Bakery Sales Manager Steve Bordonaro (left), here with Mario Addona of the New Haven bakery, oversees in-store purchasing and promotions.
Big Y branded its Italian bread and display for added promotion.
The bakery positions a mirror above its dessert display, drawing attention to the bakery department.
Offering gourmet chocolates and fancy Italian pastries is atypical for most in-store bakeries. But, Big Y Supermarkets strives to be different. The chocolates, some imported from a small artisan chocolate maker in Italy, required special bulk storage and distribution needs, custom-designed signs and shelving and significant promotional support. While these products are new, the effort taken to ensure their success is old habit for the 51-unit supermarket chain based in Springfield, Mass.
Big Y is not afraid to take risks, and department heads are empowered to venture into new territory with the goal to serve customers. For example, Big Y Supermarkets feature supervised in-store play areas, called "Little Ys", where shoppers can drop off their children while they grocery shop. Television monitors with live video feed from the Little Ys are positioned throughout the store, so shoppers can check on their children as they shop.
This effort to stay several steps ahead of its competition and demonstrate its "commitment to quality without compromise" extends into other departments as well. Its bakeries are part of what Big Y calls its "power aisle." Full-service departments, such as the bakery, pizza shop, deli, prepared foods, butcher and café, are positioned together for customers' complete meal convenience.
Bakery takes a prominent position in most Big Y stores, including one of its newest stores in New Haven, Conn. The store, which opened about a year ago, represents Big Y's latest prototype. The company plans to open three similarly designed supermarkets in Connecticut next year.
Focus on food
Designed to emphasize the products over their surroundings, the store is tiled in warm, earthy colors. Showcases and merchandisers in the bakery are attractive, yet understated enough to draw customers' attention to the products first.
A "Desserts of Distinction" display is central to the bakery's design. The refrigerated, service showcase displays small desserts and cake slices in an open-topped granite counter space. To further draw shoppers to the desserts, bakery designers positioned a large mirror above the display to ensure customers see the desserts from the opposite end of the bakery.
"It is just another way of letting customers see what we're doing," says Steve Bordonaro, bakery sales manager for Big Y.
Big Y in-stores incorporate primarily frozen dough production and some scratch/mix products. Head bakers usually arrive about 4 a.m., cake decorators arrive at 6 a.m. and managers' shifts generally run 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other baking and cake decorating shifts take over throughout the day, but Big Y attempts to staff its bakeries with at least two or three employees at all times. "We really try to make things service based," Bordonaro says. Bakery managers regularly walk the sales floor to interact with customers. Managers also pass out business cards, so customers can contact them later if needed. The personal and professional service keeps Big Y bakeries top of mind when customers plan for family or business events.
Each bakery employs ten to seventeen people including a bakery manager and assistant bakery manager. Bakery merchandisers oversee about 16 stores and report to district managers. As bakery sales manager, Bordonaro handles sales and marketing for all 51 in-stores and makes the purchasing decisions.
Still a family-owned and operated, independent super-market chain, Big Y can adjust more easily to changing market needs than large national and international grocery chains. Big Y corporate management regularly visits stores, and store management feels well connected with corporate headquarters.
"They make you feel at home when they come in," says Mario Addona, bakery manager for Big Y's North Haven, Conn.-store.
This sense of connection with the corporate mission gives Bordonaro and fellow department heads the authority and motivation to implement new programs. Big Y's Italian pastries are only available in stores with a significant Italian clientele. The North Haven store offers the complete line, including cannoli, ricotta squares, Napoleons, pasticciotti (fluted tartlet, filled with egg custard) and sfogliatelle (clam shaped flaky pastry filled with ricotta cheese, farina and diced orange fruit.)
"You can go anywhere and get a donut," Addona says. "This is what separates us."
Support new initiatives
Once new products are sourced or produced in-store, Big Y bakeries follow through with marketing and merchandising strategies to support their initiatives. Its La Crosta Italian bread, for example, was specially formulated for Big Y. The bread, noted for its firm crust and olive oil ingredient, is merchandised on a separate self-service bread rack positioned in the middle of the bakery sales area.
Big Y branded the bread by naming it "La Crosta", Italian for the crust. La Crosta bread racks feature special-ly-designed engraved wood signs with the La Crosta logo. The bread is packaged in custom-printed bread bags, which tell the La Crosta story and are designed to maintain the breads' crust.
The bakeries offer samples of the La Crosta loaves and cross-merchandise them with garlic dipping oils. La Crosta has earned a permanent position in Big Y instores, but much of the merchandising and product decisions change seasonally and even weekly. Bakery management tracks sales histories closely and prefers a narrow product line that is continually changing for seasonal demand and consumer trends.
"We try to sell a lot of a few things," Bordonaro says. The bakeries have an extensive arsenal of products to choose from, and merchandising positions are assigned weekly to maintain some consistency among the stores.
"You're not going to see a 6-in. cheesecake out the week before Christmas," Bordonaro says. "Customers are entertaining. They need larger desserts." Operating in-store bakeries based on common sense business decisions is pretty typical for most supermarket chains. But, Big Y has fewer peers that carry the corporate mission effectively through each department, including bakery. For Big Y's in-stores, backing new initiatives with production, merchandising and marketing support has been the key to their success.
BigY at a glance
Headquarters: Springfield, Mass.
Market served: Massachusetts and Connecticut
Management: Donald D'Amour, chairman, C.E.O.; Gerald D'Amour, president; Charles D'Amour, C.O.O., executive vise president; Norm Vernadakis, director, bakery/deli and prepared foods; Steve Bordonaro, bakery sales manager
Number of stores/in-store bakeries: 51/51
Product line: full line, including decorated cakes, gourmet dessert cakes, Italian pastries, crusty breads, donuts, muffins and bagels
Competitors: Stop & Shop, Shaw's, Price Chopper
Web site: www.bigy.com
Distributors: C&S Wholesalers
Plans: open three more stores next year
A sampling of BigY prices
Fruit basket cake, 8-in. round .............$12.99