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critical mass

predicting sales trends

Forecasting can be risky, but PMA’s Holiday Floral Market Watch Reports can help.

by
Sandy Hering

      The task of forecasting sales goals and targets became much more difficult as our economy slid into a recession, yet these economic times clearly call for smart business decisions. So how do you predict your holiday sales in today’s turbulent times?

      In the past, we have used previous experience to help us predict our holiday sales trends. But as this recession has rocked the financial foundations of many consumers, we need even more information about what is happening today to support our forecasting. Smart floral retailers and suppliers will seek out and utilize the latest information on industry and consumer trends from a range of sources, including trade publications, industry consultants and trade associations.

      Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has been surveying floral retailers and suppliers after each of the four major floral holidays since the year-end holidays of 2007. The timing of that first PMA Holiday Floral Market Watch Report was terrific because now we know that holiday was the beginning of the recession, with retailers seeing significant setbacks as their predictions never materialized. Since then, most retailers have been less aggressive, sometimes at the cost of purchasing too little product and limiting sales—a tragedy because sales in this market are not easy to come by!

      The findings of the Floral Market Watch Reports vary for each holiday and are available free to PMA members at www.pma.com. Several trends in the reports’ data cut across all the holidays, so here’s a sneak preview to get you started.

key findings
      Consumers have made real cuts in their floral expenditures. For some, this means completely eliminating their holiday floral purchases. Others are reducing the quantity or size of their purchases. Another group has switched retail channels, shopping at stores where they perceive better value. Thus, some fortunate retailers are actually experiencing increased floral sales.

      Consumers still enjoy plants and flowers as periodic pick-me-ups and are looking to keep this little luxury as affordable as possible. Favorite holiday plants and flowers help consumers recall good memories and enjoy times with friends and family, without having spent too much.

      Floral retailers and suppliers are already making changes to their programs to reflect these new consumer trends. Items are downsized; pricing strategies better communicate value; and merchandise quantities are reduced by some, increased by others. Retail displays convey affordability and feature items of cheerful colors, exceptional value and freshness for satisfaction.

how to use this data
      Floral suppliers, working on a longer timetable, must consider how these trends impact them far into the future. In selecting colors for fall and Christmas, how can you change your mix to a more cheerful palette that still reflects holiday favorites? What items will be “risky” or difficult to sell as the economy continues to drag or, at best, begins to improve in small doses?

      Based on the Holiday Floral Market Watch Report information as well as my study of consumer trends and the general economy, I predict better sales of bright yellows and oranges this fall, with fewer sales of dark bronze, rusts and browns unless paired with bright colors. I’ll even go as far as predicting the demise of the painted poinsettia unless it is significantly changed; instead, the market will favor more traditional poinsettia colors.

      So when will we begin to see an improvement in floral sales? Most expect this recession will have long-lasting effects on consumer spending, continuing throughout this year, with some improvement in the spring of 2010.

      Valentine’s Day falls on Sunday in 2010; therefore, I would focus on incremental improvement at Easter instead of beginning with Valentine’s Day. This should translate into better results for Mother’s Day and hopefully continue throughout the remainder of the year.

      PMA’s Market Watch Report surveys are sent to more than 300 floral retailers and suppliers after each holiday.  We encourage all survey recipients to participate fully, helping us return more information back to you.

Critical Mass offers experts in the floral business a monthly forum to express their views on a variety of topics of importance to the industry. These viewpoints are not intended to reflect the opinions of anyone at Super Floral Retailing or Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.

Sandy Hering of Floral Marketing Innovations is a consultant in the horticultural industries. She provides analysis and commentary for PMA’s Holiday Floral Market Watch Reports, reporting on each of four major holidays per year. You can reach her by telephone at (508) 758-3008 or by e-mail at skhering@comcast.net.

 

Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.