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store profile

Westborn Market: Floral in a big way

This Michigan independent entices customers with spacious, flower-filled departments and excellent service.
  by Cynthia L. McGowan

     
Few grocery stores can dedicate as much as 4,000 square feet and 15 to 25 employees to each of their floral departments. But family-owned Michigan independent Westborn Market does so, and that investment in floral has paid off, with departments that contribute 12 percent toward company sales and deliver satisfied repeat customers.

     “We have florist quality service at flower market prices,” explains Jeff Anusbigian, who co-owns the three-store Detroit metropolitan-area specialty
market with his brothers, Mark and Tony. That means offering full-service departments staffed by trained designers and event specialists who can handle every floral need customers have, from custom designs to weddings and funerals.

huge selection of flowers
     Floral “goes hand in hand with what we are all about,” says Mr. Anusbigian, who is responsible for the floral operation. The company began as a corner fruit stand in 1963 and has grown into an upscale international market that focuses on providing the best in fresh for its health-conscious customers, from abundant local produce to house-baked breads to gourmet, chef-prepared meals.

     Flowers, in their huge space at the front of the stores, help reinforce Westborn’s commitment to freshness. “We have probably as many flowers as a regular wholesaler would have,” remarks Nicole Magewick, floral manager and event specialist at Westborn Market’s Berkley, Mich., location.

     Indeed, the gorgeous departments are bursting with flowers and plants and immediately captivate customers with a profusion of color. Tables brim with blooming plants, branches, exotic foliage plants and giftware. In each store, large custom-built walk-in coolers, designed by Michigan-based SRC Refrigeration, invite customers to browse bouquets, arrangements and flowers by the stem. A separate cooler houses tropical flowers.

     Mr. Anusbigian says always having a big volume of flowers in the departments demonstrates to customers the company’s commitment to floral, and an added benefit is that buying in bulk keeps prices low. “We do flowers 52 weeks a year,” he points out, meaning that Westborn Market doesn’t gear up just for major holidays; its departments look as full the day after a holiday as the day before. “When customers walk into Westborn Market,” Mr. Anusbigian emphasizes, “they know they’re going to find a ton of flowers.”

     And customers do respond to Westborn Market’s flowers, as revealed by this patron’s review on Insiderpages.com: “This specialty grocer has a terrific selection of fruits and vegetables, ranging from the ordinary to the exotic. Everything is beautiful and fresh. However, the real reason I shop here is for the flowers. They have a huge refrigerated case of fresh flowers, as well as potted blooms of all varieties. I have found many good deals over the years, and the quality is always high.”

 
 

westborn market

 


LOCATIONS
Three stores in the Detroit, Mich., metropolitan area: Dearborn, Berkley and Livonia
OWNERS Three brothers: Jeff, Mark and Tony Anusbigian
FOUNDERS George and Janette Anusbigian, the current owners’ parents, in 1963
STORE SIZE 30,000-35,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE Average about 4,000 square feet; space dedicated to floral quadruples in the spring when the outdoor garden centers open
FLORAL EMPLOYEES 15-25 full and part time in each store, depending on the season
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAY Mother’s Day
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service florals including custom designs, weddings, funerals and events; gift baskets; delivery; and Teleflora flowers-by-wire service
FLORAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO COMPANY SALES 12 percent
WEB SITE www.westbornmarket.com

customer service is a priority
     Keeping customers like the Insiderpages.com reviewer satisfied is what drives Westborn Market. “They are the reason we are here,” Mr. Anusbigian acknowledges. “They are appreciated by us.”

    To ensure customers feel that appreciation, Westborn Market makes service a priority. Although its bulk buying keeps floral prices low, “We are certainly not sacrificing service,” Mr. Anusbigian says. “If anything, we ramp up the service because that’s what sets us apart from all the other big players in town and the national players.”

      Depending on the season, the stores staff more than two dozen floral employees each (about 10 of whom are full time), and they all have important roles in providing that crucial customer service. Each department has a floral manager, two to three designers, counter helpers, an event specialist, dedicated delivery drivers and flower processors. In the spring, floral employees staff the large outdoor garden operation, which quadruples the space dedicated to floral.

     Turnover among employees is low. “They’re appreciated,” Mr. Anusbigian explains. “The managers appreciate the employees and their passion, and that just spills right over into our customer service.”

     Another key to employee retention and success is hiring floral professionals “who love flowers,” he remarks. “If you get people who love or at least like what they do, they’re going to be good at it.”

     Westborn Market helps keep employees’ creative fire burning and their skills up to date by offering ongoing training through the Michigan Floral Association (MFA) and trade shows. Industry publications such as Super Floral Retailing also are part of the company’s training strategy.

“we have our hands in everything”
     Having a large, well-trained staff allows Westborn Market to give customers one-on-one attention when they are making floral purchases. “We’re always helping them select flowers and are talking about the plants,” Ms. Magewick says. “The whole staff is very knowledgeable about flowers and always able to assist.” All flower purchases receive complimentary wrapping and can be rung up at one of the floral department’s three registers, or they can be rung up at the store’s main checkout area.

     The staff often creates arrangements for customers while they shop. “We generally ask for about 30 minutes,” Ms. Magewick remarks, which allows the florists to create and gift-wrap the designs. “That’s enough time to build a $50 or $100 arrangement.”

 
    Westborn Market provides wedding services from setup to delivery, handling, on average, 200 nuptials a year. Two of the stores have consultation rooms, and at the third, brides and the wedding consultant meet at a table in the floral department. The company has a full-service catering operation, and the two departments will recommend one another’s services to clients. Westborn Market publicizes its wedding services on its Web site, www.westbornmarket.com, in a professionally produced brochure, in bridal magazines and on wedding Web sites such as TheKnot.com.

