the department’s bouquet case into a “wall of love,” using it to showcase single, triple, dozen and spray rose bouquets, ranging in price from $7.99 to $29.99. The vased dozen-stem arrangements in the grab-and-go bags were $39.99 each.

     Mixed bouquets, from $7.99 to $19.99, also were popular with customers. In addition, the department offered consumer bunches, dish gardens and upgraded plants.

     Mrs. Houseworth says displays like her Valentine’s promotion help create excitement in the department, kindle relationships with customers and increase loyalty among her clientele. That, in turn, means greater sales. “If you do it right,” she emphasizes, “you’re going to gain extra sales.”


all-out effort for valentine’s day


When you have a large company like Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover, with 561 stores, it takes a lot of coordination and planning to ensure a successful floral holiday such as Valentine’s Day.

In fact, as soon as Valentine’s Day is over, planning for the next year’s holiday begins. Within a week, stores scrutinize their sales and place orders for the next year, and the cut-flower buyer uses that information to work with suppliers over the next few months to coordinate “an even better program for the next year,” shares Jack Wilson, category and sourcing manager—floral.

The corporate team, which consists of Mr. Wilson; Pat Dwyer, the senior director of floral sales and procurement; buyers; and merchandisers, develop a plan for the holiday, and sales managers who are assigned to districts in the company make sure it is carried out at store level. Those sales managers “play a key role” in making sure everything comes together, Mr. Dwyer says.

Right after Christmas, the sales managers have meetings with the floral managers in their districts to discuss the products, merchandising and ad items—“everything that’s necessary for an important holiday like Valentine’s Day,” Mr. Wilson remarks.

Because Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover has a variety of store shapes and sizes, a “one-size-fits-all” merchandising format doesn’t work. Instead, the company encourages creative merchandising with sales contests, often with gift cards as the prizes. The contests “get the entire store involved and excited,” Mr.  Dwyer explains. “They build a little bit of competition and get some recognition and support around floral, especially at key times.”

The only rule for the contests, he says, is that the product must take center stage. “In other words,” he emphasizes, “the product is the key.”

Once the holiday arrives, “we’re all out in the stores for long days,” Mr. Wilson describes, from the senior floral level to the sales managers, working to ensure the floral managers have what they need for a successful event. The departments often have as many as four floral employees per shift during the holiday, dedicated registers for floral purchases and help from other areas of the store. “There’s a tremendous amount of support,” Mr. Wilson reveals.

That kind of support for floral is typical at Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover, both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Dwyer say. The company makes sure floral has the space, fixtures, labor and ad space needed for success. Employees receive design and management training, both internally and from vendor partners. Confirms Mr. Wilson: “There’s a real commitment to floral in Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover.”




the honor award winners


     Look for articles about the 2010 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” Honor Award winners in the September and October issues of Super Floral Retailing.

The Honor Award winners are:

Heidi Carey; Market Street No. 564; Coppell, Texas

Lori Trotter, IMF; Hy-Vee; West Des Moines, Iowa

Pat Reaver and Tim Collins; Publix Super Market No. 861; Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Kellie Dell and Cindy Fitzgerald; Hy-Vee; Omaha, Neb.


Reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan at
or (800) 355-8086.

Photos courtesy of
The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company

Super Floral Retailing •• Copyright 2010
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.