Commitment to training keeps Dick’s
Piggly Wiggly’s floral designers ahead of trends.
by Cynthia L. McGowan
Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, Inc. keeps shoppers coming back to its
full-service floral departments by offering cutting-edge
designs, fresh products and excellent service. One of the keys
to the nine-store chain’s high customer satisfaction is its
commitment to employee training.
Dick’s Piggly Wiggly is a subsidiary of wholesaler Fresh Brands,
Inc., of Sheboygan, Wis., and most of its nine stores are in
southwestern Wisconsin, with one each in Illinois and Iowa. The
company, originally called Dick’s Supermarkets, was purchased by
Fresh Brands in 2001, and the name was changed in 2006.
The company philosophy, says Floral Specialist Diane Schulte,
is, “We’re here for our customers to give them the best product
and the best service we can, from the top down.” Dick’s Piggly
Wiggly takes pride in offering an extensive deli department, a
wide selection of fresh produce and quality meats that include
Certified Angus Beef.
dick’s piggly wiggly, inc.
HEADQUARTERS Sheboygan, Wis.
PARENT COMPANY Fresh Brands, Inc., a subsidiary of
Certified Grocers Midwest, Inc.
STORES Seven in Wisconsin, one in Illinois and one in
DICK'S PIGGLY WIGGLY SALES $85.9 million (estimated) in
2006, according to Hoovers, Inc.
FLORAL SERVICES All nine stores have full-service floral
departments, offering custom designs, sympathy and wedding work,
delivery and FTD flowers-by-wire
FLORAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO SALES 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent
of Dick’s Piggly Wiggly’s sales comes from floral
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAY Valentine’s Day
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Three per store, on average
FLORAL SPECIALIST Diane Schulte
the blooming basket
floral, the company’s commitment to quality is evident from the
moment customers see the departments, most of which are at the
front of the stores. Floral is important to Dick’s Piggly
Wiggly, Ms. Schulte says, “because we realize that it draws in a
lot of customers to the store.”
It does so with an inviting selection of fresh flowers, blooming
plants, silk designs and giftware, all in an upscale
“store-within-a-store” setting. Some of the departments, called
The Blooming Basket, are located in alcoves in the stores, with
their own tile flooring, giving the effect of separate floral
Each Blooming Basket has, on average, three full-time floral
designers. The Monroe, Wis., location—the chain’s largest—has
five full-timers and three part-timers.
New hires undergo extensive education through the use of
training manuals that Ms. Schulte wrote. They also watch
videotapes and “work side by side with the designers in the
department or me to learn the basics of the floral department,”
Ms. Schulte says.
But the training doesn’t end with basic floral techniques.
Dick’s Piggly Wiggly floral employees have the opportunity to
receive training throughout the year in an effort to bring
fresh, new ideas and cutting-edge designs to customers.
“There’s just so much out there in the floral industry to
utilize and learn and to make your job exciting and new,”
remarks Ms. Schulte, who says taking advantage of learning
opportunities helped her advance in the company, where she
started as a designer and worked her way to her present position
in 1999. She arranges seminars for the floral employees about
twice a year on topics she chooses, and a recent seminar was
about new and updated sympathy designs. “I wanted anything but
basic,” she says.
Ms. Schulte teaches the classes herself or hires florists who
are members of the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD).
If she hires out, she helps the instructors write the
Dick’s Piggly Wiggly often partners with the company’s
wholesalers to conduct the training, and the wholesalers supply
products, share the cost and often provide lunch. “They’ve been
great to work with and very supportive,” Ms. Schulte says. “They
figure the more [the designers] learn and know, the more we
purchase. It comes back both ways.” The seminars take place at
the wholesalers’ locations or in company meeting rooms.
All of the floral managers go to the training. If a store has
enough employees, it will send a second designer to the
Floral employees have other opportunities for training, too. The
Wisconsin & Upper Michigan Florists Association (WUMFA) has a
Center for Education that travels around the region and teaches
courses on floral design. “Anybody who wants to go to them can,”
Ms. Schulte says of Dick’s Piggly Wiggly floral employees. “We
pay the fees for the classes.”
keys to success
TRAINING Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, Inc. emphasizes continuing
education to keep floral employees on top of trends.
DESIGNS Customers respond well to Dick’s Piggly Wiggly’s
stylish designs, making arrangements the No. 1-selling floral
FRESH PRODUCTS Floral employees follow care-and-handling
procedures to make sure customers are getting flowers that will
GIFTWARE The floral specialist and managers attend gift
shows to find new products.
MERCHANDISING The departments, called The Blooming
Basket, look fresh and inviting, and merchandising displays
change often to keep customers’ interest.
SERVICE The stores offer custom designs, wedding
services, funeral tributes and delivery. Each store makes from
10 to 50 deliveries a day.
trying new ideas
an investment appreciated by the floral designers. “They just
love [the training] because it re-energizes them,” Ms. Schulte
notes. “They love getting together with each other and sharing
ideas and just comparing notes. And they just love coming back
and digging in and trying new things and seeing how the
That’s a point echoed by Julie Kline, floral manager of the
Monroe store. “It’s exciting to go to the classes,” she says,
“because we usually immediately put what we’ve learned into
For example, Ms. Kline says, the recent sympathy seminar yielded
an easel design she had never tried before. She took it back to
her shop, “and I bet we made a dozen. They’re beautiful, and no
one else has done it” in the area.
“It’s fun to be able to give something new to the community. And
people like it, and they come back and ask for it,” she says.
That response to Dick’s Piggly Wiggly’s designs has made
arrangements the company’s top floral product. Ms Schulte
reports selling about 300 tabletop designs on an average week.
