by Cynthia L. McGowan
Floral more than holds its own at food lover’s paradise Jungle
Jim’s International Market.
“Jungle” Jim Bonaminio doesn’t do things in a small way. His
namesake store, Jungle Jim’s International Market, is a
270,000-square-foot foodie’s paradise, with 110,000 items that
include specialty foods from more than 75 countries and 9,000
bottles in the wine department. The produce section alone takes
up 1 acre of the 4-acre Fairfield, Ohio, store.
The store has life-size plaster giraffes and elephants outside
the entrance, an animatronic dancing Elvis Presley inside, a
40-foot boat called the “S.S. Minnow” in the fish department and
busloads of tourists every day who come to experience the
amusement-park atmosphere of the supermarket, which had $63.5
million in sales in 2004, according to BusinessWeek Online.
So when Mr. Bonaminio decided to give floral more of a presence
in his store, he did that in a big way, too. He moved floral
from the produce section, where it consisted of bouquets sold
out of an 8-foot case and a selection of lucky bamboo as well as
bedding plants sold under a shadecloth tent during the spring,
and gave it a huge showcase greenhouse and floral/gift shop
adjoining the main store, across from the main entrance.
Now when Jungle Jim’s 50,000 shoppers a week come to the store,
the first thing they are likely to see is the 6,000-square-foot,
nearly 80-foot-tall, octagonal greenhouse. The floral department
is another 6,000 square feet, and an outside, covered
10,000-square-foot area attached to the greenhouse is used for
perennials and garden statuary during the spring. The greenhouse
and floral shop opened in February 2004, and Craig Steiner
(above right), general manager of the produce and floral
departments, says they represent a tremendous investment by Mr.
Bonaminio, underscoring the importance floral represents for his
“Jim has seen what floral can do, how it generates excitement
and repeat business, and how it kind of sets the image and the
theme for the rest of the store,” Mr. Steiner says.
Mr. Bonaminio’s investment in floral appears to be paying off,
both in customer reaction and in sales. Mr. Steiner says floral
sales for the week of Mother’s Day 2005 hit a record $100,000,
exceeding the 2004 holiday’s sales by 30 percent, and he
expected the week after Mother’s Day to reach that figure, too.
A typical, nonholiday week’s sales usually run about $20,000, he
Mother’s Day is the store’s biggest floral holiday, and this
year, the store completely sold out of floral items, both fresh
cuts and plants. “I didn’t have a stem left on Monday,” says
Jeanne Wallace (right), floral manager/buyer. “Not one
Ms. Wallace says shoppers were in awe when they walked into the
floral and gift shop for the first time for its grand opening.
“It was so exciting. We’d watch them walk in, and their mouths
just fell. They said, ‘This is so beautiful.’”
She got that reaction through the use of creative merchandising
and having a large variety of products, both fresh and hard
goods. Mr. Bonaminio gave Ms. Wallace free rein to design the
floral department with props she found in the store’s warehouse.
She found “beautiful” antique furniture ranging from hutches to
stoves to ice boxes, and when she told Mr. Bonaminio she wanted
to use the antiques, he asked her which ones. She replied, “All
Ms. Wallace uses those antiques as well as wooden boxes and
tables to show off her fresh florals, plants and giftware. A
cooler holds ready-made arrangements as well as vase
arrangements that are made in the store. Ms. Wallace displays
consumer bunches in buckets on four levels for a stair-step
effect. Jungle Jim’s has 45 varieties of flowers in its consumer
bunch program, including chrysanthemums, Alstroemerias, Gerberas
and Cymbidium orchids. They retail for three bunches for $15,
says she typically sells 550 consumer bunches a week and as many
as triple that on holidays.
The floral shop’s biggest fresh-cut seller, at 150 a week, is a
$5 “grower’s choice” mixed garden bouquet. The flowers will
vary, but it typically has chrysanthemums, Alstroemerias and
seasonal flowers such as sunflowers and snapdragons.
Roses, priced at $9.99 a dozen, are increasing in sales, Ms.
