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Store Profile

    Floral's new spark

Broulimís reinvents its departments with powerful displays and a new focus.

by Cynthia L. McGowan

    
    Despite the sluggish economy, weekly receipts in the floral department at Broulim’s supermarket in Rexburg, Idaho, are outpacing last year by $300 to $500. Store manager Dennis Jordan Sr. attributes the boost to the energy and fresh ideas of Juan M. Tracy II, who since January 2008 has served as Rexburg’s floral manager and corporate floral manager for the family-owned, seven-store grocery chain.
     Mr. Tracy’s eye-catching oversized displays, colorful bouquets and arrangements, and creative merchandising have transformed the 400-square-foot department into a full-service floral shop within the store, Mr. Jordan says. Now, people realize, “‘Hey, we can get everything at Broulim’s,’” he describes.

committed to floral
    Broulim’s supermarkets were established in 1922 in Rigby, Idaho, which is in the southeast part of the state, about 15 miles northeast of Idaho Falls. Passed from generation to generation, Broulim’s today is owned by C. Robert Broulim and encompasses seven stores in southeast Idaho and approximately 700 employees.
    “He is very excited, very energetic,” Mr. Tracy says of the owner, Mr. Broulim. “He wants the floral departments to grow and expand.”
     The stores in Rexburg, Rigby and Driggs offer full-service floral departments, each staffed by a single floral associate, and the remaining four stores—in Montpelier, Shelley, St. Anthony and Soda Springs—have limited-service floral departments that are staffed part time. The Rexburg store, where Mr. Tracy spends the majority of his time, has the largest floral department, and Rexburg is the largest of the seven towns, with a population of about 28,000.
     Mr. Tracy joined Broulim’s in January after spending the previous seven years in area retail floral shops. An active member of the floral industry, Mr. Tracy served in 2007 as president of the Idaho State Florists Association, was Idaho-Utah Teleflora Unit president for two years and has been noted for his design work. He served as a floral designer for the 2008 Tournament of Roses Parade, and he earned the People’s Choice Award at the 2008 OFA Short Course & Trade Show design contest in July, where he also took third place in the “Connecting Past & Present” design category.
     He found his passion for floristry after spending a number of years working in his parents’ wedding catering business, which they sold in 1999. “I usually say, ‘I don’t go to work, I go to play,’ ” Mr. Tracy explains, “because I just thoroughly enjoy it.”

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HEADQUARTERS Rigby, Idaho
FOUNDER Charlie Broulim, in 1922
OWNER C. Robert Broulim, great-grandson of company founder Charlie Broulim
STORES 7 in southeast Idaho: in Driggs, Montpelier, Rexburg, Rigby, Shelley, Soda Springs and St. Anthony
AVERAGE STORE SIZE Ranges from 20,000 to 50,000 square feet; floral departments range from 100 square feet to 400 square feet
EMPLOYEES 700
COMPANY SALES $65.3 million, according to the 2008 Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service stores include custom arrangements, wedding flowers, sympathy sales, delivery and FTD flowers-by-wire service; limited-service stores offer some custom arranging and cash-and-carry flowers and plants
FLORAL'S CONTRIBUTION TO OVERALL STORE SALES Less than 1 percent
FLORAL CORPORATE MANAGER Juan M. Tracy II, who also is the full-time floral manager at the Rexburg store
FLORAL HOURS In Rexburg, generally 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and store hours are 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday; other floral departments generally are staffed either 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday
TOP FLORAL HOLIDAY Valentineís Day
WEB SITE www.broulims.com

 

 

capitalizing on strengths
     He spends 25 to 30 hours each week in the Rexburg store and splits his remaining time visiting the other stores and assisting their floral departments. Each location is responsible for its own floral ordering, but Mr. Tracy alerts the other stores to good deals. Most items are purchased through area wholesalers although Mr. Tracy says he also obtains products from Associated Food Stores, Inc. of Salt Lake City, Utah, with which Broulim’s is affiliated.
     The guaranteed foot traffic that a supermarket provides and the high volume of impulse purchases were among the biggest changes for Mr. Tracy in transitioning from a retail floral shop. While this offers the potential of a steady clientele, Mr. Tracy notes that such sales can’t be taken for granted.
    “If it looks good, they’ll buy it. So it depends on the freshness of your product, the appearance of the product, the style of the product,” he says. “If your floral looks like junk, your cooler’s half empty, like nobody cares about it, they’re going to walk right on past it.”
     Mr. Tracy changes his displays about every three weeks to keep customer interest high. A backup cooler allows him to prepare extra grab-and-go arrangements so other staff members can restock the department when he isn’t there.
     And new products and more contemporary arrangements are attracting customers. “I’ve brought in tropicals—pincushions, Proteas, birds-of-paradise—and everyone is asking, ‘What is that?’ ‘Which flower is that?’ ‘What is that called?’” Mr. Tracy says. “So it’s caught their attention because they’ve never seen it before.”

