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2012 Honor Award Winners


Recipients are recognized for their attention-getting signage and sensational color harmony.

by Cynthia L. McGowan

In our August issue, we showcased the display that won Katie Booth of a Hy-Vee in Cherokee, Iowa, the Grand Award in the 2012 “Merchandising Award of Excellence” contest, sponsored by Super Floral Retailing and Börgen Systems. The contest also recognized four supermarkets for outstanding displays in Honor Award categories—Best Signage, Best Color Harmony, Best Cross-Merchandising and Best Theme Development. This month we are featuring the Best Signage and Best Color Harmony winners. In our October issue, we will highlight the winners for Cross-Merchandising and Theme Development.



When she discovered that Valentine’s Day fell in a Leap Year month in 2012, Best Signage winner Cindy Fitzgerald, floral manager at a Hy-Vee in Omaha, Neb., leaped at the chance to tie the two events together. She and her floral staff created a “My Heart Leaps for You” display, using adorable frogs to help convey the department’s theme and product information on clever, attention-getting signage.

Ms. Fitzgerald and her team, which included Kristy Thompson, assistant floral manager, and Melissa McKibbin, floral designer, chose frogs as the focal point of the display after asking themselves, “What goes with ‘leap’?” Ms. Fitzgerald recalls. In addition to the frogs on the signage, they offered cute plush frogs from burton + BURTON, which proved so popular with customers that they sold out even before Valentine’s Day arrived, prompting Ms. Fitzgerald to order more.
THE DISPLAY Ms. Fitzgerald and her team began planning the display in early January, and it was ready for customers right after the Super Bowl. The display, at the front of the store, included a huge amount of fresh Valentine’s Day florals, including bouquets, arrangements and plants, all in a wide range of price points and sizes.

Other departments got involved with wine tastings, bakery offerings and other special promotions. In addition, store employees wore T-shirts designed by Ms. McKibbin that sported the “My Heart Leaps for You” theme. “We had excitement in the entire store,” Ms. Fitzgerald shares.


To ensure the display would attract customers’ attention, Ms. Fitzgerald asked Hy-Vee’s corporate sign shop to create four 3-foot-wide, 18-foot-tall banners with the display theme, frog icon and colors. They were hung from the store’s ceiling beams with fishing line and could be seen from all areas of the store.

Two chalkboard signs, both created by Ms. McKibbin, also proclaimed the theme. In addition, one told customers that they would be entered into a drawing for a large pink plush frog, valued at $170, if they placed their Valentine’s Day orders early. The giveaway helped build excitement, Ms. Fitzgerald reports, and “We had quite a few entries.”

The display also included price and product identification signage. Much of that signage included the frog icon, ensuring the “leap” theme carried throughout the display.


Ms. Fitzgerald’s Hy-Vee opened in November, so this was the store’s first Valentine’s Day. She is happy to report a successful debut—customers loved the display, she shares, and “Sales were phenomenal.”


In exchange for their year-round sunshine, residents of Florida miss out on the beauty of a traditional autumn season. Best Color Harmony winners Keith Piliego, produce manager, and Dacota Maphis, floral specialist, of Publix Super Market No. 1341 in Palm Harbor, Fla., helped their customers experience the fall with a stunning “pumpkin patch” display whose color palette beautifully highlighted the featured products.

“We wanted that seasonal look that you don’t normally see in Florida,” confirms Mr. Piliego. “We wanted to give our customers that sensational look that they might have been accustomed to seeing up north.”

To accomplish their goal, they created a huge “tree” with orange leaves that canopied a virtual cornucopia of fall delights, including 12 types of pumpkins, potted mums, sunflower bunches, bouquets, gourds, pine cones, Indian corn, sunflower balloons and apple products, all in a coordinating fall color scheme. “We tried to get as much variety and color into it” as possible, Mr. Piliego says of the display, which was up during the month of October in the store’s lobby.


Mr. Piliego credits his store’s manager, Steve Jarrett, with inspiring the display. “He tasked me to come up with a ‘talk of the town’ display,” Mr. Piliego recalls. Mr. Jarrett had built a similar display on a smaller scale several years ago and urged Mr. Piliego and Ms. Maphis to make theirs bigger—one that would wow customers when they walked in the door.

They worked on the tree’s elements when they had time during their other duties, about twice a week for four weeks, Mr. Piliego shares. They used chicken wire to attach decorative leaves, and recycled cardboard served as the branches and trunk.

The actual building of the display was a several-hour process. “We had a lot of help,” Mr. Piliego recalls. They wrapped the cardboard around a support beam to create a realistic-looking trunk, and fishing line attached to the ceiling tiles held the branches and chicken wire aloft. After the tree was finished, they put all the products in place, making sure to leave pathways through the pumpkins so customers could easily walk through and pick out their favorites.


The display was a huge success, both in sales results and customer engagement, Mr. Piliego shares: “We were the talk of the whole town.” Customers took photos, an elementary school class visited and one man even made a photo of the display the screen saver for his phone. Several still ask when the store is going to put up the display again.

Best of all, the display inspired customers to get into the fall mood. The tie-in between flowers, pumpkins and other autumn products “made customers want to decorate their houses,” Mr. Piliego says, and the promotion made doing so easy with one-stop shopping.

Mr. Piliego says that kind of customer satisfaction is the impetus for every display at his store. “When customers walk in the front door and we see that big smile and that big ‘wow,’” he shares, “that makes it all worthwhile.” sfr

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