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A New Brand of Winn-Dixie.

Byline: D. Gail Fleenor

A rainbow of colorful fresh flowers greets customers as they enter Winn-Dixie's remodeled and rebranded Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., store. It's no accident that customers encounter the floral department first upon entering the store. This is part of the plan, to emphasize the southeastern supermarket chain's new branding slogan, "Fresh Checked Every Day." The goal for each perishable department is to showcase freshness with cart-stopping displays."The store has an impressive entrance. Customers are hit with freshness first," says Jim Carrado, VP of neighborhood marketing for Winn-Dixie, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla. "We're really happy with the way the branding message and store match up," he notes. The new brand message, with the company's longtime red checkmark logo on black, echoes throughout the store: on danglers, associate aprons, reward cards and black wire shopping carts.The Ponte Vedra Beach store, originally opened in late 2002, is one of 51 units in the Jacksonville market remodeled and rebranded this year. Winn-Dixie kept all stores open during the process, debuting the new rebranding July 15. While some changes are tailor-made to specific stores, most are part of the rebranding plan for all units. Equipment, added selection and decor aren't the only components of the rebranding. Associates in all perishable departments receive additional training in freshness and quality as part of the Fresh Checked Every Day branding.Hitting a Hole-in-OneLocated between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Winn-Dixie's store in exclusive Ponte Vedra Beach is close enough to the ocean to smell the salt breezes. Sawgrass Golf Resort, home of The Players Championship, is a half-mile up the road, and the store's surrounding neighborhood is decidedly upscale, with many professional golfers on the PGA tour living nearby."We try to design all our stores to reflect the surrounding neighborhood," Carrado says. "Ponte Vedra is known worldwide because of golfing, so we've done a lot of little extra things in this store. For example, a lot of golfers like Greg Norman have their own vineyards, so we carry their wines."First stop around the store's perimeter is floral. "The floral department was moved to the front entrance of the store to create a fresh experience for our customers, right from the start," Carrado notes. Remodeling replaced the old floral department with a new sales area that's twice the previous size. A unique all-glass walk-in cooler tempts customers to take home a bouquet, while wooden floors and stands overflowing with flowers create an Old World atmosphere.The floral department conveys freshness to customers in a variety of ways -- from individual labeling with a "display until" date to assure customers that plants and flowers purchased from Winn-Dixie are fresh, to a bouquet cooler that maintains peak freshness of all fresh-cut flowers. Shoppers can take home over 135 varieties of Signature Passion Roses, over 50 types of fresh flowers and bouquets, and 20-plus foliage and blooming plants, plus a wealth of balloons and gifts.The tempting smell of fresh-baked muffins lures customers onward to the deli bakery, where fresh foods are "in front of customers" on free-standing displays, not just the usual line of cases, Carrado points out. The self-serve wing bar presents eight varieties with sauces, and an olive bar with appetizers like pepper shooters and stuffed grape leaves greets shoppers as they head for deli meats and cheeses. Dietz & Watson meats as well as Winn-Dixie cold cuts are available in the deli. A custom sandwich and sub shop has its own spot in the deli, while the expanded bakery offers warm loaves of bread and specialty desserts.Imported offerings for the store's upscale customer base include butters, flatbreads, gourmet deli meats and Belgian chocolates. A wood-burning rotisserie for chicken sends out tempting smells from the deli. "This separates our rotisserie chicken from the usual offered in other stores," Carrado says.Across from the deli/bakery, a new cheese shop presents shoppers with more than 300 varieties of domestic and imported cheeses. A cheese "advisor" is available to recommend pairings of cheese and wine as well as to personally hand-cut imported cheese selections. Full cheese rounds colorfully decorate a refrigerated wall. Several varieties of soft cheese, flown in each week from France, are available.A full-time wine steward serves customers at a walk-up counter tasting station or bar. The steward advises shoppers on wine purchases and can special-order cases of specialty wines. The bar backdrop, a 40-inch flat-screen monitor, provides wine and cheese information. An induction cooktop in the back bar aids chef demos.Freshness is the theme of a trip around the store's perimeter departments. Berries from the latest crop or seasonal veggies on display in front of the