CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FNS) -- Floral department managers with limited space should emphasize products rather than fixtures and signs, and develop continuity, loyalty and membership programs, according to a panel of floral merchandising experts who recently addressed the challenges of operating in tight quarters.
The panelists, noting there are no "one-size-fits-all" recipes for successful supermarket floral departments, pointed to strong color blocking and versatile, cost-effective layouts as being effective strategies.
Moderator Donna Dupuis, floral director, Harris Teeter, Charlotte, noted her company's floral departments average 595 square feet, and many are self-service departments. Newer full-service departments measure 600 to 800 square feet on average. "Smaller space can be more profitable many times," Dupuis said. "Product is meant to turn, not take up space."
Smaller departments offer several benefits for Harris Teeter, including fresher product, less waste and lower costs for rent, water use, props, fixtures and lamps, she said.
"They force you to define your priorities, decide what you want to sell, then focus on the best return in that particular merchandise," Dupuis said, noting the chain's emphasis is on bunches and arrangements with limited foliage.
Echoing the other panelists, she noted "smaller-space displays can be more impactful, so keep it simple, making layout, fixturing and planning more critical. Don't try to do too much." When it comes to holidays and big promotions, she admitted, "We really have to challenge the limits of our space to address these times." Panelists agreed choosing adaptable and portable fixtures is important for flexibility. They find vertical merchandising helps maximize even the most limited space and has immediate visual appeal. Retailers should be creative looking for ways to use produce endcaps, store lobbies and wine departments for cross merchandising. Outdoor areas around the store are also prime spots for displaying floral.
"Be creative with what you have in each store," said Roxine Hodson, floral merchandiser, Associated Foods, Salt Lake City. She stressed the profit value in gaining customer attention that comes from color blocking, which she termed, "the easiest way to create visual impact in a small space." While acknowledging this is sometimes "a hard sell with some store managers," the importance of color blocking in moving floral product was echoed by the other panelists at this seminar, and emphasized throughout all sessions at the Super Floral Show's first education day program.
Hodson also recommended developing weekly themes for the floral department, augmented by tie-in signs, in-store announcements and fliers. Panelists agreed small space usually means small staffing levels, with little time to devote to floral, so programs should be as easy and time-sensitive as possible.
While not related to space merchandising, Hodson warned retailers to avoid placing price stickers on the bottom of potted plants. That forces customers to lift the pots - often dripping wet -- to see how much they cost.
When it comes to selling floral products, perhaps no other single factor is more critical than lighting, according to Marcy Britigan, president, MEI, LaGrange, Ill.
"Whether designing a new floral department, upgrading or remodeling department layout, lighting is the key," she said.
She suggested a CRI (Color Retention Index) of 80 or above for warm white lamps with a bit of yellow tint. Where strong illumination is needed, she recommended T-8 high-impact lamps. Retailers should be careful not to let bulbs burn out, she said. Bulbs should be changed every 12 to 18 months, since lamps lose more and more of their lumens after 2,000 hours, diminishing their usefulness in displays, she said. For supplemental lighting, Britigan recommended spots and tracks.
Anna Holden, former spokeswoman for FMA, now with southern Idaho-based Vistaflor, advised against showing off fixtures or sleeves, in endorsing the use of strong, full walls of flower color blocking displays. She also suggested expanding displays to include space in front of coolers.