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Downtown goes upscale

Floral helps set the tone at the new Cosentino’s Market in Kansas City.
     by Cynthia L. McGowan

     When a neighborhood deprived of a grocery store for years finally gets one, it’s a big deal. And when that grocery store is an upscale supermarket offering gourmet fare and full-service florals, it’s a cause for celebration.

     That’s what Cosentino’s Food Stores found out when the 24-supermarket company opened a new location in downtown Kansas City, Mo., in January. Thanks to public-private revitalization efforts downtown, the population there has swelled to 17,000 from a few thousand in just five years, according to the Kansas City Business Journal, and as many as 100,000 workers are in the area during the day. But the area hadn’t had a grocery store since 1994.

     So when Cosentino’s Market Downtown opened its doors after more than three years of planning, Kansas Citians were eager to check out the new store. The local newspaper, The Kansas City Star, and television and radio stations covered the opening. Bloggers posted their reactions and photos online. The city manager took part in the opening-day festivities. “I think everybody in Kansas City came down here,” recalls Tracy Nelson, Cosentino’s director of floral and produce.

     Why was Kansas City so excited? Certainly, the downtown crowd was happy to get a grocery store. Brian Pitts, a founder of the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA), told the Kansas City Business Journal, “I think the DNA and every resident of downtown will be very excited about having a grocery store within walking distance. It makes our lives that much easier.”

     But the type of grocery store also drew advance buzz, and that helped draw the crowds, too. In addition to 22 conventional-format grocery stores under the Price Chopper, Apple Market and Sun Fresh banners in the Kansas City metropolitan area, the company has another upscale Cosentino’s Market, which served as the model for the downtown store. Company Vice President John Cosentino also visited supermarkets around the nation, searching out the latest innovations and amenities for the new store. The result is a joy for both flower lovers and foodies alike.


 
 

cosentino's food stores


 


HEADQUARTERS Kansas City, Mo.
OWNERSHIP  Cosentino family
STORES
24, under four banners: Cosentino’s Market (two); Price Chopper (16); Apple Market (four); and Sun Fresh (two), all in the Kansas City metropolitan area
YEAR FOUNDED 1948
STORE SIZE The Cosentino’s Market Downtown is 34,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE Varies; the Cosentino’s Market Downtown floral department is about 400 square feet
EMPLOYEES About 160 at the Cosentino’s Market Downtown
FLORAL EMPLOYEES One full-time floral manager at the Cosentino’s Market Downtown, with part-time help
FLORAL SERVICES Varies by store; the Cosentino’s Market Downtown has a full-service floral department offering custom design, wedding, FTD flowers-by-wire (outgoing orders only) and delivery services
DIRECTOR OF FLORAL AND PRODUCE Tracy Nelson
FLORAL MANAGER, COSENTINO’S MARKET DOWNTOWN Jody McCauley
WEB SITE www.cosentinos.com
 


 

worth the wait
     The hip store perfectly complements its surroundings, a new shopping and entertainment area called the Power & Light District. The store occupies a prime spot on a corner, and a wrap-around glass facade gives passers-by a great view into the bustling store and especially of its colorful florals, enticing them to come in and get a closer look.

     Inside, visitors are greeted by 34,000 square feet of sensory delights. Burgundy and golden-tan hues, murals on the walls and ceiling, gleaming hardwood floors and wrought-iron light fixtures, all designed to evoke a Tuscany ambience, set the tone for a unique shopping experience.

     At the immediate entrance, the floral department’s bountiful selection of bouquets, consumer bunches, blooming and foliage plants, arrangements, and gift baskets are tastefully presented on wood nesting tables and copper-colored shelving and in an open cooler. A half-moon-shaped floral counter is in the center of the
400-square-foot rectangular department, allowing Floral Manager Jody McCauley to design arrangements in full view of customers. Behind the counter but easily accessible are tall, graceful Dendrobium orchid plants.

     A blazing wood-fired brick pizza oven also catches customers’ attention when they enter, drawing the lunch and dinner crowd to the huge prepared-foods area in the center of the store. The selection includes chicken spiedini, blackened salmon, Kung Pao tofu and much more, and customers can take their choices to go or eat them in one of two dining areas in the store. The dining areas, featuring comfortable, stylish furniture and flat-screen televisions, can seat as many as 180 people, and Mr. Nelson reports they are full at lunchtime.

     Cosentino’s customers also can dine at the sushi bar or create salads from the 80-foot-long salad bar. The gourmet bakery’s offerings include scrumptious cakes, tarts, cookies, artisanal chocolates and fancy candies. In addition, discerning shoppers can choose from specialty cheeses, gelato made in the store, fresh seafood and local produce when available.

meeting floral needs
     In floral, shares Ms. McCauley, “We offer everything.” That includes custom designs, FTD flowers-by-wire service for outgoing orders, wedding services and delivery to anywhere in the Kansas City area. Ms. McCauley, who was a designer for seven years in a traditional retail florist before joining the new store, is in the department full time five days a week, and an associate from another department takes over the other two days.

     The new floral department is building its wedding business and, at press time, had two in the works, handling all the florals plus setup and delivery for the first, and the reception for the second. It is letting potential brides know about wedding services through word-of-mouth. “This store is designed to provide catering,” Mr. Nelson comments, and more wedding and event business “will follow suit with that,” he predicts.

