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Feature Story

Poinsettia marketing tips

Supermarkets give ideas for increasing sales of these yuletide favorites.

by Monica Humbard

If you can depend on any plant to sell during a particular time of year, it’s poinsettias at Christmas. By now, you probably know exactly how many to stock so you sell out before the holiday season is over, making a nice profit for your department.
But what if you could increase your poinsettia sales by more than 3,000 plants? That’s exactly what an Ohio supermarket did last year. Floral Manager/Buyer Jeanne Wallace at Jungle Jim’s International Market, a 270,000-square-foot independent supermarket in Fairfield, Ohio, seized an opportunity, and it paid off.
Here is her story, as well as some additional suggestions for merchandising poinsettias from Ms. Wallace and Michael Schrader, category manager/gift and floral buyer at Schnuck Markets, Inc. in St. Louis, Mo.

take chances
Ms. Wallace is a strong advocate of taking a chance on a product when an opportunity arises. Last year, a local greenhouse called her when its 6-inch potted poinsettias came on too quickly and stopped growing. She discovered that despite their shorter height, the five-plus-bloom plants were beautiful.
Ms. Wallace decided they would make perfect tabletop poinsettias. She ordered 2,500 in four colors, promoted them as “tabletop” poinsettias and priced them at $3.99 each. Not only did she sell the entire first order, but by the end of the holiday season, she had sold more than 3,000.
Despite concern expressed by her boss, Ms. Wallace did not cut back on her regular poinsettia order. In addition to the more than 3,000 tabletop poinsettias, she merchandised 400 61⁄2-inch poinsettias and more than 20 cases of glittered and painted poinsettias in every color available, along with 10-inch poinsettias, upgraded poinsettias, poinsettia trees and poinsettia hanging baskets.
The extra tabletop poinsettias did not hurt her regular sales at all, Ms. Wallace reports. In the end, she sold all of her poinsettias except 14 white tabletop ones. Her key to success? “You have to stick your neck out and not be afraid to promote,” she says.
Customers purchased the tabletop poinsettias as decorations as well as gifts. In fact, Jungle Jim’s experienced a lot of add-on sales with the tabletops. Shoppers liked taking them to shut-ins, nursing homes and hospitals. Ms. Wallace says that those who would normally buy 61⁄2-inch poinsettias were buying twice as many of the tabletops, and some were still buying the 61⁄2-inch pots, too.
Ms. Wallace says many of her customers were not familiar with tabletop poinsettias. They not only attracted the attention of her regular poinsettia purchasers but also some shoppers who normally don’t purchase poinsettias.
“They say that if you build it, they will come. That actually happened for me. We were the talk of the town,” Ms. Wallace recalls.
strategies for boosting poinsettia sales

• Take chances with new poinsettia products.
• Seize good pricing opportunities.
• Increase your selection with unusual and novelty poinsettias.
• Start your selling season sooner with painted poinsettias targeted to Thanksgiving.
• Study sales data and the buying habits of your customers.
• Wow customers with massive poinsettia displays.
• Cross-merchandise outside your department.
• Incorporate poinsettias into home-style displays.
• Upgrade potted poinsettias for different price points.
• Attract larger orders with quantity discounts.
• Advertise your poinsettias in a variety of formats.
• Inspire your staff with sales contests.

increase your selection
Both Ms. Wallace and Mr. Schrader have had a great response to novelty poinsettias, including painted and glittered poinsettias and poinsettia trees. Last year, Schnucks stores merchandised a large selection of painted poinsettias. The response was so positive that the chain plans to expand the selection for Christmas 2007. “We reached a lot of people who wouldn’t normally have bought poinsettias,” Mr. Schrader says.
When merchandising painted poinsettias, he recommends grouping them separately from the traditional poinsettias. He also suggests color-blocking all your poinsettias and moving them off the floor as soon as shelf or table space is open.
Although traditional potted red poinsettias continued to be her top-seller for Christmas 2006, Ms. Wallace sold out of every painted and glittered poinsettia she carried. “You can’t just limit yourself to the traditional,” she says. “If you never carry it, you never know if you have the market for it.”
Both Jungle Jim’s and Schnucks also sold out of their poinsettia trees last year. Mr. Schrader says Schnucks will offer them again for Christmas 2007. And for the first time, Schnucks will feature two novelty potted poinsettias that are exclusive to its stores.

expand your time frame
Painted poinsettias have helped broaden the poinsettia season for retailers. Ms. Wallace puts her poinsettias out a week before Thanksgiving. Around this time, she displays white poinsettias as well as the painted gold and orange ones.
Mr. Schrader recommends merchandising poinsettias even earlier—around the first week of November. His stores start out with the less traditional colors, such as peaches and mauves. As it gets closer to the holiday, he says, the reds sell best; therefore, during the week before Christmas, most of his stores merchandise reds almost exclusively. The exception, he says, is in areas with a large population of clientele who don’t celebrate Christmas. Those floral departments sell all the colors throughout the holiday season.