Wallace says. The store sells about 40 dozen a week.
Plants are also popular items. Ms. Wallace says 6-inch tropicals,
priced at $7.99, are her best sellers, with 30 to 40 sold a
week. Dish gardens, priced at $14.99 to $69.99, also sell well,
especially for funerals. A tiki hut holds lucky bamboo, which
retails for $2 up to $125. Ms. Wallace says lucky bamboo sales
are a surprise hit with shoppers, having quadrupled in sales
since the floral shop opened.
Ms. Wallace’s primary cut flower supplier is based in Miami and
delivers two truckloads a week. Potted plants are trucked in
from Canada and Florida, and orchid plants are flown directly
from Hawaii every other week.
The floral and gift shop also sells a wide variety of pottery,
Mexican ceramics, wind chimes and stained glass hanging windows
with floral motifs, which sell for $15.99 to $99. The most
popular stained-glass item goes for $49.99, with several sold a
In the greenhouse, which Mr. Steiner manages, the bedding plants
are displayed according to color. “We use the same visual
concept that we do in the produce department,” he says, “and
it’s been fairly effective.”
Mr. Steiner credits his greenhouse success to high-quality
plants sold at the right prices. “Our product is as good or
better than independent nurseries, but it’s not priced like an
independent nursery,” he says. “The reception from the customers
is really good because they’re getting nursery quality for lower
prices than they’re used to.” His main supplier is a Michigan
company that he has done business with for 20 years. Bedding
plants are delivered at least twice a week.
Bedding plant season runs from mid-April until mid-June. In the
third week of June, Mr. Steiner sells Amish-style
furniture—porch swings, gliders, rockers and so on—inside the
greenhouse, as well as tropical plants. In August, the
greenhouse is home to fall mums, pumpkins and other
autumn-themed merchandise, leading into Christmas, when it’s
time for gift basket production, another of Mr. Bonaminio’s big
As many as 75 people help produce the popular gift baskets,
assembly-line style, with shoppers watching the production. Ms.
Wallace says more than 7,000 baskets are made during the season.
Gift baskets sell for $20 to $200, with the most popular at $50.
The floral shop will add fresh flowers or plants to the baskets,
depending on customer requests. Other holiday items such as
poinsettias and gift items are merchandised in the greenhouse
during the gift basket production, drawing add-on sales.
Jungle Jim’s draws an interesting mixture of repeat customers
and curious tourists, and Ms. Wallace and Mr. Steiner have
designed a floral operation that appeals to both clienteles. Ms.
Wallace constantly changes the look of the floral and gift shop
to catch the attention of repeat customers and grab impulse
sales, which she estimates compose as much as 85 percent of her
sales. Because of its wide selection of international foods,
Jungle Jim’s draws a large ethnic clientele, and Ms. Wallace
makes sure she has products that appeal to different ethnic
She also makes sure her department is spotless and ready for the
constant stream of tourists that come through the store. She
acts as a tour guide for visitors, who come from as far as
Tennessee and Canada. “I point out to them that we buy flowers
from all over the world,” she says. “I point out the lucky
bamboo from Thailand, the orchids from Hawaii, the flowers from
Holland and Colombia, keeping them on that safari kind of
atmosphere that the other side of the store has.” She loves
giving the tours, and it doesn’t hurt that afterward, the
visitors usually come back and buy something from her gift shop.
Ms. Wallace, formerly the floral director for the Crosset
Company, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler that carries a full
line of floral, was enticed out of retirement by Mr. Bonaminio’s
offer to work in the brand-new floral shop. She insists on
selling only high-quality fresh products and makes sure her
employees are well-trained in floral care. “We do hands-on
training,” she says. “I teach every employee to make sure to
touch everything that’s in here, every day, to see if it needs
water.” Stems are recut every third day, and anything stale is
That attention to detail, along with a flair for merchandising,
is what keeps customers coming back and busloads of tourists
glad they made the trip.
You can reach Cynthia L. McGowan at
email@example.com or by phone at (800)
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