70 years of
meeting customers' needs
Southern California chain grows its
floral business by capitalizing on its trademarks of quality and
by Cynthia L. McGowan
Bros. Markets, the largest privately owned supermarket chain in
Southern California, is celebrating 70 years of offering its
loyal customers a winning blend of low prices, hometown service
and store innovations. Super Floral Retailing visited the
company’s flagship Encinitas store and saw how floral fits into
the company’s customer-friendly philosophy.
Stater Bros., whose sales increased 4 percent in fiscal 2006 to
$3.5 billion, is a company on the go. As part of its yearlong
anniversary celebration, the 162-store company announced it is
moving its headquarters from Colton to a $250 million,
2.1-million-square-foot corporate headquarters and distribution
center in San Bernardino, to be completed this year. It also has
spent $15 million on produce refrigeration and expansion, the
Los Angeles Times reports. It continues to invest in its stores,
planning to open four new ones during the anniversary year,
which began Aug. 17, 2006, and remodeling 25.
But despite its growth, Stater Bros. hasn’t forgotten its roots.
Its logo is a blend of red-white-and-blue stars and stripes,
suggesting patriotism, pride and tradition. It invests time and
training to make sure it offers top-notch customer service. It
is a generous benefactor of local charities. The company is said
to treat its employees—who are called “family”—with respect, and
that respect is returned.
Stater Bros. Markets
HEADQUARTERS Colton, Calif.
CHAIRMAN and CEO Jack H. Brown (pictured here)
STORES 162 in Southern California (in Kern, Los Angeles,
Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties); the
company also owns Heartland Farms dairy
SALES $3.5 billion in fiscal 2006
ESTABLISHED 1936 by twin brothers Cleo and Leo Stater
STORES' AVERAGE SIZE 30,000-45,000 square feet
FLORAL SERVICES All 162 stores have floral, with services
depending on store size; many provide custom designs, weddings
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Average one per store
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAY Mother’s Day
FLORAL DIRECTOR Liane Temple; she is also the chair-elect
of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council
FLORAL SPECIALIST Martha Rangel
company’s store in Encinitas, in San Diego County, is
representative of the upscale design in new Stater Bros. stores
and remodels. It was updated in 2005 and offers a sophisticated
shopping experience, complete with stylish dÈcor and service
departments including floral, deli, wine and more, while
maintaining the company’s commitment to everyday low prices.
Stater Bros. acquired the store in 1999 when it bought 43 stores
from Albertsons Inc. The Encinitas store’s remodeling was
designed to appeal to the high-end tastes of the area’s
consumers—the median household income in Encinitas is $63,954,
according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared to the U.S. median
household income of $43,318. “They know what they want, they
know what it should look like, and what they want is what they
expect,” remarks Diana Bridgman, the Encinitas store director.
To entice those shoppers, the store’s decor includes a trendy
color palette of brown, cream, green and orange, which carries
throughout the store. Tiled walls add to the ambience.
The deli offers hot meals for today’s busy, on-the-go consumers.
The specialty cheese section has domestic and imported
selections, with booklets for customers advising them on their
picks. The nearby salad and olive bar offers an abundance of
In the bakery, a sign overhead proclaims, “Baking Fresh Daily So
You Don’t Have To,” and offerings range from desserts to wedding
cakes to La Brea Bakery artisan breads. The store’s wine
department, called the “Wine Cellar,” looks like a “store within
the store” and has subdued lighting, Tiffany-style hanging
lamps, a large selection of beverages on wooden merchandisers
and a wine
steward to help customers with their choices.
All Stater Bros. stores, including Encinitas,
offer full-service meat departments, where customers can
hand-pick cuts with the help of experienced butchers. The
company charges the same prices per-pound for self-service and
The company has said in the past that its meat made Stater Bros.
famous, but its recent expansion of produce has drawn customers’
notice. “Produce is extremely important to Stater’s,” says Liane
Temple, the company’s director of floral. New and remodeled
stores carry as many as 800 produce products, including
Another program that the company has grown in recent years is
floral. Before the company acquired 43 Albertsons stores in
1999, floral had a small presence in Stater Bros. stores,
usually just an end case display. With the acquisition, the
company suddenly had 43 floral departments and needed a floral
director. That’s when it hired Ms. Temple.