know what sells
Mr. Schrader says Schnucks pays a lot of attention to data and demographics when determining what to merchandise in each of its stores. Every year, it reviews the previous year’s sales data for each store to see what poinsettias sold best. Although the chain usually selects 10 poinsettia varieties a year, not all stores carry the same ones.

create massive displays
Ms. Wallace is a firm believer in massive poinsettia displays. Because her 6,000-square-foot gift and floral shop is separate from the main supermarket, Ms. Wallace has to merchandise differently to draw customers in. She makes sure customers can look in through the shop’s many windows and see festive, enticing displays. Last year, she constructed walls of color-blocked red, white, marble and pink poinsettias. The displays were placed so customers walked right into them. This achieved the “wow factor,” she says.
She also lined the sales floor with poinsettias, and in one area of the shop, she created a “wave of poinsettias” on a spiral staircase merchandiser. She color-blocked traditional poinsettias that spiraled into painted ones. Nearby was an entire wall of glittered poinsettias.
In Jungle Jim’s 8,000-square-foot greenhouse, Ms. Wallace also merchandises poinsettias on tables around a 25-foot-tall decorated Christmas tree.

plan home-style displays
Customers often need help imagining where items would look best in their homes. Some need to see them in such settings before they even consider buying them. To assist such customers, Schnucks stores create home-style displays that incorporate poinsettias.
Jungle Jim’s does the same in its floral and gift shop. Ms. Wallace uses antiques to set up “lifestyle” settings; however, recognizing that this type of display won’t attract younger consumers, she also creates more contemporary settings. This is true with her glittered and painted poinsettias, which she finds especially appealing to younger shoppers.

Despite having her own separate shop and greenhouse, Ms. Wallace still merchandises in the main store. Poinsettias are displayed with other gift suggestions on four to six tables.
Schnucks cross-merchandises poinsettias throughout its supermarkets. In addition to the floral departments, locations include the checkout areas, the liquor and produce departments, the front windows and endcaps.

Upgrading, particularly in higher-end markets, can help move poinsettias. Last year, Schnucks stores placed poinsettias in galvanized containers in addition to baskets. Mr. Schrader says this gave them a finished look that appealed to shoppers.
Along with helping customers view poinsettias as gift items, upgrading also expands the price range of your selection. Mr. Schrader has found that 6-inch poinsettias sell best. When upgraded, they sell for as much as $25 to $35.
Ms. Wallace says her shop features some type of upgraded gift basket with a poinsettia and other products, such as wine and fruit, every year. Last year, the floral shop filled a trunk-style gift basket with a poinsettia on one side and cheese and crackers on the other. The shop sold 75 without marketing the baskets outside the store.
Ms. Wallace estimates that about 80 percent of her potted poinsettias have at least pot covers and the rest are upgraded further or placed in gift baskets. Even the poinsettia trees have upgraded ceramic pots and baskets available for purchase.
Customers last year found handmade bows in baskets next to the poinsettias that her store sells matched the glittered, painted and traditional plants, allowing them to upgrade poinsettias themselves. All the bows sold out at $3 apiece.

solicit large orders
You can make even bigger strides toward increasing your bottom line by targeting organizations, businesses and churches. Jungle Jim’s sends out fliers to local churches in September, letting them know when poinsettias will be available and the price points. Ms. Wallace offers a 5 percent to 10 percent discount to those who order 10 pots or more. The advance notice helps Ms. Wallace plan her poinsettia orders. The floral shop also contacts nursing homes and hospitals regarding large orders.
Schnucks offers volume discounts to organizations. The chain promotes these larger orders through its “Holiday Guide,” which it publishes in the fall and mails to certain demographics. The Holiday Guide also is available in the stores’ customer service areas. In addition to other departments’ products, the guide has one to two pages of floral items including poinsettias.

In addition to promoting poinsettias in its annual Holiday Guide, Schnucks advertises at least one type of poinsettia each week in its sales circulars from November through December. It might be a poinsettia tree, an upgraded poinsettia or perhaps a 4-inch desktop poinsettia.
In an effort to reach a variety of markets, Ms. Wallace advertises in different formats. Her methods include promoting poinsettias on a large chalkboard near the street in front of the store as well as on a large electronic billboard that customers see on the main road to Jungle Jim’s.

inspire your sales staff
While wonderful product, fantastic displays and enticing advertising are important, Mr. Schrader points out that it helps to move poinsettias if the staff is motivated to sell them. In the past, Schnucks has had contests for poinsettia sales. Every August, the chain’s floral managers attend a meeting that covers new ideas concerning Christmas merchandising and employee contests for the season.

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

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