     Other services include seven-day-a-week delivery, for a $10 fee, and family funeral work including setup at the funeral home. “We are pretty much doing it all,” Ms. Magewick concludes. “We have our hands in everything.”
 

 

garden business blooms

 
 

    Westborn Market capitalizes on Michigan residents’ eagerness to leave their hard winters behind at the first sign of spring by offering huge garden centers full of everything they need to beautify their outdoor spaces.

     The Livonia, Mich., location has a 6,000-square-foot permanent greenhouse, and the other two stores, in Berkley and Dearborn, have temporary, 60-foot-long cold-frame greenhouses. Jeff Anusbigian, co-owner of Westborn Market, estimates the company’s space dedicated to floral quadruples during the spring.

     Depending on the weather, the company starts putting garden products outside around the last week of April and keeps them out until Aug. 1. Nursery stock and shrubs are the first items that go out, and by May 1, the greenhouses and surrounding areas are filled with perennials, annuals and hanging baskets, most of them grown locally.

     The stores bring in seasonal help to supplement the floral staff, often college students who are home on break and have been with Westborn Market since high school. The company trains employees on garden procedures and plant care, but Mr. Anusbigian says most of the outdoor workers already are garden enthusiasts, which is important when dealing with these perishable products. “You can’t just say, ‘Just go out and water the plants,’” he reminds. “You’ve got to have the knowledge.”

 

successful vendor partnerships
     And while weddings and other events are important to the business, Westborn Market has grown the operation thanks to regular flower purchasers. “We love to get [customers] for the holidays or special occasions, but most of our flower purchasers are weekly flower buyers,” Mr. Anusbigian confides. “That’s what has enabled us to do the volume we do and to grow the way we have.”

     To keep shoppers coming back, Westborn Market makes sure to offer the freshest products in its flower-market-style departments. The company’s flower and plant buyer, Susan Dunmore, a graduate of Michigan State University’s horticulture program, procures cut flowers directly from local and international growers as well as from nearby wholesalers, with deliveries arriving at the stores six days a week.

     Michigan boasts a thriving horticulture industry, and Westborn Market buys many of its blooming plants from local growers, a fact customers appreciate. The company also gets several shipments of cut flowers and blooming plants every week from nearby Ontario, Canada. “We’re really fortunate as far as lines of supplies; we have so many,” Mr. Anusbigian remarks.

     He describes a collaborative partnership between Westborn Market and its suppliers, some of whom the company has done business with for more than 40 years. “The relationship with our vendors is part of our success,” he emphasizes. Open lines of communication and a willingness to meet one another’s needs are crucial to Westborn Market’s successful vendor relationships, he reveals. “They will do whatever we want them to do, and vice versa.”

favorite florals
     Short-stem roses (40 cm) are Westborn Market’s best-selling floral item, selling for $7.99 to $9.99 a dozen. Customers also enjoy selecting loose stems from the department’s large selection, which includes lilies, roses, tulips, mums, Gerberas and much more.

     Mixed bouquets also sell well, with prices ranging from $10 to $35. The company’s designers create the $10 bouquets, which usually are monochromatic and feature seasonal flowers including Gerberas, spray mums, roses or Irises. Wholesalers design the bouquets in the higher price points.

     The stores always keep about 100 arrangements in the coolers for customers to grab and go. Shoppers prefer unique arrangements, Ms. Magewick reveals, especially those featuring tropicals. The average price is $50.

     A huge business every spring is the outdoor garden center, where thousands of square feet are dedicated to bedding plants and complementary items. (Read more about the outdoor center in “Garden Business Blooms,” below.)

     The blooming plant business is growing after a couple of years of slow sales, Mr. Anusbigian reveals. Winter-weary customers respond well to spring bulbs such as Hyacinths, tulips and daffodils, which sell for $6.99 to $9.99. Other good sellers include Cyclamens and Kalanchoes.

     Gift baskets also are important to the floral operation’s business. Shoppers can order them online and ship them nationwide or buy them ready-made from the departments. If they don’t find what they need among the ready-made baskets, the floral staff will create custom items. Prices start at $30 and go as high as $124.99.

the right way
     To make sure customers know about its high-quality products, Westborn Market gives floral prominent placement on its Web site. Customers can learn about the department and its services, order flowers for local or national delivery, and download informational brochures on products and care and handling.

     The Web site tells customers, “When you want to ‘say it with flowers,’ come to Westborn Market—for unparalleled customer service, exceptional freshness and attention to detail.” Those are the qualities that customers respond to and that have fueled Westborn Market’s phenomenal floral success. As Mr. Anusbigian says, “If you do it right, day in and day out, you will be rewarded.”
 

 

keys to success

 
 

ATTENTION-GETTING DEPARTMENTS The beautiful floral departments at Westborn Market are designed to look like flower markets and to entice customers with colorful displays. The look of the departments changes often to keep customers’ interest high.

ABUNDANT PRODUCTS The departments are filled with flowers by the stem, bouquets, arrangements, blooming plants, giftware and gift baskets. In the spring, the outdoor garden centers give customers even more products from which they can choose.

STAFF Each store has from 15 to 25 floral professionals who are trained to provide top customer service.

GETTING THE WORD OUT The company promotes its floral services on its Web site, in brochures, through press releases and at wedding Web sites such as TheKnot.com.

 

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

Photos courtesy of Doug Cannell from Magnet Creative

Super Floral Retailing •• Copyright 2010
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.