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Weddings to grow on

When this Macey’s decided to build its floral business, it turned to nuptial services.
  by Cynthia L. McGowan

     When Floral Supervisor Sarah Parslow wanted to boost her department’s business at Macey’s new flagship store in Providence, Utah, she turned to a service she knew well: weddings. Through savvy salesmanship and excellent service, she and her staff have made weddings an integral and profitable part of the business in just three years.

     Macey’s, a 10-store banner of cooperatively owned wholesaler Associated Food Stores, Inc. (AFS) of Salt Lake City, Utah, opened the Providence store in February 2007 to replace an aging store nearby and to serve as a prototype for future Macey’s construction. The 83,000-square-foot store has an upscale tone and prominently showcases the fresh departments, including full-service meat and seafood counters, a made-from-scratch bakery and a large produce department. “What we have done is redesigned the format of what a Macey’s store looks like,” explains Blaine Butterworth, the Providence store leader.

starting a new department
     Part of that emphasis on fresh included placing the floral department near the entrance, which is different from most Macey’s stores, where floral is located toward the back. In addition, the full-service floral department replaced the previous store’s cash-and-carry operation that a local florist stocked with arrangements and plants. The new department “gives our guests an opportunity to come to our store where they will get just as good if not better product at a much better price” than at a traditional florist, Mr. Butterworth describes.

     But first, the department had to earn customers’ trust with their floral dollars. To do so, Macey’s hired Mrs. Parslow, an experienced floral designer, to build the department from the ground up. In the early days, she recalls, sales were slow. But the energetic and proactive Mrs. Parslow took several steps to get the business going.

     First, she decided to concentrate on weddings as a way to generate sales for her department. She chose weddings for two reasons: her expertise and the ample opportunities in the community for wedding business. Mrs. Parslow previously had owned a wedding and event business, providing flowers for about 50 ceremonies, so she had the experience needed. In addition, the store is near Utah State University and in an area that skews younger demographically, which meant there potentially would be more couples looking for wedding flowers. “In Utah,” Mrs. Parslow reveals, “kids get married really young.”

     Next, Mrs. Parslow and her staff of two part-timers, both college students, talked up the wedding business to customers. That word-of-mouth advertising led to 15 weddings in the floral department’s first year.

all-store wedding showcase
     But Mrs. Parslow knew the department could do more to grow its wedding business, so she helped the entire store organize a wedding showcase in August 2008. A large banner at the front of the store as well as radio advertisements and public address announcements publicized the event. Inside the store, wedding shoppers found everything they needed to plan the big day. The floral department created vignettes of wedding flowers in four themes: early summer, late summer/fall, winter, and black and white. Mrs. Parslow also gave a free class in the store’s “Little Theater” on wedding ideas and flower styles.

     Other store departments participated, too. The deli department offered hors d’oeuvres and other fare, produce had vegetable and fruit trays, and bakery created cakes, all “to show people that Macey’s can do their whole wedding right here,” Mrs. Parslow says.

     Outside vendors helped make the showcase a one-stop venue for couples. In advance of the showcase, a local photographer took photos of Macey’s florals, and the store used them in a wedding brochure and posters. In return, he received credit for the photos as well as space in the showcase to exhibit his work. A backdrop business “transformed our lobby into something amazing,” Mrs. Parslow shares. A local bridal shop displayed dresses, and a nearby resort featured its wedding services.

     The showcase was a tremendous success, Mrs. Parslow recalls, with the floral department conducting seven consultations that day. “It really helped get our name out there,” she describes.

     The floral department also found other creative ways to promote its wedding business. Mrs. Parslow has continued the partnership with the photographer, and his professional photography, in return for photo credits, lets the department create high-quality marketing pieces for little cost. The store delivers a free bouquet once a week to the bridal shop that participated in the showcase, and this small investment pays off—“We probably get 30 percent of our business” from the shop, Mrs. Parslow estimates. The department also participates in wedding expos and advertises in their programs.

     As a result of the positive word-of-mouth, wedding showcase and strategic vendor partnerships, Macey’s wedding business has exploded in size since the store opened just three years ago. The year of the showcase, 2008, Macey’s provided flowers for 69 weddings, up from 15 the year before. In 2009, the business grew even more, to 80 weddings.




Associated Retail Stores (ARS), a subsidiary of wholesale distributor
     Associated Food Stores, Inc. (AFS)
HEADQUARTERS AFS is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah
STORES 10, all in Utah
YEAR FOUNDED 1947, by Walt Macey and Dale A. Jones
STORE SIZE Providence location is 83,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE 80 square feet in the Providence store
EMPLOYEES 300 in Providence
FLORAL EMPLOYEES 1 full time and 2 part time in Providence
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service florals including custom designs, weddings, events and delivery
FLORAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO STORE SALES 1 percent on average in the Providence store

a connection with brides
     High-quality service is the other key to the department’s growth in the wedding business. Mrs. Parslow takes a personal interest in each bride and attempts to make a connection with each that will enhance the experience. “What sets us apart,” she says, “the biggest thing, is that I really get to know these brides.” The staff takes the time for free in-depth consultations in the store’s dining area, where they talk about the couple’s style, look through books, create sketches and fill out a form that asks for detailed information on preferences. “We write a lot of information,” Mrs. Parslow shares. “That way we know we’re doing the right thing.”

