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Feature Story

Mixed fillers:
Packing a powerful punch

Prepackaged products help knock out retailers’ labor, shrinkage and cost-management challenges.

By Monica Humbard

Few products multitask like prepackaged mixed foliages and filler flowers. While many suppliers initially designed them with consumers in mind, retailers have found their own uses for them. Not only can these products assist retailers with labor issues but they also can help with managing inventory and reducing waste.

Many retailers are searching for ways to cut labor costs and maximize the efficiency of their employees, helping prepackaged mixed filler flower and foliage bunches—often more accurately referred to as bouquets—evolve into a strong category in recent years. Prepackaged mixed fillers:
• Speed up the design process. Jaleen Gaisford, assistant manager of the floral design center at Harmons, a 12-store chain based in West Valley City, Utah, says prepackaged mixed fillers and foliages cut design time by at least half. She finds them especially helpful at holiday times, particularly with dozen-rose arrangements for Valentine’s Day.
• Reduce the level of design skills needed. Susan Murdock of World Class Flowers, Egg Harbor City, N.J., says prepackaged mixed fillers and foliages allow floral departments to employ staffs with little design experience and minimal training. By utilizing a mixed greens bouquet, for example, a floral clerk can quickly and easily upgrade a dozen-rose bunch into an elegant rose bouquet.
Ms. Gaisford says prepackaged mixed fillers and foliages have helped make Harmons’ new “Build Your Own Bouquet” program possible. Customers are welcome to purchase the program’s bouquets and arrange them at home, or they also can request that a floral manager place them into a vase or create a quick, simple arrangement. Ms. Gaisford conducts classes for the floral managers to ensure they are confident and comfortable with the process.
• Eliminate processing time. For some retailers, the labor savings is in processing time. Mark Thompson, general manager of sales and marketing at The Hiawatha Corporation, Shelton, Wash., says the Christmas season is an ideal time for those who do in-house design work to use prepackaged foliages and fillers. Mr. Thompson says they help retailers avoid buying cases of individual products and having to process each one.

shrinkage and inventory
Retailers choosing to use prepackaged mixed foliages and filler flowers have found they cut back on shrinkage, manage costs and control inventory. Prepackaged mixed fillers can help floral departments:
• Reduce waste. Jana Register, director of sales and marketing for FernTrust, Inc., Seville, Fla., says that when using mixed prepackaged filler and foliage bouquets for design work, floral departments leave “nothing on the design floor.” Ms. Gaisford attests to that. She has noticed that her chain has less shrinkage because designers are more likely to use all the product, compared to when the chain orders individual items in bulk and throws out some every week.
Andy Collins, sales manager for Sutton Ferneries, based in Miami, Fla., points out that many floral departments never count greens because they consider their cost minimal. But, he says, a stem of Italian Ruscus can cost more than a single rose. At the supermarket level, he says, the amount of waste can be phenomenal.
• Manage inventory to control costs. Ms. Gaisford also has found that prepackaged mixed fillers and foliages help her manage inventory. The chain orders just what it needs for each week.
• Manage and control arrangement/bouquet costs. Bruce Brady, business development manager for The Sun Valley Group, Arcata, Calif., points out that using such prepackaged products can help retailers control and manage design costs. They know the exact dollar amount going into each bouquet or arrangement. They simply add up the cost of the prepackaged greens, flowers, containers and labor. There also is less danger of designers creating arrangements that can never sell for the cost of the products that went into them.

how to buy
While mixed foliages and filler flowers can be purchased in bulk, many suppliers recommend ordering them wrapped in sleeves. Mr. Thompson, with Hiawatha, which sells its mixed foliage and filler bouquets both ways, notes that the cost is higher for sleeve-wrapped bouquets because of the sleeve expense and the wrapping labor required. For most retailers, however, this type of packaging probably will pay off in the end.
Ms. Murdock, with World Class Flowers, recommends sleeved bouquets instead of the bulk option because floral departments can put unused bouquets out on the sales floor for purchase. In fact, she encourages retailers to use more appealing clear sleeves rather than grower sleeves and to have UPC codes printed on them. She says that some retailers even choose to merchandise the inventory on the sales floor and grab what they need for designing from the display.
Since FernTrust started offering prepackaged mixed filler and foliage bouquets, Ms. Register has found that both individual departments and large production lines, such as those found at design centers, have come to the conclusion that this type of product is “indispensable.” Once they try this concept, she says, “They never go back.”

You may reach Contributing Editor Monica Humbard by phone at (800) 355-8086.

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