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    FRESH FOOD: Fresh Developments: Blooming with possibilities

    Sweetbay Supermarkets takes an innovative approach to floral.

    In lockstep with its passion for providing customers with great food and outstanding service without upscale prices, Sweetbay Supermarket plans to grow its supermarket floral program with a new strategy.

    The 48-store Tampa, Fla.-based division of Delhaize America recently named Homestead, Fla.-based TotalFloral, LLC -- a full-service floral management company serving other grocery chains and independents across the country -- to manage and direct its in-store floral departments. Soon Sweetbay’s shoppers will encounter a larger variety of fresh cuts, potted plant, and silk options, along with special offerings suited to their preferences, the partners say.

    "We want to take our floral operations to the next level," affirms Steve Williams, Sweetbay’s director of produce and floral. The switch to TotalFloral from its former in-house-run program will help Sweetbay ensure that every location has a floral department able to keep pace with the chain's customer-driven format, to which it’s converting 109 former Kash n' Karry stores, adds Williams.

    Sweetbay, with its bright, energetic decor; keen focus on products and presentation; and razor-sharp commitment to generating excitement in the aisle, has high expectations for its next-generation floral category.

    "We want to aggressively grow the sales and profitability of our floral program," says Williams, noting TotalFloral's track record of working with retailers to achieve their goals. "We want to deliver a floral program that will please our customers days after their purchase -- a program that earns their loyalty like our produce, meat, and other departments do."

    The best part of the new alliance with TotalFloral, says Williams, relates directly to Sweetbay's growing customer base, which will have the opportunity to shop "a better-executed floral department with an increased focus on freshness and condition, an expanded variety, and creatively merchandised products, all at a value price."
    Williams says that he’s especially grateful for the added resources TotalFloral brings to the table for Sweetbay, inclusive of additional buying power, extensive product knowledge and resources, and skilled manpower to train Sweetbay associates on proper floral protocol. In addition, TotalFloral is currently collaborating with the supermarket chain to design a comprehensive product offering and future special promotions.

    "Our goal is for Sweetbay’s floral department to be the florist of choice for its customers," says Chris Buss, president of TotalFloral, whose firm also provides category management tools to help retailers more accurately execute a first-rate floral program.

    "Grocery store floral departments represent vast untapped opportunity," says Buss. As floral is a niche department, retailers often don’t have the dedicated resources to make it a profitable category, he adds, noting that floral often appears to be an afterthought.

    However, Buss bestows big bouquets on Sweetbay for thinking big when it comes to floral. "If you’re shouting out to the world that your business is all about freshness and quality, floral can play a significant role, along with other departments, in the customer's perception of that claim," he says. "The floral department is often an afterthought simply because it's the smallest department. But it needs to be in harmony with the major departments in the store."

    Understood. But isn't that easier said than done? "There are no trade secrets" when it comes to running a first-rate floral program, Buss says, pointing to freshness, quality merchandise beautifully displayed, proper signage, and knowledge as the four pillars of a flourishing floral category.

    In addition to Sweetbay, TotalFloral also works with Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets, Inc.; Elizabeth, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp.; and San Antonio, Texas-based Super S Foods, as well as various independents and distributors.

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