Floral's big makeover
Brothers IGA reinvents its floral department, with profitable
IGA in Ruidoso, N.M., saw an opportunity. Ruidoso had just
two full-service florists, and they were across town from the
grocery store. So when the owners remodeled the 29-year-old
store earlier this year, they decided to give the floral
department an extreme makeover, turning it from a tiny
cash-and-carry operation into a full-service shop with an
And just months after the new department’s debut, the bold
move is already reaping dividends. Bob Crumpton, New
Mexico district manager for the store’s parent company,
family-owned Lawrence Brothers Management Team, of
Sweetwater, Texas, reports the floral department is earning
“eight to 10 times” the weekly sales of the operation before the
Although the store is the company’s top-performing location
among its 23 in Texas and New Mexico, Mr. Crumpton shares,
Lawrence Brothers decided it was showing its age and was ready
for an update. Ruidoso, a mountain resort town of about 9,000
people, is home to a Walmart and another independent grocer, and
a modernization plan was deemed necessary to keep the store
“We put in a coffee shop with lattes and so forth, we
expanded the deli shop and we added a pharmacy,” Mr. Crumpton
says of the extensive remodeling. The old “coffin-type” freezers
were replaced with new reach-in freezers, too.
The transformation in floral was dramatic, and customers
immediately noticed it when they walked in the door. Before, the
floral selection was limited to no more than 50 potted plants
and bouquets, displayed on one oval rack and 16 feet of wall
Today, a 720-square-foot department—seven times the size of
the old one—greets customers and is filled with flowers by the
stem, consumer bunches, bouquets, arrangements, blooming and
foliage plants, gourmet chocolates and more. The selections are
all enticingly displayed on tables and display racks and in a
“We just turned the architect loose and let her draw,” Mr.
Crumpton says of the process of creating the new department.
Some of the fixtures were already in the store and put to new
uses in the department. Additions to the department included a
storage area, a sink for processing flowers and a workbench
where customers can relax.
The final piece to making the department come together was
hiring the right person to offer the services Lawrence Brothers
IGA was intent on providing—“someone who is a floral designer
and not somebody who just knows how to water flowers,” Mr. Crumpton emphasizes. To handle those responsibilities, the
company hired Dale Woods as the floral manager, who has
13 years of floral design experience in retail flower shops.
Remarks Mr. Crumpton, “We felt if we came in with a good
department, took care of it and managed it, and took care of the
people, that we could probably take a good percentage of the
floral business in Ruidoso. It has been working so far.”
lawrence brothers IGA:
Brothers Management Team, Sweetwater, Texas;
the company owns 22 other stores in Texas and New Mexico
Lawrence Brothers was founded in 1929; it purchased the
Ruidoso store in 2001
36,000 square feet
48 in Ruidoso; the entire company has about 750
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE
720 square feet
One full-time employee in Ruidoso
Custom designs including weddings, events, delivery, and FTD
and Teleflora flowers-by-wire service
FLORAL'S CONTRIBUTION TO STORE SALES
NEW MEXICO DISTRICT
In just his first two
months at the store, Mr. Woods provided flowers for four
weddings (and has two more scheduled) as well as centerpieces
for a state floral association convention. “Dale’s quickly
earned the respect of customers,” Mr. Crumpton reports. “He is
quite a designer.”
In addition to weddings and events, the new department
offers both FTD and Teleflora flowers-by-wire
service and custom designs, including design services while
customers shop. Because the floral department is a one-man
operation, Mr. Woods also makes daily deliveries, usually two to
three a day, charging $8 to $12.50. Cut-off time for orders for
same-day delivery is 3 p.m.
To make sure Ruidoso embraces its new full-service floral
department and talented designer, Lawrence Brothers IGA has been
getting the word out and building relationships with customers
in a variety of ways:
The store announced the new department and welcomed
Mr. Woods in radio advertisements, and it also
includes floral in its newspaper inserts.
Mr. Woods showcases what he calls an “extravagant”
arrangement, costing as much as $250, every week in
the department to catch people’s attention. “That
shows them that we can do more than just a typical
rose or bud vase,” he explains.