produce department usher customers into the large sales area behind. Wood flooring and new black shelving -- from curved and vertical shelves to pods -- highlight the expanded variety of over 100 new items. Bananas and other produce spill from rustic-looking wooden stands with spoke wheels. Larger selections of juices, cut fruit, bagged salads, and organic and natural produce fill bigger bins and longer shelves, as well as line wider aisles in the upgraded produce department.Next stop is the seafood and meat department. "A dual-temperature promotional case allows us to aggressively promote seafood, based on seasonality or a promotional event," Carrado notes. Expanded selection in service meat, service seafood and frozen (packaged) seafood is available, as well as value-added meat and seafood, geared to the area served. Service meat offers custom cuts and ready-to-cook items like kabobs and Chicken Cordon Bleu. Local grouper and snapper, ahi tuna and steelhead trout are new additions to the seafood slate. The two departments feature over 350 meat and 150 seafood items.The expanded store pharmacy, open seven days a week, is networked with all other Winn-Dixie pharmacies for customer convenience. Services include automated patient refill and pickup reminders, plus free quarterly health screenings of blood glucose and cholesterol in conjunction with a pharmaceutical manufacturer.The smell of Winn-Dixie coffee, available at a new self-serve station on the store's front end, invites customers to try a cup and sample the corporate brand. Wood flooring adds interest to the checkout area where seven IBM 4694 POS register terminals with flat-screen monitors and new hand-held Gryphon 2D Plus imagers stand ready to serve customers. The new imager has the ability to read licenses for the sale of age-restricted items, and also reads the new GS1 DataBar codes on produce and other variable-weight items to speed the checkout process. Shoppers can purchase new upscale reusable shopping bags, featuring photos of flowers and fruit, in which to take home purchases.Select SelectionCatering to growing customer demand, this rebranded Winn-Dixie offers increased selection in organic and natural foods. Shoppers can choose products in a special "section" within the high-traffic dairy aisle. "This is a natural fit since organic dairy is the second-largest organic category, after produce, and is a gateway into organics for customers," Carrado says. A 4-foot natural section featuring milk, cheese and yogurt plus six case doors of natural frozen products are new additions. The grocer also integrated other organic and natural corporate-brand products throughout the store. For example, Winn-Dixie organic canned vegetables are shelved adjacent to Del Monte, he notes.Research guided shelf selection a t this Winn-Dixie, as it does at all of the company's stores, Carrado says. International selection is important at the Ponte Vedra facility. "The surrounding neighborhood is diverse, many with European backgrounds. Our research found that 31 percent of our neighbors at this store are of British heritage, so we have stocked a large selection of British grocery items to give them a taste of home." Situated in the middle of the store, the international aisle pulls together German, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Hispanic and kosher meal solutions.Fresh Future?Winn-Dixie firmly believes that its private label program is an integral part of Fresh Checked Every Day, Carrado says. "For a long time, customers thought of private label as only a less expensive brand. Now, it's a less expensive but quality alternative," he observes. "Over the last couple of years, we have reformulated almost all items in our private label brand, and we're really proud of the line."The chain offers a three-tier private label program with lower-end generic-type products, a mid-level national brand equivalent and a higher-level premium brand called Winn & Lovett. "Our premium brand is unique, not necessarily made to be the equivalent of a national brand, but specially formulated to our specifications and things we want to do," Carrado explains. Customized premium offerings include an array of flavored mustards, spices, rubs and barbecue sauces. Winn-Dixie has won accolades for its private label line, including the 2009 American Package Design Award.Why did Winn-Dixie choose to rebrand at this point? "We are evolving as a company since the bankruptcy," Carrado says. "For the last four years, we have asked our customers to give us a try again. Now, we are at the point where many customers have tried us and like what they see, so we want to reinforce our message about freshness and fresh local. Our branding message has evolved into the next step of our recovery. We think we're on the right track and have a lot to be proud of."
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Author:Fleenor, D. Gail
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Nov 1, 2009
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