“We’ve grown the department,” she says, “and our upper
management realizes the benefits that floral has for the chain.
It creates the freshness, the quality, the ambience for the
It also fits with Stater Bros.’ philosophy of offering complete
service to customers. Having floral allows “one-stop” shopping,
Ms. Temple says, so now customers can get everything they need
in one store, from flowers to desserts.
keys to success
TRAINING PROGRAM Stater Bros. Markets has
an intensive training program for clerks that ensures they
emerge with the knowledge needed to run a floral department. All
employees are taught customer service skills.
FRESH PRODUCTS A “guaranteed” program with its main
vendor means that any product not sold is the responsibility of
the vendor, perhaps giving the supplier more incentive to have
only the freshest florals. Products are delivered to the stores
twice a week.
HOME DÈCOR LINE A sophisticated, upscale line of products
for home dÈcor has met with great success.
MERCHANDISING The look of the floral departments changes
often. The floral clerks are learning about interior design so
they can display the home dÈcor line to best effect.
CROSS-MERCHANDISING The entire store gets into the act
for cross-merchandised promotions.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT Stater Bros. Markets has given
thousands of dollars to organizations in the communities it
Stater Bros’ investment in floral is evident from the moment
customers step foot into the Encinitas store. Floral is directly
at the entrance, creating a lasting impression of style and
beauty as customers shop. “Customers just love walking into a
setup like that,” Martha Rangel, the company’s floral
specialist, says. “Their eyes light up when they walk in and see
a beautiful floral display.”
They’re responding to a garden delight of cut flowers and
blooming and green plants. In one section, an island display
brims with flowers by the stem and consumer bunches. Stater
Bros. expanded the stem program in response to customer demand,
Ms. Temple says. “We had so many customers asking for other,
higher ticket items like ‘Casablanca’ lilies and more upscale
flowers,” she says, “so we put this section in.”
Ms. Rangel agrees that the stem and consumer bunch selection is
a favorite with shoppers, who like to pick out their favorite
flowers and then have the in-store designer create a bouquet or
arrangement with them. “That is very successful,” she says.
Customers can choose from a tantalizing array of blooms for
those designs including amaryllises, Proteas, Cymbidium orchids,
gingers (Alpinias) and Anthuriums. “Tropicals do well here,” Ms.
Temple says. The store is near the beach, and tropical flowers
fit with the sun-loving culture of Southern California.
The centerpiece of the floral department is a four-sided, open
work station with signage proclaiming “Fresh Floral” on each
side. The side facing customers when they enter the store has a
cooler full of colorful bouquets. Top-sellers in Encinitas are
12-stem rose bouquets and 25-stem mixed bouquets, whose flowers
include lilies, Gerberas and spray mums. Customers “like the
nice, big bouquets with all the variety,” Ms. Temple says.
Bouquets and cut flowers are the floral operation’s top sellers,
but blooming and foliage plants are important, too. One side of
the floral department
work station has shelves of blooming and
green plants to tempt shoppers, in addition to separate round
merchandisers elsewhere in the department. Plants include
callas, orchids, bromeliads, Hydrangeas, Gerberas, lilies,
ivies, palms and much more. Helpful signage offers consumers
ideas for displaying with other plants and care instructions.
home decor line
Another important element to the
department is its line of
upscale home decor items. Stater Bros. started the program two
years ago to meet the needs of the store’s sophisticated
clientele. “It did so well here, we’ve taken it to some of our
other stores,” Ms. Temple says. “We have about 27 stores that we
call our ‘Home Decor Boutique Floral Stores.’ Customers love it,
and the program is doing very well.”
Products, attractively displayed to suggest how consumers could
use them in their homes, include candles, decorative vases and
urns, fountains, bird cages, trunks, tables and mirrors. “They
do really well,” Ms. Bridgman says. Complementing the line are
permanent floral designs created exclusively for Stater Bros. by
a local business.