The workbench serves as a spot for customers to sit
and watch Mr. Woods work. Mr. Crumpton says this is
especially popular with female shoppers. “We let
them observe Dale make arrangements, and he’s just
excellent talking to them,” he says. “He takes
plenty of time and explains to them how to care for
the plants, where a plant came from—he’s very
The department has donated centerpieces to local
charity events to help with name recognition.
Customers can pick up Mr. Woods’ business card at
the floral counter and have the store’s phone number
at their fingertips.
Cross-merchandising lets shoppers in other areas of
the store get a look at some of the floral
selections. Mr. Woods has displays in the coffee
shop, deli and bakery.
Shoppers tell others about their flowers, a crucial
part of the department’s success, Mr. Crumpton
reports. “Word-of-mouth has been our best asset.
[Mr. Woods] doing a good job and proving to the
public that he knows what he’s doing has been our
best and cheapest asset.”
keys to success
Lawrence Brothers IGA went from a cash-and-carry floral
operation to a full-service department, gaining a tenfold
increase in sales
The store hired an experienced floral designer to run the
department. Floral Manager Dale Woods does everything from
order products to make deliveries himself, and he offers
custom designs, wedding services and more.
Flowers and plants are delivered to the store three times a
week for maximum freshness.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Lawrence Brothers IGA made sure to spread the word about its
new floral department in advertising and by engaging with
offering a wide selection
are just as important as good service to the newfound
success of the operation, Mr. Woods asserts. He is a
stickler about proper processing and won’t sell anything
that appears past its prime. “I stand behind my flowers,” he
emphasizes, and he will replace products if customers aren’t
Mr. Woods orders floral products from both
Associated Wholesale Grocers and FTD Flower Exchange,
receiving deliveries three times a week. And he makes sure
to have a wide variety of flowers on hand so he can satisfy
customers. “You never know what they’re going to want,” he
reminds. The large variety also makes it easier to fill all
the wire orders that come his way.
Bouquets are especially popular in the store. “They
really fly out of here,” Mr. Woods shares. At the height of
tourist season, he was selling up to 60 a week. Prices range
from $10.99 to $26.99, with rose bouquets at $15.99 selling
Customers also like to make their own bouquets with
flowers by the stem and consumer bunches. Roses, Gladioli
and Hydrangeas are best-sellers in the single-stem
program. Consumer bunches also include those favorites, as
well as spider mums, callas and various fillers.
Favorites in blooming plants include 6 1⁄2-inch
mums for $10.99. Miniature rose plants also sold well during
a recent sales push, with 4 1⁄2-inch pots selling for $5.99.
“I was getting cases and cases a week,” Mr. Woods recalls.
“I just couldn’t keep them in.”
Mr. Woods keeps the cooler stocked with arrangements
for customers to grab and go. Prices usually range from $10
to $35; Mr. Woods notices that customers who buy on impulse
spend less than $25, but those who are in the store
specifically for flowers will pay as much as $60.
In addition to the high-quality flowers, the department
carries gourmet chocolates from Sweet Shop USA.
Customers love the treat, declares Mr. Crumpton: “It’s just
Shoppers also love
the new department. “People always remark about the way [the
store] looks, the total renovation,” Mr. Woods shares. “And
with the floral department alone, they say how beautiful the
flowers always look and that it’s just inviting to walk in
because there’s so much color.”
The customers’ compliments extend beyond the look of
the department to the new services they are receiving. “They
love having a florist on hand in case they need anything,”
Mr. Wood says. And they’re sharing their delight with Mr.
Crumpton. After Mr. Woods has designed florals for shoppers,
they’ll say to Mr. Crumpton, “You’ve got a winner there,” he
That reaction from customers, along with the
strong sales, affirms Mr. Crumpton’s and the owners’
decision to invest in the floral operation. And Mr. Crumpton
says it is an investment he would advise other grocery
stores to undertake. “I would suggest strongly that any
supermarket over 25,000 square feet take a serious look at
putting in a floral department, depending on the competitive
situation in their town,” he advises. “It’s good profit, it
adds to sales and it adds something to the atmosphere of the
Reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan at email@example.com
or (800) 355-8086.
Photos courtesy of
Lawrence Brothers IGA