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If you are involved in a supermarket floral operation, everything you do is somehow vitally connected with the operations of your total store plan. According to the Food Marketing Institute, food sales are a $1 trillion business in the United States, and nearly half of that huge sum is earned by the restaurant industry, especially fast food. Already, competitors for food sales have cut the number of potential grocery store customers almost in half.
The implications are important: There is serious competition for food customers, and that competition directly affects you. Your customers are food customers shopping in your store.
Aiming your marketing and promotional events toward specific customers in your store can help to increase your floral sales. In this article, you’ll learn about three groups of shoppers—women, men and teenagers—and discover strategies on how to increase your share of their floral dollars.

the female customer
According to the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) fourth edition of The Changing Floriculture Industry: A Statistical Overview, your primary floral customer is the female head of the household, who usually is a member of a two-person family. Her children are probably grown and have moved away. She is highly educated, wants a high-quality floral product that gives her personal satisfaction and enjoyment, and is usually buying flowers for her personal use.
Your approach to the female customer should focus on the quality and benefits of your floral items. Long-lasting flowers, new varieties, easy-to-care-for items and fragrant florals are all key motivators for your primary customers.
Your in-store signage is an important part of your marketing. Make sure the pricing is clear and the information on the signs is understandable. Wording like “assorted blooming” or “consumer bunches” is unclear and not very helpful to female customers. Be specific: “Hydrangea and lily plants, $9.99 each,” or “Carnations, $4.99 a bunch.”
Pay attention to your UPCs, making sure the prices are clearly marked on the labels. More customers than you might think will return items to the buckets if they cannot determine the prices quickly and easily.
A knowledgeable sales staff is important, too. Consider these results from a recent study examining how gender influences the shopping experience. According to He Buys, She Shops: A Study of Gender Differences in the Retail Experience, conducted by The Verde Group; the Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and WomenCertified, a consumer advocacy group, 24 percent of women surveyed are loyal to stores with associates who are familiar with products and where to find them. Six percent of women walk away from retailers because of unavailable sales associates.

the male customer
Floriculture sales in the United States total about $19.5 billion in all categories—cut flowers, potted flowering plants, foliage plants, bedding and garden plants, cut cultivated greens and propagative materials. And your average floral customer spends about $55 per year on floral purchases, SAF’s The Changing Floriculture Industry: A Statistical Overview reports. Finding a new floral customer can be the best and most effective method to increase your sales and profits. Consider targeting men for growth in floral sales.
Men make up about 21.4 percent of your floral sales, the SAF report reveals, a figure that offers a lot of room for growth. Here are easy tips to remember when offering floral products to a male customer.
• He is probably in your department because he wants to buy flowers as a gift. It is vital to have upgraded and gift-ready items for the male customer. He wants to get in and get out.
• He probably does not have a firm idea in mind of what he wants to purchase. Simple signs that identify “Perfect for Gift Giving” or “She Will Love You for It” are easy to make and will communicate the message quickly and effectively.
• He is not concerned with the cost as long as he feels the value is there. Start with a higher price point because you can always come down. Have upgraded dozen roses in the cooler with prices clearly marked. More often than not, the rose arrangements will be gone when you come in the next morning. Roses that are not arranged will not sell.
• He does not know much about flowers and will rely on you, the expert, to help him make his decisions. Your experience will be invaluable when recommending the perfect floral gift. The He Buys, She Shops: A Study of Gender Differences in the Retail Experience study reveals that 68 percent of men surveyed said stores that win their loyalty have sales associates who help them find the items they want, and quickly.
• He will return over and over again if he feels comfortable with his purchases. However, the gender study says 5 percent will walk away and not return if they can’t find the products they are looking for.

