In a country that loves florals,
this grocery store operation uses presentation, convenience and
service to stand out from the competition.
by Cynthia L. McGowan
Flowers are part of daily life in the Netherlands. They’re sold
everywhere, from flower shops to street corners to supermarkets
and even gas stations. People buy them regularly for themselves
and as gifts. Flowers adorn homes, businesses and restaurants.
In fact, the latest figures from the Flower Council of Holland (FCH)
show that the Dutch spent an average of 53.8 euros ($70.88) per
person on cut flowers in 2005, ranking the Netherlands third
among the 24 countries surveyed. In that same survey, the United
States ranked 17th, spending an average of 20.9 euros ($27.54)
per person on cut flowers. (On Dec. 22, 1 euro equaled
To find out how supermarket florists fare in a country that has
such a strong appreciation for flowers, Super Floral Retailing
visited a grocery store floral operation in Hoofddorp,
Netherlands. We found that supermarket florists capture a small
part of the Dutch floriculture market, but they are growing
their business, using many of the same merchandising techniques
as their counterparts in the United States.
dirk van den broek
OWNERS Family owned
STORES 130 supermarkets in the Netherlands; the company
also owns travel agencies, liquor stores and drug stores
FLORAL SERVICES Niek’s Bloemenshop rents space in the
Hoofddorp store and offers custom designs upon request, but most
customers prefer to purchase cash-and-carry bouquets, plants and
arrangements; Niek’s is owned by Niek B.V., which also supplies
flowers to other supermarkets on commission
FLORAL EMPLOYEES 5 in Niek’s Bloemenshop in Hoofddorp
Supermarket florists in Holland accounted for just 15 percent of
the country’s cut-flower sales in 2005 and only 10 percent of
its plant sales, according to the FCH. In contrast, U.S. grocery
stores had 26.7 percent of the cut-flower market and 22.4
percent of the potted flowering plant market in the latest Ipsos-Insight
Floral Trends survey.
A problem Dutch supermarkets have encountered as they strive to
increase their market share is one of image. Interviews with
Dutch shoppers reveal that many think supermarket flowers are of
lower quality and that traditional floral shops give a more
professional presentation to their flowers. Indeed, Gijs
Kakebeeke, retail specialist for the FCH, says that Dutch
consumers turn to traditional floral shops for gift giving and
events like funerals and weddings.
But Mr. Kakebeeke says Dutch supermarkets are increasing their
sales and improving their image, especially in the past two
years, as they become convenient venues for shoppers seeking
flowers for home decor. “That’s a growing niche,” he notes.
As in the United States, Dutch grocery stores often benefit from
impulse sales of shoppers already in the stores. Not all Dutch
stores, however, merchandise to take advantage of those impulse
sales, Mr. Kakebeeke says.
“The market leaders, they know how to sell flowers,” he says.
But smaller, locally owned grocery stores still lag in those
skills, and the FCH offers tips to help them improve their
“You need to make an extra effort to sell flowers; otherwise, it
won’t work,” Mr. Kakebeeke advises. “You have to put them in a
primary location in the store, preferably in a walking route, so
the customer sees the flowers.” The FCH also advises grocery
stores to change product assortment and create interesting,
As the merchandising skills vary, so too does the range of
services and products. Some Dutch supermarkets provide a limited
assortment, such as cash-and-carry bouquets and plants, while
others offer more items and custom designs. Mr. Kakebeeke says
the level of service varies greatly even within chains because
most don’t have a corporate floral operation. In fact, he says,
the Netherlands has fewer than 10 supermarket chains, and most
of them franchise their stores, which means that each individual
owner can decide what kind of flower department he or she wants.
“shop in a shop”
arrangement that Mr. Kakebeeke says works well is the “shop in a
shop” concept, where a flower shop rents space from a grocery
store and hires the employees. Super Floral Retailing saw that
concept in action at the Dutch supermarket it visited last fall,
a Dirk van den Broek in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam.
