Flowers have an important role in this New Jersey company's brand makeover.
by Cynthia L. McGowan
Kings Food Markets is on a mission to inspire its customers. With a new logo that proclaims “Where Inspiration Strikes,” a fresh new image, store remodels and a redesigned website, the upscale grocery chain promises an enriching customer experience throughout its stores, including in its beautiful floral departments.
Owned by Angelo, Gordon & Co., a New York investment firm that also owns six Balducci’s Food Lover’s Markets, the 24-store Kings Food Markets is based in Parsippany, N.J. In business for more than 75 years, Kings recently unveiled a new brand image that emphasizes its high-quality gourmet offerings and excellent customer service. “Kings is the place you go if you want unique items,” confirms Donna Mastellone, director of floral sales and merchandising. “If you want to impress people, you’re going to shop at Kings.”
As part of the brand relaunch, Kings’ Bedminster, N.J., store was remodeled, serving as a prototype for other store renovations that will take place throughout the year. The state-of-the-art store boasts an expanded produce and floral boutique, freshly made sushi and pasta, made-to-order brick-oven pizza, chef-inspired prepared foods, more than 400 international cheeses, an espresso and cappuccino bar, a gourmet juice bar, and a café equipped with Wi-Fi.
The store’s employees, well-trained in customer service, offer recipe ideas and preparation tips. In addition, the website, www.kingsfoodmarkets.com, is designed to mirror the in-store experience, with sections such as rare finds, unique gourmet recipes from Kings chefs and daily menus of freshly prepared food available at each store.
“We want shoppers to be inspired by moments in our stores where the freshest ingredients, rarest finds and their passion for cooking all come together to create the perfect meal,” Judy Spires, Kings’ president and CEO, said in a press release announcing the new brand. “Therefore, it was important that we further enhance our customers’ experiences both online and in stores to allow that inspiration to strike whenever and wherever they interact with the Kings brand.”
immersed in flowers
The floral department in the Bedminster store can’t help but inspire customers to buy products for beautifying their homes or for gift giving. Ms. Mastellone describes it as an open-air market, showcasing bouquets and bunches in farmers’-market-style buckets, and arrangements, plants and giftware on attractive tables and shelves. The idea, she remarks, is to have customers fully experience the flowers—and to inspire them to want to pick them up and take them home.
To make room for the store’s expanded floral and produce sections, the company purchased two neighboring stores in the Bedminster location’s shopping center and allocated that space to the departments, which are at the front of the store but at the end of the typical shopping trip. Ms. Mastellone says company officials let her choose the look of the floral department. “They gave me free reign to create a department that I thought would be a 21st century concept,” she recalls.
That trust is typical of the confidence the company places in the floral operation, Ms. Mastellone remarks. “Kings has been a big supporter of floral, and they consider it an integral part of the whole store,” she continues. “They believe in what we’re doing.”
offering all services
With full-service departments in 17 Kings stores, the company also sees floral as a point of differentiation. “Our goal is to be a florist for people who come to the supermarket,” Ms. Mastellone explains.
That means offering all services that shoppers can receive at a traditional florist, including custom designs, events, weddings and delivery. Customers also can have designs made while they shop, and most choose that service for Kings’ signature fruit baskets, Ms. Mastellone shares. Shoppers can choose from a selection of suggested fruit baskets, or they can select items in the store and have the department create custom gift baskets.
The company has 10 delivery vehicles, and stores that don’t have their own vans have a nearby store deliver their flowers or use a delivery service. Kings charges a nominal fee for delivery, Ms. Mastellone comments. Two stores offer full FTD send-and-receive flowers-by-wire service, and the others are send-only stores.
Prom season is a busy time for the floral departments. “Our stores do huge prom business,” she shares. The stores display sample corsages and accessories to show teens what they can do. That’s also a good way to get the attention of moms, who often do the ordering for their sons, Ms. Mastellone reminds.
Word-of-mouth advertising also attracts prom business. Teenagers who work at Kings use the floral departments’ services, and they tell their friends.
The stores’ designers form relationships with their clients, drawing their repeat business, Ms. Mastellone shares. “We’re the local florist for a lot of our stores,” she confirms.
Kings’ emphasis on customer service helps grow those relationships, Ms. Mastellone remarks. “As a company, we’re always training our legendary customer service,” she explains. “That’s our mantra. It is really an important part of our business model.”
Another factor in the department’s repeat business is the floral managers’ high skill level. Many have extensive experience as designers, Ms. Mastellone says, including three who owned their own shops in the past. Ms. Mastellone herself has been a florist since she was in high school.
