Retailers successfully sold a mix of old favorites -- like long-stemmed roses and upscale chocolates -- and new concepts in their floral departments this past Valentine's Day.
Most retailers interviewed by SN just after Feb. 14 said Valentine's Day sales were stronger than last year.
While many attributed that performance boost to the fact that the holiday fell on a Saturday, operators also tweaked their programs with new products and cross merchandising.
"We are doing more designs and more product inclusions this year," said Russell Vernon, the owner of the single-unit upscale West Point Market, Akron, Ohio. "Floral is combined with fruit in baskets at the front of the store."
Vernon said the store featured the baskets with wine glasses and some baked goods. West Point Market did not turn to discounting. Instead, to promote the baskets, which contained enough fruit for two to four people, "we ran features, rather than specials. They are high labor products."
West Point Market's chocolate shop is right next to the floral department. That proximity allowed for easy cross promotions this Valentine's Day.
To further cement the link between the two departments, "We also put the chocolates and heart-shaped cookies in the gift baskets," explained Vernon.
Cross-merchandising efforts last year may have driven sales in other departments; for example the wine department saw a 16% increase in sales last Valentine's Day, Vernon reported.
However, overall Valentine floral sales were flat last year, Vernon said. Despite the fact that long-stemmed roses were sellouts in 1997, "We had a less than 5% increase last year." This year floral sales were much better, according to Rick Vernon, West Point Market's general manager. "The arrangements sold well. We did at least double [compared to] last year," he said, estimating that the retailer sold 40 to 50 floral arrangements on Saturday alone. Roses also moved well, according to Vernon; West Point sold at least 30 dozen of them.
He attributed that success in part to the fact that Valentine's day fell on a Saturday.
Vince Terry, director of floral at Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., said his chain was offering sleeved roses, arranged roses, tulips, bulbs and plants for the holiday. The stores also had cross-marketing arrangements under way with candy companies, and were featuring goody bags with candy in the floral department.
Harps' floral departments turned up the volume with staffing for Valentine's Day. "We have 15 to 20 people [working] this week instead of three in some departments," Terry noted.
The payoff was that Harps outperformed itself compared to last year, when the chain's Valentine's efforts netted a sales increase of 30%, said Terry, roughly a $10,000 jump in sales volume.
This year, he reported, the chain did even better, although he did not have specific figures on hand. He said sales were strong despite the fact that the departments were battling "poor roses and freezer burn." He added that "any time we beat the prior year, we feel like we achieved a new goal.
"The baskets went over much better than expected. We sold about 4,000 of them in all stores. Everything sold well. In most cases the floral departments looked like a war zone and I was pleased," Terry said.
The floral department at the Wedge Community Co-op, a single-unit food-retailing cooperative in Minneapolis, rearranged some of its produce items in the store to dedicate extra display space to flowers for the occasion, according to Travis Lusk, produce staffer.
"We had a special dry, two-tier island made," said Lusk. "The flowers go in milk buckets. They are highly visible you can't miss them."
Lusk said floral sales had increased 20% last year, and that this year he expected that "everything we have out there will sell."
At an Andronico's Market unit in San Francisco, floral department manager Kate Tarr said that her cooler was "decorated with stuff from all over the store. I have truffles, champagne, little stuffed animals, huge lollipops and packaged candy."
She said the department featured 8-by-5-inch potted rose baskets with 2-to-4-inch mini rose pots. It also merchandised bouquets of a half-dozen Ecuadorian roses for $19.99. "And these are some massive roses."
Tarr said that for her department, the Valentine's promotions spiked up sales, raising weekly floral volume from a "ballpark" figure of $3,500 to $4,500 up to $10,000. That narrowly missed her goal of $11,000 in weekly sales.