Tell us about your history in the floral category:
I am the cut flower category manager for Ahold USA, parent company of retail divisions Stop & Shop New England, Stop & Shop New York Metro, Giant Carlisle and Giant Landover. I am responsible for all aspects of the cut flower category for more than 750 stores, spanning New England, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
I have been in the supermarket industry since 1985 and in floral for more than 25 years. I started my career at Finast Supermarkets which eventually became Stop & Shop Supermarkets and during this time I have held the positions of floral manager, floral specialist and floral buyer for Stop and Shop.
Additionally, for 7 years I worked at A&P Supermarkets as a category manager of floral, running the day to day operations of the floral business for over 350 stores. I returned to Ahold USA in 2014 where I am the current category manager of cut flowers.
What do you look for in a vendor and in a product?
I look for a vendor that wants to create a true partnership in support of our Reshaping Retail Promises, and in particular “Better Place to Shop.” Our goals must align – to sell top quality product that shoppers want. I need to know I can trust a vendor to do the right thing including giving us the best price, great quality, great freshness, and service. We seek vendors that are innovative, creative and flexible. Additionally, we ensure the vendors we use are socially compliant and certified.
Have you ever had to balance price, sustainability, and responsible sourcing?
Ahold requires that all vendors be certified, so sustainability and responsible sourcing aren’t so much of a balance but a requirement.
How important are shows like IFE to your role?
These shows are very important because they are a great opportunity to concentrate on the product. Pictures do not always do the product justice so it is good to have the opportunity to see, touch and smell the product in person. Shows like IFE offer great interactive, educational opportunities with informative speakers about important topics in the industry and they help us stay on top of NEW ideas. Not only is it great to see new items, programs and vendor partners but it is also helpful to see how the product can be merchandised/displayed and to collaborate with the vendor to see if we can find a way to come up with a combined program.
Where do you see the industry heading?
In my opinion I think the industry will only get stronger. The technology is getting better and better every day and vendors are doing more thinking outside the box to come up with new and interesting ideas and concepts. Customers want new and different products, and it’s our job to deliver.
How are millennials playing a role?
Millennials are an important group and are projected to be one of the largest demographics in 2017. This group engages through social media and I think they are looking beyond traditional products and are challenging us to be more creative and innovative – all at a good price.