catering to gen x
     A large portion of Broulim’s Rexburg customers are college students from the Brigham Young University-Idaho campus, which is just a few blocks away. The four-year college accounts for about 10,000 of Rexburg’s residents, and Mr. Tracy has adjusted the floral product mix to attract this demographic.
     He says Gerberas are the must-have flower among the younger crowd, with students coming in to request these showy “daisies.” Broulim’s sells them for $3.99 a stem or in contemporary monobotanical arrangements. Roses also remain popular among students and young professionals, with single stems also selling for $3.99 apiece. Broulim’s also offers dozen-rose bunches in three price points year-round: $9.99, $15.99 and $25.99. Vased arrangements are available for $39.99.
     Other top sellers include mixed bunches of garden-style blooms, which Broulim’s orders ready-made. An assortment of vases allows shoppers to put together quick gifts or display for their homes. Four-inch blooming plants, which sell for $5.99, also are in demand. “They just fly out of here,” Mr. Tracy describes, noting chrysanthemums and Gerberas are the best-sellers.

grabbing attention
     Among the most visible additions to Rexburg’s floral department since Mr. Tracy’s arrival are the themed displays that he has assembled. For example, fall featured a life-sized “tree” created from cardboard wrapped in paper bags and floral sleeves. Fall-colored leaves suspended from its branches created interest, and a colorful sea of fall mums were merchandised at its base. Mr. Jordan describes the effect as lifelike and dramatic.
     Mr. Tracy shares an observation from a colleague that has shaped his merchandising philosophy: Whereas sales in the past required getting in customers’ faces, in a figurative sense, today “you have to trip people into your product. It has to hit them,” he concludes. “Rather than just putting it out there, I want people to be a part of it.”
     Another October display, this one Halloween-themed, teamed Mr. Tracy and the produce department in creating a haunted house, guarded by a friendly dragon, out of cardboard-covered milk crates. The display featured a variety of cross-merchandised products from throughout the store. In addition to houseplants from floral, it showcased Halloween-themed gifts and treats from general merchandise and Wholly Guacamole spread (cleverly labeled “dragon snot”) from the produce department. A display challenge from Wholly Guacamole was the initial inspiration.
     Similar cross-merchandising is among Mr. Tracy’s aims for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, where he plans to engage each of the seven stores in merchandising around a common theme. The floral departments don’t stock giftware beyond the vases to accompany drop-in bouquets. Instead, Mr. Tracy takes advantage of the selection from the center store. “I work really well with the general merchandising manager here and look at what’s being brought in and incorporate it throughout everything [in the floral department],” Mr. Tracy describes. “If I start bringing in my own stuff, we’re counteracting each other.”

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Lessons from Broulimís and its corporate floral manager:
ENJOY WHAT YOU'RE DOING Juan M. Tracy II, floral manager/corporate for Broulimís supermarkets, says even the busiest days at work feel like play because he is doing what he loves, designing with flowers. Focus on the aspects of the job you find most enjoyable to keep a positive attitude, which translates into friendlier interactions with customers and, ultimately, greater sales.
SEEK OUT TRAINING Mr. Tracy has made a point to attend as many training opportunities as possible in his eight years as a floral designer. He continues to make that a priority in his new position. Look for training offered by FTD Group, Inc. or state or regional floral associations (see the list on Pages 62-63), and if your company canít afford to send you, consider investing in your career and attending on your own.
GO FOR THE WOW FACTOR With customers holding their pocketbooks ever tighter these days, itís even more crucial to shake them up with wow-worthy displays to supplement great floral work. Just because customers pass the floral department day in and day out doesnít mean they always take notice. But if you catch their attention, Mr. Tracy observes, and have great-looking flowers, plants and arrangements, they will buy.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE For Mr. Tracy, there has been some trial and error in determining the best fits for Broulimís clientele in Rexburg, where a large percentage of shoppers are college students. Gerberas are the hot flower for that age group. And tropical flowers are drawing customer interest. But on the flip side, Mr. Tracy discovered that European gardens just arenít in demand at his store. Study your storeís demographics, and tailor your offerings accordingly.

 

 

training takes hold
     While Mr. Tracy has had no formal training in floral design, he says there is no secret to his success. “I just attended every training seminar—such as Teleflora, state [conventions]—I could get my hands on and could afford,” he says. He plans to continue attending as many conventions and educational opportunities as possible and says Broulim’s is supportive in giving him the time to do so.
     The ideas and inspiration are transferring to the other Broulim’s locations. For example, the floral manager in the Shelley store re-created the fall tree display there. And Mr. Tracy has helped the floral manager at the Driggs store, which features one of the company’s larger floral coolers, to creatively merchandise the fixture. For a summer promotion, they brought together beach towels, pails, sunglasses and other colorful props that communicated sun and surf.
     And as Mr. Jordan notes, customers are noticing the difference. Mr. Tracy’s arrival has also brought new community awareness of the role of floral at Broulim’s. While floral specials are highlighted each week in Broulim’s newspaper circular, the company also has been featured with the Rexburg Standard Journal’s coverage of Mr. Tracy’s participation at the Rose Parade and his honors at OFA. Mr. Tracy says he’s been approached by customers who tell him, “We’re so glad you’re here.”
     “My reputation precedes me,” he says with a laugh. “I have to keep it up.”

Reach Contributing Editor Amy Bauer at abauer@superfloralretailing.com.

Photos courtesy of Broulim’s

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