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Store Profile

Schnucks: Taking floral to a higher level


This St. Louis-based chain adds upscale gifts, accessories and furniture to its product mix.


by Cynthia L. McGowan

Schnuck Markets, Inc. of St. Louis, Mo., has taken its full-service floral departments in a new direction by adding upscale giftware, home-dÈcor accessories, furniture and more types of specialty flowers. Consumer response to the pilot program, which began four months ago, has been overwhelmingly positive, company officials report.
Rhonda Lynn-Moeckel, AIFD, design coordinator/trainer for the 101-store chain, says the company initially planned to “kick it up a notch” in floral. In reality, she says, “we’re kicking it up several notches.”
The floral operation’s new look was unveiled in February during the opening of the privately owned company’s prototype store in Twin Oaks, Mo., a growing western suburb of St. Louis. At the time, the chain’s stores in metropolitan St. Louis were preparing for an expected expansion of Wal-Mart Supercenters in the area, Chairman and CEO Scott Schnuck told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Part of the strategy to combat that new competition was to lower prices on more than 10,000 items in the St. Louis area.
The other key to Schnucks’ strategy is upscaling, and the Twin Oaks store is the hallmark of that effort. The 63,000-square-foot store is designed to appeal to shoppers’ senses while offering convenience and service.
 
 
schnuck markets, inc.
 
 
HEADQUARTERS St. Louis, Mo.
CHAIRMAN and CEO Scott C. Schnuck
STORES 101, including five Logli stores, in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee and Mississippi
SALES $2.3 billion in 2006, according to the Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
ESTABLISHED 1939
EMPLOYEES 15,000
stores’ average size 63,000 square feet
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral departments in 98 stores, offering custom designs, weddings and events, delivery, and FTD flowers-by-wire service
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Average two per store
FLORAL category manager/buyer Michael Schrader
design coordinator/Trainer Rhonda Lynn-Moeckel, AIFD
WEB SITE www.schnucks.com

 

setting the tone
The store is divided into two distinct sections: perishables and grocery. The perishables side houses the produce, deli, bakery, seafood, meat and floral departments, all under a huge arched roof. Spanning much of the width of the perishables side is a sign overhead that proclaims “Marketplace” below a drawing of an enticing feast. The colors in the sign complement the earth tones in the perishables area—a pleasing palette of greens, browns and reds.
The inviting produce department merchandises its large selection of fresh products on wooden tables, giving it a farmers’ market feel. “Produce really sets a tone for freshness in our stores,” describes Michael Schrader, Schnucks’ floral category manager/buyer.
The spacious perishables area also has a deli, where customers can buy made-to-order sandwiches and entrees. The bakery offers fresh goods baked on site. “A lot of our customers come to our stores because we have a fresh bakery,” shares Ms. Lynn-Moeckel. Customers also can help themselves to shrimp from the seafood-and-soup bar, or they can choose specialties from the sushi bar, which is staffed every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The store’s traffic pattern is designed to lead shoppers from floral, at the entrance, through perishables and into the grocery section, which has brighter lighting and peppier music than the mellower tones coming from the perishables side. It’s also easy to navigate. “One of the great things about the grocery side of the store is that our aisles are wider to accommodate people so you can actually browse, and if someone’s coming the other way, you don’t feel like you’re on top of each other,” Mr. Schrader says.
The grocery side houses a large pharmacy with drive-through; a bank; a seating area for diners that offers wireless Internet access; and a Kaldi’s coffee bar, a St. Louis roaster that is a favorite among locals. It even has a cooler with fresh, gourmet pet food. The prototype “is a cutting-edge store for us. We’re trying new things,” shares Ms. Lynn-Moeckel, who has been with Schnucks for nearly 13 years.

a “real” florist
A big part of that innovation is in the floral department, which greets customers as soon as they walk into the store with a dazzling panoply of fresh flowers, beautiful home-dÈcor items and lush plants. “We want our customers to know that they are walking into a real florist—a real retail florist—inside a grocery store,” Ms. Lynn-Moeckel says. The look of the department is key to that goal. “It’s another way to let [customers] realize, ‘Wow, they’re more than just a place where I can buy bouquets,’” she says.
The Twin Oaks store achieves that look thanks to upscale giftware, attractive tables and shelving, and an abundance of fresh florals, all appealingly displayed in color-blocked vignettes. “We try to have it merchandised to make a statement,” says Mr. Schrader, who joined the company earlier this year after serving as manager/buyer for Botanicals on the Park, a well-known St. Louis specialty florist and gift company.
The giftware and home-dÈcor line includes birdcages, candleholders, vases, topiaries, pedestals, candelabra, silk wreaths and chandeliers at affordable prices. An attractive artificial artichoke retailed for $4.99 during a recent visit by Super Floral Retailing, and the pedestal that showcased it was $13.99.
“We have things at different price points in each display,” Mr. Schrader says, thereby reaching customers at a variety of income levels. “They might not be able to afford the $60 or $70 items, but they might be able to afford the $7 or $8 pieces,” he gives as an example.
Even the tables and shelves that display products are for sale. Cindy McCullough, floral manager of the Twin Oaks store, reports she has sold a couple of tables since the store started carrying the line.
In fact, the entire line has met with an enthusiastic response. The store sold out its first shipment in 30 days. “It’s selling very well,” Ms. McCullough says. “People love the new look.”
To find the products customers will respond to, Mr. Schrader, Ms. Lynn-Moeckel and one or two of Schnucks’ four merchandisers comb the Atlanta and Dallas gift shows and floral trade shows. Mr. Schrader says he likes to keep an eye out for new vendors on the cutting edge who offer “that next hot new trend.”

