by Monica Humbard
Experts give sales strategies, merchandising techniques and care
tips to help you increase your market share of these spring—and
Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and Irises are symbols of spring,
so it is not surprising that the peak sales months are New
Year’s Day through Mother’s Day. But, while spring traditionally
has been considered “bulb season,” technology has extended the
natural blooming season for bulb flowers—offering opportunities
for expanded sales.
Modern transportation and cooling techniques have enabled
growers to “force” bulbs through the cold winter, resetting
their bloom cycles, explains Louise Strutner, a representative
for Nurserymen’s Exchange, Inc., in Half Moon Bay, Calif., which
carries a variety of potted bulb plants. She says bulb flowers
will bloom as much as six months off their natural cycles. At
Nurserymen’s, bulbs originating in the Northern Hemisphere are
sold as potted plants during the first six months of the year,
and those from the Southern Hemisphere are used during the last
six months of the year.
FOLLOWING CONSUMERS’ WANTS
Although most bulb plants are available year-round now, Ms.
Strutner notes that consumer preference dictates what is offered
to the market. Hybrid lilies and Cyclamens are strong sellers
year-round while others that are technically available are grown
seasonally for the U.S. market, such as daffodils and Irises.
As with bulb plants, some cut bulb flowers such as daffodils
continue to remain “seasonal.” However, The Sun Valley Group, a
grower/distributor of cut flowers based in Arcata, Calif., now
forces some bulb flowers so that its clients can offer them
outside their natural seasons.
For example, Sun Valley forces tulips. In the fall, the
company’s tulips come from the Southern Hemisphere, where they
naturally would be in season. Although they are now in the
United States, “the bulbs think they are still in season,”
explains Bruce Brady, business development manager for the
company. To further expand tulip availability, Sun Valley also
cultivates French and Dutch tulip bulbs. Their natural growing
seasons also are different from those found in the Northern
Pat McDevitt, president of Pacific Flower Shippers, a U.S. cut
flower grower based in Edmonds, Wash., has some concerns about
forcing bulb cut flowers. He says increased availability “takes
the spark out” of the normal selling period.
However, Mr. Brady encourages retailers to consider forced cut
bulb flowers because they can give customers a unique floral
option in a traditionally “off” season. He says that forcing
bulb flowers has allowed growers to ensure that a particular
color of bulb flower is at its peak and available in large
quantities for a certain holiday/promotion. For example, red,
pink and white tulips have become a popular option for
Valentine’s Day gift giving.
In general, Mr. Brady points out that mass-market florists
aren’t merchandising cut bulb flowers year-round yet. “There is
a lot of room for sales to expand,” he says.
Mr. Brady suggests that chains discuss with growers how they can
personalize their floral programs with forced bulb flowers. With
proper notification, a grower could produce a particular color
of tulip for an exact date to accommodate a chain’s special
promotion. He explains that this allows retailers to offer their
customers something not found at their competitors’ stores.
As for what the consumers think about flowers out of season, Mr.
Brady insists that most don’t even understand that flowers have
natural growing seasons. He believes they just want flowers that
are pretty and unique.
favorite bulb plants & flowers
These were the top-selling bulb plants and flowers in the United
States in 2005, according to the International Flower Bulb
Centre (IBC). Also included are the best-selling varieties
within each group, to help you make the best buying decisions.
CUT BULB FLOWERS
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