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store profile

creating a floral niche

Newport Avenue Market finds success with tropicals, gift baskets and great service.
by Cynthia L. McGowan

     Newport Avenue Market, an independent gourmet grocery store in Bend, Ore., has a core guiding philosophy for all departments, including its full-service floral operation: Be first, best or different.

     “We like to be first on the market with things, we try to get the best products and we like to be different,” explains owner Rudy Dory. “The ultimate goal would be to have something nobody else has.”

     Toward that end, Mr. Dory and his wife, Debbie, have created a store atmosphere that emphasizes the shopping experience. Mrs. Dory is a former florist, and Mr. Dory credits her for the store’s eye-catching appeal. “She is really into display,” he says. “We’re not the ‘stack ’em high, watch ’em fly’ kind of a look.”

     Instead, the store creates displays that invite customers to look, touch and buy. “We don’t merchandise particularly with speed in mind, of getting you out as fast as we can,” Mr. Dory remarks. “We want you to linger as long as possible.”

     That means offering a full range of gourmet products and services to keep customers in the store longer and spending more—“the ultimate goal,” Mr. Dory reminds. The chef-staffed deli serves freshly made grab-and-go gourmet meals, sandwiches and sushi. The large beer and wine department has an expert on hand to give recommendations and provide tastings. The meat department sources its beef exclusively from a local ranchers’ cooperative. The store also has locally sourced produce, specialty cheeses from local and international producers, and an extensive selection of professional quality cookware.

     The store sets the tone for a unique experience before shoppers step foot into the building. As part of a remodeling in 2009, the Dorys commissioned a local artist to paint a mural across the entire storefront that depicts the company’s fresh offerings. On the company’s website, the artist writes that her work aimed to “convey the freshness, color, whimsy and life that has characterized the interior of the warm and familiar Newport Avenue Market.”

     The store’s reputation for high-quality products and service has earned it a loyal following in Bend. In 2010, for the 12th year in a row, it was named the “Best Grocery Store” by The Source Weekly, a regional publication, in its annual “The Best of Central Oregon” issue, which cited Newport Avenue Market’s customer service and “reputation for keeping plenty of specialty food items in stock.” The publication also lauded the store’s deli, beers and wines.

standing out in floral

     The two-person floral department is an important part of the store’s commitment to enhancing the shopping experience. It is at the front of the store, greeting customers with a cheerful array of enticing flowers and lush blooming plants beautifully merchandised to convey a fresh image.

     For Judy Shaw, the floral manager, being “first, best or different” means delighting customers with products and service they can’t find elsewhere. “I’m always trying to find something new and different,” she elaborates, “and our clientele knows that.”

     For example, Ms. Shaw took a chance about four years ago that customers would respond well to cut tropicals—not only to orchids but also to more exotic ones including gingers, Heliconias and Anthuriums. She found a supplier in Hawaii, began receiving weekly shipments and soon developed a local following for tropicals.

     In fact, cut tropicals are now Newport Avenue Market’s top-selling floral product. Ms. Shaw even sells them to local retail florists, who know the store always has a supply in stock. “I’m just kind of the go-to place in Bend for tropicals,” Ms. Shaw describes.

 

  newport avenue market  
  LOCATION Bend, Ore.
OWNERS Rudy and Debbie Dory
YEAR OPENED 1993
STORE SIZE 22,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE 900 square feet
STORE EMPLOYEES 65
FLORAL EMPLOYEES 2 full time
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAY Valentine’s Day
FLORAL SERVICES Custom designs and gift baskets; delivery
FLORAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO STORE SALES 2.96 percent, on average
FLORAL MANAGER Judy Shaw
WEBSITE www.newportavemarket.com
 

wrapping up the gift basket business

     Custom gift baskets also help the floral department stand out from competitors. “We do a huge gift basket business,” Mr. Dory says, selling hundreds a year including as many as 500 during the Christmas season. “People love to get our gift baskets.”

     Every gift basket comes with three beautiful bows handmade by Mrs. Dory, and Ms. Shaw assembles the creations, one at a time. “They’re all custom,” Mr. Dory emphasizes. “We do no mass baskets.”

     Products for the baskets come from throughout the store and can include fruit, gourmet foods items, wine and much more. The average price ranges from $60 to $75, but the store sells them for $200 and up—the most expensive one to date was $500. “They’re really, really nice, and when people get them, they just say, ‘Wow, this is a gift basket!’” Mr. Dory describes.

     Customers often pick out items for gift baskets themselves, but when they ask Ms. Shaw to do so, she takes the time to ask about the recipients’ tastes. Her goal, she says, is to make the recipients feel they have received a personalized gift—and that often is the response. “Most [senders] come back and say, ‘They thought I came down here and picked out everything myself,’” Ms. Shaw says.

