PLEASANT GROVE, Utah -- An independent retailer here may borrow a lesson from Cupid when the time comes to roll out a Mother's Day promotion.
Officials at Macey's flagship store won the hearts -- and dollars -- of Valentine's Day shoppers with a new drive-up sales center that overflowed with flowers, fresh fruit and and other gifts.
"I absolutely would call it a success," said Colter Manning, floral manager at the 70,000-plus-square-foot store, the company's largest. "My store director is already talking about how we'll do it again next year, maybe even have the area set up like a little greenhouse. Customers were asking if we were going to do this [drive-up area] for Mother's Day this year. We might."
What seemed like an off-the-wall idea proved right-on with Valentine's Day sales easily surpassing projections, Manning said. Indeed, total floral sales zoomed nearly 24% over sales on Valentine's Day last year. The outdoor register alone rang up $4,500 in sales, more than twice what Manning said he had hoped for.
"On Valentine's Day, we were catering to men who buy roses," he said. "We figured if we could make it really easy by extending this [drive-up] service, we could increase volume a lot, and we did. We had the area decorated with red and white, and we had at least 30 buckets of dozens of roses out at a time. You know roses like the cold, and the temperature here was predicted to be in the high 30s. Just perfect."
The red-and-white-themed sales area, covered by an awning, allowed customers to drive up and buy roses and other Valentine's Day items without getting out of their cars. Virtually all store departments worked to make what amounted to a Valentine's Day mini mart featuring chocolates, cards, stuffed animals, sparkling cider and chocolate-dipped strawberries, as well as roses and potted plants, said officials at 10-unit Salt Lake City-based Macey's, which is supplied by Associated Foods, Salt Lake City.
"It's the area against the front of the building, about 2,500 square feet, where I sell bedding plants in the spring," Manning said. "We sold roses in see-through sleeves and also potted plants. Azaleas, hydrangeas and bulb plants like tulips and daffodils, too. Also candy and cards. Bakery was selling cookies with a message on them, and produce was selling baskets of strawberries along with a chocolate dip. Even deli. Deli dipped strawberries in chocolate and was selling them for $7.99 a pound."
Macey's retail price for a dozen roses was $15.99, up $2 from 2004 because the cost was higher this year, Manning said. Nonetheless, he took a 25% margin on the sleeved dozens.
"At $15.99, that's a very good price. It's still lower than our competition. They're selling dozens for $18.99 and $19.99 this year. Ours are good quality, too. I saw right away when they came in that the quality was there," Manning added.
The drive-up area, as well as the quality and price of roses at Macey's, were expected to draw V-day customers away from the competition. As early as Feb. 1, Macey's began alerting customers via posters and bag stuffers that they could drive up out front between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on the 14th and do their Valentine's Day shopping. On Valentine's Day, a four-foot balloon was tethered on a corner at a busy intersection nearby, directing V-Day shoppers to the Macey's parking lot.
The Macey's unit here is sandwiched between two Super Wal-Marts: one that's 2 1/2 miles down the road in one direction, and one five miles away in the other direction. Also there are Albertsons and Smith Food & Drug units close by.
"The attention we got with [the drive-up mart] and all the extra traffic was particularly welcome since overall, our total-store customer traffic has been down since Wal-Mart came in last year," Manning said.
At the drive-up area, two associates were assigned to help customers with their purchases and to aggressively sell up. That's in addition to a cashier dedicated to a cash register there. Other associates, including floral designers and another cashier, were stationed in the flower-bedecked lobby to help customers with purchases there.
A custom-made arrangement in a vase with baby's breath, new greenery and a colorful ribbon retailed for $34.99. Drive-up customers who asked for an upgraded arrangement were shown where they could park close to the entrance and were directed to the lobby.
Roses were in demand the day after V Day as well. On the 15th, the store sold 500 dozen at a reduced price of three dozen for $12.
"There are always guys in the dog house because they had forgotten about Valentine's Day and we helped them out.," Manning said. "They were glad they could pick up a dozen beautiful roses at a nice price, even after Valentine's Day."