Page 8 - Super Floral > March 2016 Issue
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healthy plants, happy customers
                                                                           The outdoor operation procures ornamental and edible plants from six
                                                                        main suppliers, all within 100 miles of the store. Buying from nearby nurser-
                                                                        ies ensures that the plants are adapted to Gainesville’s climate, and plants that
                                                                        thrive result in happy customers who keep purchasing throughout the year.
                                                                        “I get a lot of feedback about how healthy our plants are and what luck they
                                                                        have with them,” Russ confirms.

                                                                           Business is brisk, resulting in quick turnover. Ward’s suppliers fill the
                                                                        need by delivering products as many as six days a week. One of the keys to
                                                                        quick sell-through is offering eye-catching, colorful products, Russ shares.
                                                                        “When plants look good, they’ll sell easily,” he remarks. “You have to have
                                                                        pretty products.”

                                                                        “a beautiful splash of color”
                                                                           Those products catch shoppers’ attention when they first arrive. The gar-
                                                                        den area lines nearly all the front of the store, ensuring customers can’t miss
                                                                        the abundant selection of products. “There’s a beautiful splash of color in the
                                                                        front of the store,” Russ describes. “It sets the stage and the mood.”

                                                                           The selection includes hanging baskets, bedding plants, fruit and olive
                                                                        trees, succulents, orchids, poinsettias, bromeliads, herbs, vegetables and
                                                                        much more. Plants under $10 sell best, with hanging baskets the most popu-
                                                                        lar, Russ reveals.

                                                                           A crucial factor when ordering for the garden center is seasonality, Russ
                                                                        emphasizes. “It’s important to have whatever is seasonally appropriate,” he
                                                                        explains. “Customers expect that.”

                                                                        meeting weather challenges
                                                                           In addition to managing both the natural foods and outdoor departments,
                                                                        Russ also tends to the store’s grab-and-go selection of cut flowers, which
                                                                        features mostly bouquets and bunches. Strong organizational skills, products
                                                                        that don’t require a lot of maintenance and good help allow him to handle it
                                                                        all, he shares.

                                                                           Two or three assistants help with plant care, watering and other tasks. In
                                                                        the summer, when the temperature hits 100 degrees, the plants need to be
                                                                        watered as many as three times a day. “The hotter it is, the more attention the
                                                                        plants take,” Russ reminds.

                                                                           And despite Florida’s reputation for warm weather, it does get cold in
                                                                        Gainesville in the winter. When the temperatures go below freezing at night,
                                                                        Russ and his staff have to bring all the plants inside the store. Plants also
                                                                        must be brought in when hurricanes are imminent. It’s a chore, but “It does
                                                                        make the inside of the store look beautiful,” he comments.

These photos show just a sampling of the plants available as part       a love of plants
of Ward’s Supermarket’s outdoor program. The plants line nearly all        To ensure outdoor products get the best care, Russ hires assistants who
the front of the store, ensuring customers can’t miss the selection of  have garden experience and a love of plants. “The plants realize it if whoever’s
blooming, bedding and vegetable plants; hanging baskets; trees;         nurturing them has a love for them,” he declares.
herbs and much more.
                                                                           Russ certainly has that passion for gardening, and it comes through in the
                                                                        care he takes with Ward’s outdoor operation. “I grew up in the greenhouse
                                                                        business in Pennsylvania,” he shares. “My father and his father had green-
                                                                        houses, and it’s always been in my blood.” sf

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

26 / march 2016
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