To help the floral staff stay up to date on the latest trends or improve their skills, the floral operation offers training during team meetings two to three times a year. Topics have included the use of color, wedding designs and corsage work, and the seminars are led by vendors or sometimes Kings’ more experienced designers. “We’re always trying to help people move forward in their personal growth,” Ms. Mastellone remarks.
the surprise factor
The operation’s merchandising philosophy also keeps repeat business high, Ms. Mastellone shares. Displays are changed often—in the Bedminster store, the new fixtures are on wheels for ease of movement—and new products are introduced regularly, at least once or twice a month. “We have the same people in the stores week after week,” she explains, “and we need to make it fresh.”
Ms. Mastellone sends out weekly merchandising tips to the floral managers to help them keep their displays fresh. For major resets, she and a team of floral managers often go to the stores and do the setups, especially at Christmas, when all the departments have the same products and layout. Two produce field managers also help with floral when needed.
The department resets and new product introductions inspire customers to come in regularly to discover what’s new or different. “There’s always a nice surprise factor,” she comments.
Ms. Mastellone visits a wide variety of sources to find products that will keep customers happily surprised and coming back. She goes to the International Floriculture Expo, Atlanta and New York gift shows, and the Fancy Food Show, among others. With Kings’ proximity to New York City, she visits Manhattan’s wholesale flower district, too. “It’s nice to see a broad range of things because you don’t know where your inspiration is going to come from,” she shares.
The floral operation procures fresh goods directly from growers and importers as well as from local wholesalers. Ms. Mastellone prepares a catalog for floral managers to order flowers and plants from, and the products are sent to Kings’ warehouse and then on to the stores. Products never stay in the warehouse long, she emphasizes, and stores receive deliveries as often as six days a week.
Rose bouquets, around $15.99 a dozen, and tulip bunches from Holland, at about $8.99 for 10 stems, are the department’s top-selling fresh items. White varieties sell well, Ms. Mastellone shares, adding that likely is because they show well in customers’ upscale, contemporary homes.
Tulips are a signature item for the company, and Kings makes sure to offer a large selection, from Holland, Virginia and local growers. “You’d be hard pressed to find [another store that] has as many varieties as we do,” Ms. Mastellone advises.
In addition to tulips, the consumer bunch selection includes Hydrangeas in several colors, lilies, callas, carnations, mums and more. Customers are divided equally among those who like to take their selections home and make their own arrangements and those who ask the stores’ designers to wrap their choices in pretty bouquets that they later can plop into vases, Ms. Mastellone shares.
Mixed bouquets, from $12.99 to $35.99, also sell well, with $15 to $20 being the most popular price range. Ms. Mastellone works closely with vendors to choose recipes for the bouquets, the selection of which changes weekly.
Kings’ customers favor traditional looks in arrangements, usually in clear glass vases. The average price is approximately $35.
Phalaenopsis orchids are the best-selling plant. “The orchids have been, for the last two and a half years, a phenomenon,” Ms. Mastellone reveals. “It’s amazing what we’ve done with them.” Miniature orchids sell for approximately $19.99, and standard plants go for around $24.99, with white varieties selling best.
Other plants that sell well include Gerberas and Cyclamens. In addition, “We’re big, big supporters of Bay City Flower Company,” Ms. Mastellone remarks. “Our customers look for their Hydrangeas; they’re fabulous.”
The company’s giftware includes candles, decorative vases, ceramic planters and more. Ms. Mastellone chooses all the hard goods, and they are sent from the vendors directly to the stores.
Kings’ abundant selection, freshness and innovation serve to inspire customers to make the company their florist of choice, Ms. Mastellone remarks. That trust, in turn, inspires the department to strive to provide high-quality service for all their floral needs, she says, adding, “We want to be there for every event in a person’s life.”
||kings food markets
HEADQUARTERS Parsippany, N.J.
PRESIDENT AND CEO Judy Spires
OWNERSHIP Privately owned by Angelo, Gordon & Co.,
a New York investment firm
STORES 24 Kings Food Markets, in New York and New Jersey, and six Balducci’s, in Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Virginia
SALES $507 million in 2011, according to Supermarket News
FLORAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO COMPANY SALES Approximately
2 percent; as high as 6 percent during holidays
STORE SIZE Averages 18,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE Averages 400 square feet
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Two to four per full-service department,
full and part time
COMPANY EMPLOYEES 2,500
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service florals in 17 Kings Food Markets stores, including custom designs, weddings, events and delivery;
the rest offer limited service with a part-time attendant;
FTD flowers-by-wire service
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAYS Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day
DIRECTOR OF FLORAL SALES AND MERCHANDISING Donna Mastellone
keys to success
FLORAL COMMITMENT Kings Food Markets sees the floral operation as an integral part of the company. The remodeled prototype store in Bedminster, N.J., allows more space for floral and its new “open-air market” concept.
EMPLOYEES Much of the floral staff has extensive experience and is able to meet customers’ every need, from custom designs to events.
PRODUCTS The floral departments offer an abundant selection of flowers, plants and unique giftware. New products are introduced regularly to give customers an element of surprise.
Reach Editor in Chief
Cynthia L. McGowan at
or (800) 355-8086.