     The store sells the baskets to individuals and businesses and also donates them to community groups as auction items for fundraisers. In addition, three local florists buy gift baskets from the store for their clientele, which Ms. Shaw calls a lucrative business.

sourcing for quality

     Selling only high-quality floral products is another factor in the department’s “first, best or different” strategy, Ms. Shaw offers. “I don’t buy from the cheapest vendor because sometimes [the product] is not as good quality,” she explains. “I buy top quality, and I pay a little bit more for that top-quality product.”

     Mr. Dory says that Newport Avenue Market’s mostly affluent customer base expects a high-end product and will pay for it. “When you see our store, nothing says shabby or cheap,” he comments. “We’re more about the quality, period. We want it to be the best.”

     To ensure products are always fresh, the store receives floral deliveries five or six times a week from local wholesalers and growers. The floral staff also constantly checks the flowers and plants to cull anything past its prime. “If I wouldn’t buy it,” Ms. Shaw remarks, “I take it out.”

favorite florals

     Customers’ favorite floral products are consumer bunches and flowers by the stem. They will ask the floral staff to create bouquets with the flowers they pick out or take them home to do it themselves. Top sellers include Dendrobium, Mokara or miniature Cymbidium orchids, at $2.99 a stem or $13.99 for a bunch of five; Heliconias for $6.99 a stem; gingers for $4.99 a stem; and Oriental lilies for $6.99 a stem. A local grower supplies cut tulips, and they sell well at Valentine’s Day at $4.99 for five stems.

     Prices for ready-made bouquets range from $9.99 to $14.99. Ms. Shaw says her clientele doesn’t seem to favor a certain style, and “I try to have a nice variety, so there’s something out there for everybody.”

     Newport Avenue Market customers like classic arrangements such as single orchids in clear glass vases for $14.99 each. “I sell a tremendous amount of those because they are so simple, elegant and beautiful,” Ms. Shaw declares. The department keeps a selection of arrangements priced at $20 and less in the cooler for customers to grab and go.

     In addition, the department has a large tropical arrangement as a showpiece. It doesn’t always sell, but it inspires customers to pick out tropicals by the stem or in bunches to create their own designs. “I sell a lot of flowers because it is there, and it gives them the idea,” Ms. Shaw describes.

     Customers’ tastes in plants tend toward the exotic, too. Bromeliads, at $14.99 to $29.99; Anthuriums for $23.99;
and “lava plants” at $23.99 are top sellers. Fleurette mums, from $6.99 to $8.99, also sell well, as do $15.99 kangaroo ferns.

     Newport Avenue Market has a thriving outdoor business, with bedding and hanging plants dominating the front of the store during Bend’s gardening season. Ms. Shaw buys outdoor products only from local growers so the plants will be acclimated to central Oregon’s climate.

“wonderful people”

     In addition to excellent products and merchandising, Newport Avenue Market is known for its customer service. “We have people who love their jobs,” Mr. Dory explains, and they, in turn, provide enthusiastic service. “The best complement I ever get on my employees is, ‘Where did you get all the wonderful people?’”

     That enthusiasm is true of Ms. Shaw and her full-time assistant. When the store was remodeled in 2009, Ms. Shaw asked to have a design counter and sink moved to a public area so the florists can interact with customers while they work. They’ll talk with customers about the designs they are making and show them how to put different flowers together. “I think they buy more,” she reports.

     The floral department offers custom designs, including creating arrangements while clients shop, as well as delivery for $7.50 and up. The floral staff also provides complimentary wrapping for all floral purchases.

     The department also finds other and unexpected ways to serve customers. Ms. Shaw e-mails photos of arrangements and gift baskets to the senders. “That way they can see exactly what they purchased,” she explains. “I know I would appreciate that.”

     In addition, she keeps a bucket labeled “Kids’ Flowers” in the department. After asking the parents’ permission, she gives individual stems to children who stop by. “I get the biggest kick out of it, and so do the kids,” Ms. Shaw enthuses. “They love it.” She has done this for about three years, and now children will seek her out for the flowers.

quality pays off

     By seeking to be first, best or different, through high-quality and unique products and excellent customer service, the department has seen its sales grow more than 5 percent so far this year. Confirms Ms. Shaw, “People like to be pampered. It makes a huge difference, and that’s what our whole store is based on.”

 

 

keys to success

 
 


ENTICING DISPLAYS
The floral department at Newport Avenue Market brims with fresh, colorful flowers and plants. The look reflects the high-end appeal of the gourmet store.

PRODUCTS Floral products are delivered five to six times a week, assuring freshness. The department caters to the local clientele’s tastes, offering products that pique their interest.

SERVICE The two full-time designers will custom-wrap all florals for free. They enjoy engaging with customers and talking with them about their flowers.

GETTING THE WORD OUT The store publicizes its flowers and plants through word-of-mouth, its website, Facebook and Twitter.

 

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

Photos courtesy of Newport Avenue Market

Super Floral Retailing •• Copyright 2011
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.