     Although customers can have floral arrangements and custom gift baskets made while they shop, Ms. McCauley says, gift baskets have received the biggest share of that specialized service. Customers enjoy picking out items from Cosentino’s large array of gourmet goodies for their personalized gift baskets and continue shopping while Ms. McCauley works her creative magic. She reports a recent custom basket sold for $200. The department also has available a selection of ready-made gift baskets with a variety of gourmet and pampering products for as much as $69.99.
 

 

keys to success


 
 


MERCHANDISING The beautiful floral department at Cosentino’s Market Downtown draws customers in with a vibrant selection of colorful florals. The department changes its look to keep customer excitement up, and cross-merchandising also brings attention to the products.

SERVICE The store offers full-service florals including custom designs and delivery. The floral manager had seven years of experience at a traditional retail florist before joining Cosentino’s, so she has the knowledge needed to serve customers.

PRODUCTS Floral products are date-coded for freshness. The department has learned that customers want smaller products for their offices and cubicles and has responded with items that meet their needs.
 


 

focus on quality
     The flowers in the department look fresh and vibrant, and the foliage on the plants is glossy and green. Cosentino’s primary floral supplier, retailer-owned cooperative Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. (AWG), of Kansas City, Kan., date-codes its floral products, and Ms. McCauley is careful to pull anything that looks past its prime. Confirms Mr. Nelson, “Quality is the key” to attracting and retaining customers.

     Ms. McCauley places orders two weeks in advance with AWG, and deliveries are made twice a week. She also orders floral items that the department needs in smaller quantities from local wholesalers, and those deliveries are made as many as four days a week.

     Best-selling items are bouquets and plants, Ms. McCauley shares. The top-selling bouquets feature a mixture of flowers and range in price from $4.99 to $10.99. Shoppers also can find more upscale bouquets—a huge “California Bouquet of the Week” featuring lilies, roses, spray mums, Alstroemerias, statice and carnations sells for $15.99—as well as dozen-rose bouquets for $12.99.

     There are also grower bunches—recent selections included tulips and Gerberas at $7.99 for a 10-stem bunch—and a “three for $12” consumer-bunch program featuring sunflowers, Irises, Gerberas, Alstroemerias, callas, spider mums, Eucalyptus, Hypericum and more.

     Arrangements are in the cooler for customers to grab and go. Ms. McCauley says smaller, single-bloom designs do best in her store, but she does have an assortment of fuller designs for customers who need them. She also will make whatever shoppers want. “A customer called and asked for a puppy dog bouquet,” Ms. McCauley recalls. The cute design, which the customer had seen online, was composed of mums arranged in the shape of a Scottish terrier. Ms. McCauley got the Web address from the customer, printed it out for reference, created the design and delivered it to the happy customer. To let other customers see the possibilities, Ms. McCauley now keeps the puppy design in the cooler with a retail price of $24.99.

     In plants, the department has found that 4-inch
products, with which shoppers can adorn their desks or give to co-workers, do well. Bonsai products and lucky bamboo are particular favorites, Ms. McCauley reports, selling for $9.99 for 4-inch plants in attractive ceramic containers. In addition, the department has a large selection of both blooming and foliage plants, including assorted herbs for $3.99 each; 41⁄2-inch Begonias and African violets for $5.99 each; 6-inch Gardenias and callas for $13.99; lush 6-inch azaleas for $23.99; and beautiful orchids for $24.99. Dish gardens with Dracaena marginata, Pothos, ‘Moon Valley’ Pilea, ivy and fern come in three sizes, selling for $23.99, $31.99 and $40.99.
 

 

     
     
 


 

building the department
     Continuing to meet customers’ needs will help the department establish trust with customers and gain more business. Mr. Nelson acknowledges that “there are certain departments, when you open a new store, that you have to build on. In floral, you have to build that clientele.”

     Through trial and error, Mr. Nelson and Ms. McCauley are learning what works and doesn’t work with their new clientele and store. When the store first opened, Mr. Nelson reveals, the department stocked only higher-end bouquets, with no price points below $9.99. Customers didn’t respond, and a broader mix was brought in, with better results.

     The large windows that spotlight the florals have posed their own challenges. Although the western-facing windows are a great draw for the floral department—“People walk by and say, ‘Whoa,’ and stop and look,” Ms. McCauley comments—they also allow a lot of sun to shine on the fresh fare, reducing its shelf life. To compensate, Ms. McCauley now orders flowers and plants in smaller quantities and more often. The store also is considering putting up blinds or tinting the windows to reduce the sun exposure.

large customer base
     In the meantime, the new floral department is getting the word out through bag stuffers, the company Web site and e-mail. “We can shoot out e-mails to thousands,” Mr. Nelson remarks, allowing for an easy way to let customers know about floral specials and upcoming events.

     In addition, Ms. McCauley cross-merchandises florals, putting bouquets at the checkout and orchid plants in the store’s huge wine and spirits department. The department also gets more space during holidays.

     As in most grocery stores, impulse sales generate most of the floral department’s revenues, and Ms. McCauley has a large base of customers to tap into. “This store is one of the highest foot-traffic stores we have,” Mr. Nelson informs. “Every week has from 19,000 to 20,000.”

      That success is a testament to the quality and service Kansas Citians have found at their new Cosentino’s Market. Confirms Ms. McCauley, “It’s 20 years past due.”

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

Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.