W. Lee Flowers Sets Up Stores For Holiday Success

Nov 28, 2023

The winter holidays are here, bringing an expected record level in holiday spending — up between 3-4% from last year ($957-$966.6 billion), according to the National Retail Federation. But while spending is up, inflation is still top-of-mind for shoppers, with NielsenIQ reporting 84% of global consumers are prepared to spend the same or less on holiday gatherings this year.

As grocery shoppers look to maximize their dollars this holiday season, independent retailers must tailor their approach to the holidays accordingly, creating enticing displays and ensuring the right products are on shelves.

W. Lee Flowers, a wholesale grocery provider owned by Alex Lee, recently hosted an immersive training event for their store managers to better prepare for the season and find inspiration to elevate the holiday shopping experience for customers across their brands. 

Hosted at three locations — Blythewood IGA in Blythewood, South Carolina; Lake City IGA in Lake City, South Carolina; KJ’s Market IGA in Hephzibah, Georgia — the Holiday Show Stores training sessions included seven rotations of 30-minute sessions to ensure attendees explored crucial aspects of holiday retail, from merchandising strategies to flawlessly executing holiday playbooks and the intricacies of order placement.

"It was a really good training and laid out expectations for our managers throughout the company," KJ's VP of Operations Shane Holliday said, encapsulating the sentiment shared by many who attended the sessions. Keep reading for highlights of the training sessions (you might learn a thing or two!). 

holiday show stores comilation
Holiday Show Stores training sessions took place at three W. Lee Flowers store locations.

1. Plan Ahead & Price For Value

A successful holiday season in retail begins with meticulous planning. The W. Lee Flowers team created a calendar to guide store managers through critical timelines, including start and end dates for TPRs (Temporary Price Reductions), holiday sales, and end caps. The team even provided expected delivery dates for in-store signage.

Screenshot 2023-11-28 at 12.25.01 PM
Example of the events calendar for Thanksgiving.

“They felt really good about the calendar that we handed out that was specific to days on when things needed to be done,” Holliday said, noting the guideline of ordering display needs two to three periods in advance. "They also loved listening to the product director's insight on product availability, timing of allocations, pricing, and things of that nature.”

Each product director had their own targets and goals for the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, which includes seafood and specialty meat products such as chitlins. Product directors discussed specific topics like product availability and product price they would go to market with.

That pricing is a critical piece to succeeding this year, as Holliday acknowledged it remains important to store communities and shoppers.

"Whether it's digital deals, our coupon offerings, our front page ad, the way we go to business in and around our ad — that total value message is really important to what we do each and every day in our stores that we help lead and operate."

2. Create Memorable Holiday Displays To Drive Sales

The W. Lee Flowers team created planograms for center store categories and demonstrated holiday displays so managers could see exactly what they needed to replicate in their stores. 

“They loved the visual merchandising around the perimeter of the store, which brought the displays and ads to life," Holliday said.

A top performing display? Baking ingredients. The stores place the ingredients to bake cookies in one display, including cookie cutters, chocolate chips, oatmeal, sugar, sprinkles, etc., running it during a week-long promotion on sugar (customers can buy two 4 lb. bags of That's Smart sugar for $5 during the sale).

"Obviously, everybody's gonna buy sugar this time of the year, but picking up those added items is what really drove those sales," Holliday noted.

Another key to success? Tapping into the sentimentality of the season, which makes customers feel good and inspires more cooking.

"My family loves some country ham, so our country ham display with our core muffin tops (an exclusive item to our company) are fantastic. And then obviously the grits and gravy," he said. "We have that good family breakfast multiple times through the holiday season when the kids are out of school so I love seeing the display in stores."

sugar display in grocery store
A sugar display at a KJ's Market.

3. Remember Regular Meals & Snacks

Holliday recognized that while it is important to win during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, there will be hundreds of other meals in between those that the grocers need to keep in mind.

"You can't have your store merchandise just for Thanksgiving [or Christmas]," he said. "How many lasagna dishes are you going to sell? Snow crabs and low country boils? Where are your customers going to go to make those meal solutions?"

Save space for meal solutions and easy recipe ideas to cater to shoppers for those non-holiday occasions. Highlight to-go items in the deli or hot bar and pre-cut items like fajita meat and vegetables. Some best practices apply year-round, like these.

4. Don't Forget To Celebrate Accomplishments

While the store managers were there for training, the W. Lee Flowers team took the opportunity to celebrate their best of the best during the event, too.

"We wanted to energize our leadership in and around winning the holidays, and winning the weekends. And what better way to do it than to pull everybody together? We coupled it with our yearly awards for a true celebration," explained Holliday.

The awards included category recognitions — Center Store, Deli Bakery, First-Class Food Safety, Meat/Seafood, Produce/Floral — plus awards for Workplace Safety, Culture Store of the Year, and Store of the Year. 

The President's Awards were also presented during the event. These awards identify, recognize, and reward individuals who understand and live the values that have made Alex Lee (parent company of W.Lee Flowers) and its companies successful.

President's Awards Winners:

  • President's Award Winner: Karen Cooper, Cashier | KJ's #629 | Lake City, South Carolina
  • President's Award Winner: Jessica Greene, Transportation Clerk | W. Lee Flowers | Scranton, South Carolina
  • Merchandiser of the Year: Cameron Gaines, Merchandiser | W. Lee Flowers | Scranton, South Carolina
  • Employee Satisfaction Award: Michael Kiser, 98% Employee Satisfaction | Augusta, Georgia
  • You're a Local Legend Award: Wil Thomy, Marketing Manager | W. Lee Flowers | Scranton, South Carolina

The Holiday Show Stores not only laid the groundwork for sustained success throughout the holidays, but provided the W. Lee Flowers team and its network of managers with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to delivering an unparalleled shopping experience for their customers. The stage is set, the displays are adorned, and the team is primed for success, ensuring that this holiday season will be nothing short of extraordinary for their independent grocery stores and the wholesaler.

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