Summer may be the slowest season of the year for floral sales, but that doesn’t stop Sandi Probst from going all-out to promote her section. Last month Probst, floral manager at Lin’s Market in St. George, Utah, partnered with the store’s produce department on a display that featured citrus fruits alongside mums, gerbers and other floral blooms, all situated around a large inflatable archway. The theme of the display: “Keeping It Fresh.”
“It’s the first thing our customers saw when they entered the store,” said Probst. “We got lots of positive feedback and sales.”
“Keeping It Fresh” is an appropriate theme for the floral industry right now. Battered by the recession a few years ago, department managers have emerged with a commitment to pushing fresh, high-quality flowers, not just during the major holidays, but year-round.
“The holidays are automatic, but in order to sustain the business you have to sell floral 52 weeks a year,” said Tom Lavagetto, president of Floral Marketing Solutions in Spokane, Wash. “[Supermarkets] have gone back to basics. They’re really promoting flowers as an everyday part of peoples’ lives.”
So far the effort has paid off. Between 2009 and 2011, retail floral sales increased by $2.5 billion to just over $32 billion total, according to the Society of American Florists, drawing on data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. By comparison, the years 2007 to 2009 saw a $5 billion drop in sales.
Continuing this growth at a time when austerity is still on many peoples’ minds is no easy task, though.
The key, retailers and analysts agree, is to make flowers relevant to shoppers — to create that need even when there isn’t a major event to tie it to.
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Like Probst, Patti Rispoli, deli and floral manager at Food Circus Super Markets in Middletown, N.J., believes in creating her own events through clever displays. There have been summer luaus and “Valentine’s Day in August” promotions. One of her favorite tricks is to build around seasonal color cues. At the beginning of April, she’ll put out forsythias, since “everyone wants yellow that month,” Rispoli told SN. During the summertime, she places field flowers front and center.
This month, Rispoli plans to capitalize on the uptick in floral spending by building displays that incorporate fall foliage.
“Whatever they see when they’re driving to the supermarket, all the oranges and browns and yellows, that’s what they want to see in the store,” Rispoli said. “If you have those colors in the floral section, you’re going to get those sales.”
At United Supermarkets, shoppers this fall can spot potted mums and hardy asters on display outside stores. Rex Henderson, floral business manager for the Lubbock, Texas-based chain, said he arranges the flowers by color and uses large signs to drive traffic to the floral department.
“This is a great impulse sale as guests decorate their porches and patios,” he said.