 
keys to success
 
 
HOME-DECOR LINE A new home-decor and gift line has added a sophisticated touch to Schnuck Markets, Inc.’s floral selections. Customers have responded well, buying out the first shipment in about a month.
MERCHANDISING Flowers and accessories are attractively merchandised in color-blocked vignettes, adding interest to the departments.
FRESH FLOWERS Schnucks follows strict cold-chain guidelines to ensure flower longevity. If customers are unhappy with their flowers, they get their money back, no questions asked.
EXPERIENCE The company has American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) and FTD Master Designers, and its floral buyer, design coordinator and four floral merchandisers have a total of 150 years of industry experience.
DESIGN CENTER “Focus on Design,” with a staff of about 30, handles call-in orders, weddings and corporate events. It is the distribution center for flowers and hard goods for all 98 floral departments.
WEB SITE The floral department is well-publicized on Schnucks’ Web site, www.schnucks.com. Customers can order online, learn about floral services and get gift ideas. There’s even an “Ask the Experts” section.

 

educating customers
Adding sophisticated gifts and accessories is more than just a way for Schnucks to give its floral departments an upscale look. It’s also about selling more flowers. “We want to get past the customer looking at [flowers] as an impulse purchase and make it a daily routine,” Ms. Lynn-Moeckel says.
Adds Mr. Schrader, “We’re trying to teach them that they really are a necessity. For a developed country, we have one of the lowest per-capita consumption rates of flowers in the world.” The new line, coupled with creative merchandising, aims to show customers how they can pair flowers and accessories to beautify their homes.
Schnucks also is making sure floral managers have the skills to merchandise the products effectively by presenting the new line at company seminars. “When they feel confident about what they’re selling, they present it to the customers better,” Ms. Lynn-Moeckel says. “And then the customers feel better about what they’re taking home.”
To make sure customers have the skills to keep their flowers thriving, Schnucks is planning to have public seminars on care and handling. The classes will benefit both consumers and Schnucks. “If they knew how to take care of the product, they would be less hesitant to make a purchase,” Mr. Schrader declares.



expanding floral selection
Schnucks’ floral customers have a wide range of options for their floral needs. They can choose from consumer bunches and flowers by the stem to make their own bouquets; ask the floral staff to make designs for them while they shop; or call in orders to their favorite store or the company’s design center, called “Focus on Design.”
A large sign near a display of consumer bunches at the Twin Oaks store says, “Create Your Own Arrangement. Mix and Match Flowers from our European Flower Market!” The abundant selection includes callas, Gerberas, spray mums, tulips, lilies and roses.
One of Mr. Schrader’s goals when he joined Schnucks was to expand the flower selection, especially to more seasonal and emerging varieties. “We’re just trying to get our customers exposed to all the other things that are out there,” he says. French tulips and Viburnums are two recent examples.
Prices for bouquets and consumer bunches range from $4.99 to $19.99. “We’re expanding from just an everyday bouquet into more specialty bouquets,” Ms. Lynn-Moeckel says, “with orchids, bromeliads and other specialty types of flowers.”
The cooler in the Twin Oaks store is stocked with freshly made arrangements for customers on the go. Ms. McCullough says arrangements in her store range from $12 to $100. She and the staff of four make all the arrangements in her store, but some stores with fewer employees can order arrangements from the design center, which serves all 98 floral departments.
Plants also add to the ambience of the floral departments. Gorgeous seven-bloom hot-pink Hydrangeas, colorful tulips, vibrant hyacinths and assorted green plants, ranging from $7.99 to $19.99, graced the Twin Oaks store before Easter.

 
focus on design
 
 
Schnuck Markets, Inc.’s design center, “Focus on Design,” is located in St. Louis, Mo., and has a staff of 30 including 12 to 15 designers and two event coordinators.
The design center services five to six weddings a weekend. Says Rhonda Lynn-Moeckel, AIFD, design coordinator/trainer, “we are almost completely booked up through fall.”
The design center also handles corporate and event work. “We’ve been the exclusive florist for six Senior PGAs in St. Louis as well as the World Championship of Golf,” Ms. Lynn-Moeckel shares.

 

cold-chain standards
Schnucks has strict cold-chain safeguards to keep flowers lasting longer and customer satisfaction high. The flowers, which are sourced from a variety of U.S. and global suppliers as well as local wholesalers, are distributed through the 45,000-square-foot design center. When they arrive, they are put immediately into one of four large coolers. Flowers destined for stores are sent there on refrigerated trucks.
The design center also handles weddings and corporate events. The 12 to 15 designers perform their work in a cool environment to keep the flowers fresh. “We have customers who come back again and again because they say the flowers last so long,” Ms. Lynn-Moeckel says.

bright outlook
And they’re also coming back for the new line of giftware and accessories. So far, four stores have tested the line, with another eight planned in the first stage.
Gratified by the response from customers, Mr. Schrader declares, “We’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg as far as where we’re taking our floral departments.”

 
the rose experts
 
 
Schnuck Markets, Inc. brands itself as “The Rose Experts,” and roses, both spray and standard, are its No. 1 cut flower.
“We pride ourselves on carrying the highest-quality roses available and bringing our customers a large selection,” says Rhonda Lynn-Moeckel, AIFD, design coordinator/trainer for Schnucks. “We stand behind a guarantee that if they’re not happy or they don’t feel that the roses lasted as long as they should, we replace them without any questions asked.”
In addition, the company educates floral employees on caring for roses once they arrive in the stores, including processing the flowers, keeping buckets clean and using the proper amount of flower food.

 



You may reach Cynthia L. McGowan at cmcgowan@superfloralretailing.com or by phone at (800) 355-8086.


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