Over the last 18 months, Dennis Hickey has been visiting the owners of Bravo stores in Florida, finding out what their needs are and what they expect from White Plains, N.Y.-based distributor Krasdale Foods.
As chief merchandising officer, for the last seven years Hickey has been responsible for procurement and merchandising for banners Krasdale serves in the Northeast, and now Florida is also under his purview.
While that addition was just recently announced, Hickey has been preparing for it for some time, starting with gathering feedback from owners of Bravo stores in Florida.
“I did more listening the first 18 months than I did talking,” Hickey said Feb. 11. “Getting to understand what the needs are, meeting the store owners, making sure they know that we have their best interests in mind, and build their confidence that the programs we put together are going to benefit them and help them on their growth.”
Fresh produce was among the topics of conversation, with areas of focus including consistency in quality of supply, consistency in pricing, merchandising with seasonality in mind, and quality of delivery.
“Produce has a very high cut-out percentage in our stores, so it’s a very important category to us, for our store owners,” Hickey said.
Louis Scagnelli, the new director of produce and floral for Krasdale affiliate Alpha 1 Marketing, is now in the midst of his own listening tour, focusing on produce. Scagnelli came to the company a few months ago from Port Washington, N.Y.-based R. Best Produce, where he worked for 26 years.
In that role, Scagnelli will handle merchandising and negotiations related to produce and floral for the C-Town, Bravo and AIM banners in the metro New York area and in Florida. He will also write ads and be responsible for product selection, vendor and distributor relations, and management of store setup and reset crews, according to the company.
“He’s got a very good and very strong background in produce,” Hickey said. “He’s going to take a similar approach to what I took, and we have him now visiting stores in Florida and New York as well and talking to the store owners, meeting the store owners, listening to what their needs are and reviewing the opportunities, and also working with them on making sure they’re buying the highest quality products at a reasonable price.
“We’re very happy with what his background is and what he’s brought to the table already,” Hickey said. “After he gets through his store visits and meeting with the owners, he’ll set some short-term and long-term objectives as to what we’re looking to try and accomplish.”
In general, Hickey has been looking for opportunities to align the Florida division with Krasdale’s other divisions when it makes sense to do so.
“In the produce category, one of the areas we’re going to be looking at — and we haven’t gone through the process yet — is a root vegetable program,” Hickey said. “That’s very important to the ethnic customer down (in Florida), our stores are buying it now from a lot of different sources, we’re going to see if we could combine all our collective buying power and see if we can improve on what currently exists out there.”
Hickey noted that another opportunity for the Bravo stores in Florida is digital marketing, from the retailer’s website to its social media presence.
“What we’ve seen is the Bravo consumer responds very well to our digital marketing platform programs, so we’re going to look to expand on that platform and engage that consumer a little more on what we’re doing, and we think that’s an area where we could move very quickly and see some good results,” Hickey said.