“We try to be very trendy with our floral design,” she says,
citing the use of linear techniques, stylish containers and
specialty flowers including callas, Hydrangeas, tropicals and
colorful Florigene Ltd. carnations. Prices range from $10 for
vase designs to more than $100 for elaborate arrangements.
Customers can order ahead, choose designs from the coolers or
have them made while they shop.
Ms. Kline agrees that The Blooming Baskets have set a standard
for quality in their communities. “Our shop in this small town
[population 10,700] is known for its current, updated design,”
she says, adding that nothing is sold unless it is “meticulously
why the name?
According to Piggly Wiggly’s Web site,
origins of the company’s name remain a mystery. Clarence
Saunders, who founded the company in 1916 in Memphis, Tenn., was
“curiously reluctant” to explain the name’s origin, the company
The Web site goes on to say: “One story is that he saw from a
train window several
little pigs struggling to get under a fence, and the rhyming
name occurred to him then. Someone once asked him why he had
chosen such an unusual name for his organization, and Saunders’
reply was, ‘So people will ask that very question.’ He wanted
and found a name that would be talked about and remembered.”
Today, there are more than 600 Piggly Wiggly stores in 16
states, primarily in the Southeast. Most are independently owned
Achieving that standard means offering not only stylish designs
but also flowers that are fresh and long lasting. The Blooming
Baskets’ tagline is “The Fresh Difference,” and the floral
operation takes steps to make sure that’s more than just a
slogan. “We take pride in having the freshest product around,”
Ms. Schulte says.
Products, which are procured from two area wholesalers and from
Fresh Brands’ distribution center, are delivered to the stores
six days a week. Flowers and plants that aren’t sold within
seven days are pulled from the shelves, “so the customers get
the best benefit of the life of the products,” Ms. Schulte says.
Training comes into play in this area, too. Ms. Schulte has
developed a care-and-handling policy for the stores to follow to
make sure that all floral products are properly processed.
To ensure the stores have the right products for their
customers, floral managers do their own ordering. They choose
from products Ms. Schulte coordinates through the distribution
center and wholesalers, and they also can order directly from
wholesalers if they have special needs.
“They know what happens day to day in their departments as far
as the ebb and flow of sales, and it gives them ownership of
their departments,” Ms. Schulte says. “It makes them more in
charge of what they buy so they can keep a tight grip on
merchandise markdowns or shrink.”
Floral managers also accompany Ms. Schulte to gift shows in
Chicago, Ill., at least once a year. “They can ask sales reps
questions so they understand the product lines,” Ms. Schulte
says, “and they’re able to sell the products better by informing
customers of what the trends are with the gift items.”
Ms. Kline says her customers like the department’s line of
quality, trendy giftware, which includes candles, plush,
statuary and garden rocks. “It’s uniquely different, and they
don’t have to go out of town to get it,” she says.
thriving wedding business
Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, Inc. provides complete wedding services
including set-up, if requested. The company handles as many as
five weddings per weekend per store.
Wedding prices range from a few hundred dollars to several
thousand dollars. “We have a huge one coming up this summer that
I’m proud of,” confides Diane Schulte, floral specialist. “It’s
The company gets its wedding business through bridal fairs and
referrals from satisfied couples. Ms. Schulte also sends letters
to newly engaged women offering the company’s services. She gets
their names from the bridal fairs and by reading the engagement
announcements in local newspapers.
bouquets and plants
Other popular products in the departments are bouquets, the
company’s No. 2 floral product after arrangements. Ms. Schulte
estimates the company sells 25 to 30 cases a week, with a case
holding an average of 15 bouquets. She has found that customers
prefer lower-priced bouquets—$3.99 or $5.99—and that a $7.99
bouquet is “stretching it.”
A typical $5.99 bouquet has six to eight stems of carnations,
spray mums and other flowers. On the week Super Floral Retailing
spoke with Ms. Schulte, the featured $5.99 bouquet was composed
of glittered, tricolored daisies.
The most popular plants are 4.5-inch blooming plants, priced at
$3.99 to $5.99. Larger plants sell well for sympathy work and
hospital deliveries. “The smaller sizes are more the impulse
buys,” Ms. Schulte says. To encourage those impulse sales, each
department merchandises the smaller plants on a table at the
Other merchandising efforts include weekly displays that promote
products featured in the company’s newspaper ads. The company
usually features three products in the ads.
During holidays, Dick’s Piggly Wiggly also gets the word out
about its floral products through radio advertising,
merchandising displays, in-store signage, cross-merchandising
and coupons that are sent out with flower deliveries.
praise from customers
But the most effective way to spread the word about one’s
business is by keeping customers happy and coming back. For
Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, that means giving customers over-the-top
service in addition to high-quality products.
Ms. Schulte’s floral training for new employees includes
customer service. “We have certain steps that we make sure
they’re doing and learning,” she says, such as greeting
customers with smiles and using the correct phone etiquette.
And customers respond to Dick’s Piggly Wiggly’s formula for
success. “We receive many accolades on the freshness of our
products and the uniqueness of our designs,” Ms. Schulte
remarks. “At times, [customers] will mention, ‘I especially
enjoyed the special touches that you put into the design or even
just the special care you gave me. You made the product what I
wanted it to be.’”
Ms. Kline says she hears such comments from customers, too.
“We’re always getting personal thank-yous,” she says. “And that
makes it all worthwhile.”
Photos courtesy of Dick’s Piggly Wiggly, Inc.
You may reach Cynthia L. McGowan
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (800)
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