the teen customer
Being involved in high school activities has become a new and exciting way to increase your floral sales and generate a new customer base—teenagers. Tracy Terrace, vice president of sales and marketing for Aerial Bouquets, offers these suggestions for tapping into high school “spirit week” or homecoming activities in your community to generate new sales.
• Early preparation is the key to creating a successful event. Begin your planning in June for the fall season. If you supervise several stores, make it easy for the floral managers—pull all the key ingredients together, including party favors, mascot plush, mascot balloons and so on. Use a supplier that can do most of the legwork for you. Choose customized floral items that can be used for the entire school year.
• Pick only one or two of the largest high schools in your area. If you attempt to create a display for all the schools in your community, you may end up creating clutter and confusion in your displays. Do some research to find out school colors, school mascots and when key events take place. Be aware that school events will begin a week or two in advance, so be prepared to manage your inventory.
• Meet with your store manager to develop a game plan. Identify custom products and cross-merchandising ideas that will work with the bakery, deli and snack departments.
• Create a team spirit display within your department by offering school logo items and floral arrangements in the school colors. Members of your department or the entire store can participate in spirit week activities by wearing football jerseys, playing the school fight song over the intercom system and displaying school banners. Have as much fun as the neighborhood during this week.
 
  the apple pie strategy

 
 
Remember when McDonald’s asked every customer, with each order, if he or she would like an apple pie? That simple question to every customer generated millions of dollars in additional sales. Here’s an opportunity to increase sales by having your store’s front-end cashiers ask a simple question: “Would you like to try our floral ‘Item of the Week’?”
• Begin by organizing with your store manager. You will need displays and point-of-purchase materials at the front of the store.
• Select an easy item with customer appeal. Alstroemerias are a good choice because they are long lasting, easy to care for and come in many colors.
• Prepare a script for cashiers. Add tips about the item that will appeal to customers. Your supplier should be able to help you.
• Sample products in advance. Start by training the cashiers about the product that will be featured. Some stores have given each cashier a bunch of the featured item to take home and enjoy. This has proved to boost cashiers’ confidence when they encourage customers to try the Item of the Week.
• Have charts with care-and-handling tips at the registers. Offer handouts when customers buy the feature items.
• Place Item of the Week signs on the backs of the registers where they face customers as they are waiting for their transactions to be completed. This will reinforce the Item of the Week and encourage impulse sales.
• Encourage employees to wear buttons saying, “Ask me about the Item of the Week” to stimulate interest in the promotion.
For added incentive, companies can monitor each store daily during the promotion. Publish results daily for the top sales of a single cashier and the top store in the chain. An incentive program should include store managers and front-end managers.

 

 

typical school events
Promotions linked to school events truly tie your store closer to the community, a key ingredient to competing in today’s marketplace. Here are more school activities that offer floral tie-ins.
• Back-to-school activities, including football and cheerleading practice. Put together a display of school colors and mascots, and show your community spirit.
• Homecoming dances, proms and graduations are all potential sales events. Parents (mothers especially) will be in the store for the entire week before each event getting ready to entertain the kids with football and mascot cakes, cupcakes (a growing category), snacks and all things available to decorate in school colors. Moving related floral items like balloons, mascot plush and cut flowers in school colors to the bakery and deli departments make it easy for moms to grab and go.
• Encourage ordering in advance with a mini display (balloon bouquet, mascot bear and flowers) at a school’s front desk with a note saying the items are available at your store.
• Although spirit week often culminates in September or October and usually is tied to homecoming, many schools have added a spirit week to their spring calendars. Call schools in your area to find out if they offer spirit week in the spring, too.
• In some areas, it has become a trend for a boy to present his date’s mother a rose when picking up the daughter for a dance. Emphasize this add-on sale when orders for corsages are placed.
• Typical customers for high school floral purchases are boyfriends and girlfriends, best friends, siblings, parents, grandparents and neighbors.
The three demographics profiled—women, men and teens—are keys to your floral department’s growth. The simple yet effective marketing strategies outlined in this article can increase sales, build loyalty and strengthen ties to your community.


Pam Smith, AAF, PFCI, is director of marketing for Nature’s Flowers and an editorial adviser for Super Floral Retailing. Her background includes five years as a supermarket floral director, 10 years with Teleflora and eight years as a traditional florist. You may reach her by phone at (314) 966-5763.
 

You may reach Amy Bauer by e-mail at abauer@superfloralretailing.com or by phone at (800) 355-8086.
 

Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2008
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.