by Monica Humbard
Sell more blooming plants for the
Proper category management makes sales jingle.
With the exception of poinsettias, the potted blooming plant category can pose some challenges during the Christmas season. Cindy Rapshus, vice president of business development for Temkin International, Inc./Element Imports and former vice president of floral merchandising and procurement for Albertsons, Inc., says that one would think this category would have a higher perceived value than cut flowers because of its longer shelf life, but customers don’t always seem to recognize the obvious.
The keys to driving sales in this category, she says, is to heavily promote plants’ long life while helping customers understand how to use blooming plants—in addition to poinsettias—to decorate their homes for the holidays. Here are additional suggestions from Ms. Rapshus for building a stronger blooming plant category during the Christmas season.
While at Albertsons, Ms. Rapshus started merchandising poinsettias around the first week of November. Then, during the week of Christmas, she moved on to alternative blooming plants in a traditional Christmas color palette, such as red and white tulips, amaryllises and paperwhites (Narcissus).
At this point in the season, she explains, most customers have completed their home decorating and are focused more on gift giving. They want something upgraded and unique. Red and white potted tulips appear upscale, she says, so customers perceive them as nice gift ideas. Likewise, potted amaryllises make bold statements with their large trumpet blooms.
Ms. Rapshus says that going with an alternative blooming plant lineup at this point also makes a great segue into the week after Christmas. In fact, she says, some suppliers have created transitional programs specifically for this purpose.
While upgrading is absolutely necessary for any gift-giving holiday, you must properly manage your upgrading of potted blooming plants for maximum effectiveness. Here are some recommendations from Ms. Rapshus.
Upgrade the correct products for your store. You should always focus on new, quality products, not items that aren’t selling. You must upgrade items you know will appeal to your customers, and you must be aware of their pricing thresholds. Check with other departments in your store to see what higher-ticket items sell well so you can determine what your customers are willing to spend. Some floral departments might need to stick with upgraded 4-inch potted plants that ultimately will retail for around $15 to $20.
Others will have the customer base to support $50 to $60 retail prices after upgrading.
Determine your costs. Regardless of what you determine as your target price, if you handle upgrading in-house, don’t forget to figure in your expenses for both hard goods and labor costs. Start with an upgrading plan so you don’t put more into an item than you can charge. Some suppliers now offer decorating kits, which make upgrading easier to manage.
Don’t over-upgrade. With a commodity item such as poinsettias, don’t upgrade too much, too early. Many shoppers, especially several weeks before Christmas, will want to purchase multiple plants for home or church decorating; therefore, don’t upgrade them to a price that discourages multiple purchases. Wait to upgrade poinsettias until a week to 10 days before Christmas, when the focus is more on gift-giving.
Consistently upgrade. If you want customers to think of you as a gift-buying destination, you must offer gift selections year-round. If you don’t, you might get impulse sales from upgraded products during the week of Christmas, but you probably will not reach a truly successful level of gift-giving sales in this category.
Upgrade with a purpose. Upgrade only a certain percentage, perhaps 25 percent, of each type of potted blooming plant you sell during Christmas. Then, upgrade with a common theme, such as candy canes or certain colors so the plants will coordinate for display purposes.
Merchandise commodity plants, such as poinsettias, in mass displays, Ms. Rapshus advises. But when blooming plants are upgraded to become gift items, whether they are poinsettias or other alternatives such as tulips or amaryllises, incorporate them into themed displays. Ms. Rapshus explains that the upgraded products do not have the same impact when grouped with commodity items.
Traditional advertising in sales fliers is important for promoting blooming plants for the holidays, but you can expand sales for this category by pursuing other angles as well. Here are some of Ms. Rapshus’ suggestions:
• Solicit multiple plant purchases from churches and local organizations that are decorating for holiday services and events. Send a letter to those within a five-mile radius of your store offering them special discounts.
• Approach hotels, banks, restaurants and office buildings about decorating their establishments for the holidays.
• Team up with other departments in your store, and send a holiday mailing to large businesses in your area. Offer to handle their holiday corporate gift-giving and party-planning needs.
• Through customer loyalty programs, target top-tier customers with special offers.
• If your store gives out “bounce-back coupons,” have the program set up to dispense coupons that give customers $2 off holiday plants valued at $10 or more when they purchase Thanksgiving bouquets or centerpieces.
• Partner with a liquor distributor. In exchange for a display of the distributor’s products in your floral department, ask the distributor to cover $2-off coupons for holiday plants when customers buys the distributor’s products. sfr
Reach Contributing Editor Monica Humbard at (800) 355-8086.
|| holiday plants that sell
When planning your blooming plant category for the Christmas season, consider offering these plants, which are best-sellers during the holidays for two top growers.
Sources: Bay City Flower Co., Inc., Half Moon Bay, Calif;
and Nurserymen’s Exchange, Inc., Half Moon Bay, Calif.