     Instead of a set price list for wedding flowers, “I tell the brides, ‘I’m going to get you the best price for the season that you get married in,’” Mrs. Parslow remarks. The average wedding costs $300, but the store has handled a $2,500 ceremony. Macey’s will include delivery and setup, charging $25 to drop off flowers and up to $100 for more involved setup. “We can do as little or as much as they [couples] want,” Mrs. Parslow describes. Macey’s asks couples to sign a contract and to put down a 10 percent or $50 (whichever is greater) nonrefundable deposit.

     Couples fill out follow-up surveys after the weddings to rate their service at Macey’s, and Mrs. Parslow shares that the vast majority of customers have judged the department highly. The surveys confirm that, “We’re the best price and the best service,” she remarks.

full-service department
     In addition to its wedding services, the store offers a full range of floral services from custom designs to events and delivery. Mrs. Parslow and the staff also will create arrangements for customers while they shop—“That’s why we’re here full time,” she notes.

     The staff also forges connections with its everyday customers, not just with brides. Mrs. Parslow describes giving a consumer bunch of Gerberas to a customer who was having a bad day, and she says her staff also has the freedom to do so on occasion. “We really believe in that ‘pay-it-forward’ philosophy,” she confirms.

     Mrs. Parslow further connects with customers through free floral classes that she teaches in the store’s Little Theater. A class she recently presented on Florists’ Review’s “2010-2011 American Floral Trends Forecast” attracted 70 people.

floral preferences
     The floral department has found that trendier, more modern arrangements sell well. That’s not surprising in a community of people whose average age is under 30, something Mrs. Parslow learned in training that Macey’s offered in an effort to educate employees about their customers. The department creates all the designs in house, with prices ranging from $6.99 for a bud vase up to $35 for larger designs.

     Dozen roses for $12.99 are top sellers in bouquets. Mixed bouquets start at $7.99 and top out at $10.99 for a bouquet that has two carnations, a Gerbera and chrysanthemums. The store also carries consumer bunches at three for $10, including Asiatic lilies, Gerberas, hybrid tea roses, spray roses, Ruscus and Gypsophila.

     Potted Gerberas, at $4.99 for a 4-inch pot, are customers’ favorite plant variety. “I go through probably 50 of them a week,” Mrs. Parslow confides. She also promotes foliage plants for their ability to help reduce indoor air pollution. That’s important to her customers, who live in an area called Cache Valley, where there are seasonal concerns about poor air quality.

     Mrs. Parslow orders flowers and plants from AFS, wholesalers and local growers, and deliveries are made three times a week. Quality is the most important consideration in choosing a vendor, shares Mrs. Parslow, because customers won’t return if their flowers don’t last.

     The staff also takes the time to talk to customers about their purchases in an effort to give them lasting value. “We always try to educate,” she remarks. “When people pick up a dozen roses, we say, ‘Make sure you cut these stems under water and remove all the foliage, and if you change your water every other day, they’re going to last longer.’”

taking care of customers
     Such an approach to customer care is part of the Macey’s culture, remarks Mr. Butterworth, the store leader. He says training is important to reinforcing good customer service but that the first step is to hire right. “We hire people, or try to hire people, that fit what we want portrayed to our guests,” he elaborates.

     That’s why so many brides have discovered the wedding services of Macey’s, where it’s more than just a business to Mrs. Parslow. As she describes, “In Utah, a lot of people believe they’re going to be married forever, and this is their one wedding, and so it’s their big occasion, basically, in life, other than [having] their children. So we want to make sure it’s perfect, and we’ll do just about anything to make it right.”


keys to success


Sarah Parslow, floral supervisor at the Macey’s in Providence, Utah, used her wedding expertise to build the nuptial business at Macey’s new floral department, growing it from 15 weddings in 2007 to 80 in 2009.

LOCATION Although Providence, in northern Utah, has only about 6,500 people, it is less than two miles from Logan, which boasts about 50,000 people and is home to Utah State University. With an average age under 30, the community’s young demographics make it an ideal target for the wedding business.

PUBLICITY The floral department gets the word out about its floral services through partnerships with local businesses, advertisements, public address announcements and word-of-mouth.

PRODUCTS The store receives deliveries of high-quality products three times a week from Associated Food Stores, Inc., wholesalers and local growers, ensuring freshness.


Reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan at
or (800) 355-8086.

Super Floral Retailing •• Copyright 2010
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.