Because supermarket-owned floral departments often find it
difficult to attract employees with experience, the
shop-in-a-shop concept “can be a good solution,” Mr. Kakebeeke
says. Having ownership also gives the flower shop incentive to
merchandise well, offer good customer service and sell
top-quality flowers, he says.
keys to success
MERCHANDISING Niek’s Bloemenshop uses
color blocking and mass displays for visual impact. Flowers and
plants are abundant and well-organized, enticing customers to
buy. The shop has a low-price special on a designated flower
PRODUCTS Flowers come straight from one of Holland’s
famous auctions, ensuring freshness and low prices. Customers
can choose from a wide variety of flowers by the stem, bouquets,
arrangements and plants.
CUSTOMER SERVICE Niek’s floral attendants interact well
with customers. The floral counter also serves as the
workstation, letting customers see and talk with the attendants
as they work with flowers.
That appears to be the case at the Dirk van den Broek floral
operation, which has the look of a small floral shop and where
customers are enticed by an inviting array of bouquets,
arrangements and plants. The shop has about 646 square feet, or
60 square meters, of display space, which is rented by floral
company Niek B.V. of Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands, for a fixed
amount per square meter.
The florist is called Niek’s Bloemenshop (Niek’s Flower Shop),
but “most customers think we are a division of Dirk van den
Broek,” a family-owned chain with 130 discount supermarkets in
the Netherlands, says Niek van der Zijden, owner of Niek B.V.
The association works well for both businesses. “Not only are
the supermarket customers buying [flowers],” he says, “but the
shop itself also attracts a lot of customers.”
They are first drawn into Niek’s by its highly visual
merchandising displays. “Presentation is very important,” Mr.
van der Zijden acknowledges, and the shop utilizes
color-blocking and mass displays to attract attention to its
The shop has an open, vertical layout with shelves full of
products displayed along the walls. Buckets of more than two
dozen varieties of flowers and foliages by the stem, including
huge Hydrangeas, gorgeous Gerberas, beautiful roses, exotic
Leucodendrons and stems of lucky bamboo are on tiered shelves,
just asking for customers to touch, smell and buy them. Stylish
arrangements, green and blooming plants, and colorful vases are
found on tables and shelves throughout the shop. The counter
serves as a workstation, so customers can see and talk with the
floral attendant as he or she works with the flowers.
During Super Floral Retailing’s visit, the attendant on duty,
Siv Lorentzen, was attentive to customers, answering their
questions and helping them with their flower selections. She
spoke to each person who came into the flower shop and gave
children free flowers. All the while, she created large, lush
bouquets with eye-catching flowers and foliages like flowering
kale (Brassica), Hydrangeas and Eucalyptus.
The shop employs five florists, who were trained by an
experienced floral designer on staff. In addition, Ms. Lorentzen
received training through a one-day class offered by the Flower
Council of Holland.
Mr. van der Zijden says some customers like to have bouquets and
arrangements made in the shop, but most buy the “grab-and-go”
products. He estimates the shop sells 250 to 300 bouquets a
week, making them the best-selling item. Rose bouquets are the
top sellers, followed by lilies and chrysanthemums. Prices range
from 5.99 euros to 14.00 euros ($7.89 to $18.45).
The company gets its flowers fresh from one of the flower
auctions in Holland, and Mr. van der Zijden says doing so lets
him offer high-quality flowers at low prices. The store offers a
weekly special on a selected flower; one week had 20 roses for
2.99 euros ($3.94).
Floral designs, often made with arrangement gel, are priced from
5.99 to 9.99 euros ($7.89 to $13.16). The designs have an
upscale look; for example, a tall, glass vase contained
Gerberas, Anthuriums, Leucodendrons and one apple. Another
design included a Phalaenopsis orchid plant whose root system
was wrapped in cellophane. The plant rested on pink arrangement
gel at the top of a clear glass vase, with stunning results.
Plants are important to the shop’s product selection, which
includes orchids for 6.99 euros ($9.21), heather baskets for
5.99 euros ($7.89) and azaleas for 3.99 euros ($5.26). Green
plants including hanging ivies and Ficuses fill display shelves.
The products and services keep customers coming back: The shop
has been in business for nearly 20 years and has established a
loyal clientele. “We serve about 1,000 to 1,200 customers a
week,” Mr. van der Zijden remarks, and “70 percent of these are
regular customers who buy on a weekly basis.”
That’s the kind of track record that will help Dutch
supermarkets as they work to increase the confidence and sales
of their flower-loving countrymen.
You may reach Cynthia L. McGowan
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (800)
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