Customers at Stater Bros.’ larger floral departments can have
arrangements made while they shop. “That’s especially popular in
Encinitas,” Ms. Rangel says.
For the most part, though, arrangements are made by Spectrum
Floral Service of Vista, Calif. Stater Bros. has a unique
partnership with the vendor, which supplies most of its cut
flowers, bouquets and arrangements. Spectrum also decides how
much product to place in each store. It’s a guaranteed program,
which means that “they are responsible for any bouquet or
arrangement that doesn’t sell,” Ms. Temple says.
Ms. Temple sees it as a “win-win situation” for both Stater
Bros. and for Spectrum. “It is in their best interest to deliver
only the freshest, most beautiful product,” she says.
Another benefit for Stater Bros. is the service it is able to
provide customers. Because Stater Bros’ floral operation is
still a growing program, not all of its floral employees, called
General Merchandise Clerks (GMC), are skilled floral designers.
Having the Spectrum partnership allows Stater Bros. to handle
weddings, proms, graduations and corporate events. Using Stater
Bros.’ “Entertainment & Party Guide,” which showcases its event
flowers, the floral clerks work with customers to get their
orders, and Spectrum fulfills them.
For big weddings, Ms. Rangel will conduct consultations herself.
Stater Bros. handles 25 to 30 weddings a year.
Stater Bros. Markets has floral display contests
during major holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and
Thanksgiving. The contests are a way to increase sales and spur
creativity in merchandising. Store directors, produce managers
and floral clerks work together on the displays.
The winners receive prizes and also are recognized in the
in-house company magazine, The Family News.
Displays are judged on:
Best use of space
Training is key to Stater Bros.’ reputation as a leader in
providing customer service. For example, newly hired checkers
undergo a five-day course in “how we expect our customers to be
treated,” company CEO Jack H. Brown told the Los Angeles Times.
Ms. Rangel, who trains all floral clerks, says, “It is my job to
take clerks and train them so they can run a department
successfully.” Many of the floral employees have no floral
experience, she says, so she concentrates first on making sure
they get the basics of plant identification, care, presentation
and pricing, using the company’s floral training manual as a
guide. “I just try to have them learn as much as they can about
their products,” she says.
For more advanced designers, she offers group workshops in
design and merchandising techniques. Floral is a part of the
produce department, and she has included produce managers in the
training, “which is absolutely essential to have them learn what
their clerks are doing,” she says.
Teamwork is important to Stater Bros. The stores emphasize
cross-merchandising in their displays, and it is one of the
criteria in the holiday floral display contests Ms. Temple
Emphasis on teamwork is also evident in how the company treats
its employees. In a recent The Family News, a 22-page Stater
Bros. in-house magazine, Mr. Brown—known affectionately in the
company as “Our Jack”—wrote to employees, “For over 25 years, I
have felt that my number one responsibility was your job
security and the job security for your family.”
That concern apparently has paid dividends, especially during
the 141-day Southern California supermarket strike that ended in
March 2004. Stater Bros. employees were not involved in the
strike, and the company gained sales from customers who wanted
to avoid picket lines.
The contract from that period expires in March, and grocery
workers by January already had agreed to a new one with Stater
Bros. Officials at the United Food and Commercial Workers union
told The San Diego Union-Tribune that they hope the contract
will serve as a model for other grocery stores in the region.
Union leader Mickey Kasparian told the newspaper, “They’ve taken
on the philosophy that they want their workers to come to work
every day feeling good about their customers and their jobs.
It’s great to have an employer that views employees with the
It’s a view echoed by Ms. Bridgman, who says having Mr. Brown’s
confidence and respect makes employees want to do their jobs
better. “I want to do the best I can for him,” she says. “It’s a
sense of pride.”
praise for stater bros.
Consumer Reports rated Stater Bros. Markets the
best place to shop for groceries among full-service supermarket
chains in Southern California and No. 10 in the United States in
its October 2006 issue.
You may reach Cynthia L. McGowan
email@example.com or by phone at (800)
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