Wild Flour adds collectibles to merchandising mix
| Wild Flour’s decorated cookies merchandised in flower pots sell themselves. |
Mertens, who owns Wild Flour bakeries with husband Greg and son Josh in Milwaukee, created a signature line of cookies in whimsical shapes and sizes. One of her best sellers is the Hot Flash–an iced cookie in the shape of a lightening bolt dusted with red sparkles. A hint of cayenne pepper gives the buttercream a little muscle.
“I like to have fun with our cookies,” says Mertens, who opened Wild Flour in 1996, and now has five locations. Her garden cookie collection is a summer favorite, with its array of cookies in the shapes of caterpillars, dragonflies and ladybugs.
Wild Flour’s whimsical approach to its bakery products and their presentation distinguishes it from the average bakery. Mertens designs each of her five locations to offer a unique personality.
“All of our stores are different,” she says. “And I try to do something special at each of them.” Take Wild Flour’s South Milwaukee location for example. The building dates back to 1918 with retro architectural details that give it an Old World feel. Painted in light pinks, blues and greens, the bakery’s interior is adorned with Mertens’ collection of vintage aprons.
“When my customers find out that I collect aprons, they bring them to me. One customer brought me one of her sister’s aprons after she passed away. That means a lot. It’s a way for customers to feel connected to the business,” Mertens says.
Another of Mertens’ collectibles wound up in the display case. “I collect random dessert plates, and then match the design on the plate with a 6-in. cake.” If customers purchase one of her Dessert Plate cakes, which are priced from $5.99 to $12.99, they get to keep the plate. “Now I have customers bringing me favorite plates of theirs, and asking if I’ll make a cake to match it. It makes for fun conversation.”
Mertens opened Wild Flour after her first taste of artisan bread during a visit to Washington, D.C. That mouthful of handmade, hearth-baked bread convinced her that baking bread was her next career move.
Today, Wild Flour is known for its European-style rustic breads, each shaped by hand. Country French, Pain de Campage, olive rosemary, flax and multigrain are a few of the best selling varieties. Although bread still drives the bakery business, which produces an average of 1,500 to 2,000 loaves a day with a 12-hour production schedule,
Mertens herself spends more time on merchandising and pastries. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned in this business is that I can’t do everything myself. Surround yourself with great people, and learn to let go. That’s what I try to do.”
Zagara’s designs displays for customers’ life styles
| Zagara’s offers a variety of portion sizes and actively samples bakery products. |
Sbrocco is the in-store bakery manager for Zagara’s Marketplace, a third generation family-owned independent grocer in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. When she joined the company two years ago, bakery sales were just 1.2 percent of total store sales. Thanks to Sbrocco’s rigorous merchandising efforts and commitment to quality control, sales have climbed to 2.5 percent of total store sales, and gross profits have increased 37 percent.
“We found that our customers wanted portion control,” Sbrocco says. Zagara’s popular fruit pies, which account for 30 percent of bakery sales, are available in whole and half portions in a self-service merchandiser. And, the bundt cream cakes, which come in chocolate, pineapple, lemon and vanilla, are offered as whole cakes and in slices.
“Our customers have a clear idea of what they want,” she says. “We’ve added organic whole grain bread, as well as low glycemic baked goods to our product line.” She devotes an entire showcase to organic, natural and vegan products because she says sales of these items are on the rise at Zagara’s.
Working with her seven-employee team, Sbrocco improved the quality of Zagara’s bread product line. The bakery switched to higher quality frozen dough products and brought in baker Tim Salem to develop new products like the popular chop block bread (baked with cheese, peppers and pepperoni). Sbrocco partnered with two local retail bakeries, Stone Oven and Zoss, to deliver artisan breads daily, which Zagara’s staff packages and merchandises in dedicated displays branded with the bakeries’ names.
Zagara’s in-store also generates sales in other areas of the supermarket through selective cross merchandising with its prepared foods departments. For example, the bakery displays baguettes, breads and rolls next to the roasted chickens. The café area merchandises cake slices and cookies. House-made bruschetta spread is displayed next to its in-store baked Italian breads.
Sbrocco, who came to Zagara’s from working as a cake decorator at another supermarket chain, strives to bring consistency and quality to her merchandising displays. She also works to meet ongoing challenges, such as improving cake sales with a limited amount of merchandising space.
“We don’t have enough display area to showcase cakes,” she says. “I only have one refrigerator service case, which is devoted to pastries, crème brûlée and miniatures. You can see a few sheet cakes, but not enough of them.”
To encourage decorated cake sales, Sbrocco places more emphasis on suggestive selling, communicating with customers that the cakes on display are only examples of the bakery’s potential. “My style is to let the product speak for itself, and not get in the way with a lot of overdressing of the cases. What is in the sales case is designed to give our customers an idea of what we can do.”