Stew Leonard’s Celebrates Christmas

Dec 14, 2006

By George Anderson

Stew Leonard’s is one grocer that knows how to entertain its shoppers and move products. This time of year, it’s moving a lot of Christmas trees. In fact, the company claims its three stores will sell 35,000 trees this year along with wreaths, ornaments, lights, stockings, decorations and a whole lot of food for holiday meals.

The grocer kicked off its Christmas tree season with annual tree lighting ceremonies at its Norwalk and Danbury stores. The highlight of the Norwalk event was a 35-foot Blue spruce lit up with 14,000 lights. Danbury lit up a 40-foot Norway spruce tree. Local residents who also happened to be customers at the stores donated the trees.

Stew Leonard’s has been successful because it understands its customers. The same is true of its customers who put up Christmas trees for the holidays. According to a poll of 350 customers of Stew Leonard’s, 95 percent intended to buy a fresh tree. Seventy-four percent planned to buy their tree between Dec. 1 and Dec. 17. Twenty-one percent said they would wait until the week before Christmas before they buy.

The retailer’s selection of trees reflects customer preferences for variety and height.

The most popular tree with customers at the grocery store is the Fraser fir. Balsam firs and Douglas firs are also popular. The most popular size among Stew’s customers are trees between six and seven feet high (41 percent), followed by five to six feet (31 percent), seven to eight feet (20 percent) and those made for cathedral ceilings (four percent buy trees eight feet and up).

Taking care of customers has also been a trademark of Stew Leonard’s, which explains why it has published a guide to buying a Christmas tree. Here’s an overview of Stew Leonard’s recommendations.

  1. Measure the height of the ceiling before buying a tree.

  2. Fit the tree to your needs. For example, Balsam firs are a good choice for people who want to buy a fragrant tree.

  3. Place the tree away from heat sources and direct sunlight.

  4. Buy a tree from a knowledgeable and reputable seller. That would be Stew Leonard’s, of course.

  5. Test the freshness of the tree. Needles should be “glossy and green, not brown and dry looking.”

  6. Cut the bottom of the trunk by 1/2 to one inch to eliminate sap buildup and make it easier for the tree to absorb water.

  7. Never attempt to tie the tree to the roof of your car by yourself.

  8. Buy a tree bag and put it down before putting the tree in the stand. When it’s time to take the tree down, just pull the bag up and its ready to go out.

  9. Keep the tree properly watered.

  10. Buy enough lights. Stew Leonard’s recommends 100 lights per foot of tree height.

Discussion Question: What can others learn from the way Stew Leonard’s does Christmas?

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5 Comments on "Stew Leonard’s Celebrates Christmas"

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Mark Lilien
15 years 5 months ago

Stew Leonard’s is proof that innovation can be worthwhile to customers and retail owners alike. The company has very few locations, but their market approach is special so their appeal reaches far and wide, earning huge volume.

Retailing has easy entry; no patents or copyrights, and no secrets. It’s amazing there’s so little innovation compared to the large number of players, especially when the payoffs can be so obvious.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
15 years 5 months ago

What can we learn from Stew Leonard’s merchandising of Christmas trees? He gives customers reasons and perceptions that Christmas should be a happy time and adorned with festive seasonal things and warm thoughts… plus a tree tailored to individual desires from his lot.

Beyond just Christmas, Stew creates a sense of theater into almost everything he does. That makes shopping at his stores fun places, making you want to return not only for your groceries but also for an interesting use of a period of your time. He operates on the premise that he is inviting people into his “home.” And he entertains them well once they arrive.

It would be a boast for food retailing is every store could deliver a happy “Stew Leonard” experience on every visit.

David Livingston
15 years 5 months ago

Stew Leonard could probably sell ice to Eskimos with the same success. Seems the only retailers who learn from retailers like Stew are other retailers like Stew. It’s a small, elite fraternity of retailers.

Bill Bishop
Bill Bishop
15 years 5 months ago

The message is that understanding shopper needs and responding with truly relevant offers wins both the business and shopper loyalty. That’s the message. It’s so easy to say but so hard to do.

Stephan Kouzomis
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 5 months ago
A retail food and grocery company like Stew Leonard’s has a hearty desire and willingness to be in business to please its shoppers, in many differentiated ways. And, interestingly, over the years Stew Leonard’s has shown the Industry what needs to be done and, at times, how to do it! Proudly, we can add other shopper oriented and loyalty building food and grocery operations like Publix, Harmon’s, Harris Teeter, Price Chopper-Albany, N.Y., Wegmans, Gelson’s, the old Dominick’s and Marsh businesses; Ukrop’s, Nugget, Molly Stone…to name some of the other 5 star shopper-oriented companies in our grocery industry. The question remains: does a retail food and grocery company or corporation (what ever size and public or private) want to understand and please its shoppers — and therefore, generate meaningful profits — and MOST IMPORTANTLY, shopper loyalty? OR does a large chain supermarket, small independent group, or family chain not want to generate true shopper loyalty and quality profits, — as Leonard’s and the others mentioned above, do — and just play the tactical price game, to… Read more »

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