NEW YORK -- Retailers are going the extra mile to market perennially popular roses for Valentine's Day this year.
At some stores, associates are building huge, tiered displays with alternating vertical rows of contrasting color. Elsewhere, retailers are planning to bring in extra floral designers for the day to arrange value-added bouquets. Some are offering greater value by arranging the stems in nice vases with a ribbon and gold sticker, or putting up drive-through kiosks in the parking lot. At one chain, floral department associates will go formal, donning tuxedos with red vests.
While other varieties of flowers can carry better margins, roses are the flowers of choice for Valentine's Day. In fact, the Society of American Florists reported that in 2004, the volume of roses sold on Valentine's Day 2004 hit 175 million, up more than 20 million from the previous year. The society emphasized that 66% of the flowers were purchased by men.
While the florist group did not offer projections for this year, retailers told SN they anticipate better sales compared to 2004. One Utah retailer said she expects to sell 20% more roses than she did last Valentine's Day. She based her projections on last year's successful sales, a new mass display and radio ads.
"We always offer an attractive special on a dozen roses in a sleeve," said Amy Adams, at Lee's Marketplace, Logan, Utah, an independent supplied by Associated Foods, Salt Lake City. "This year, they'll be $14.99, but what we're doing differently is the display. Last year, we had different colored dozens in buckets around the edge of the department, but this year, we're building a big, tiered display, wide and at least up four tiers. And we'll do it in strips of color, vertically, like you see produce in the produce department. Customers can quickly see which colors we have."
Lee's will run a radio commercial to herald a value-added item that Adams came up with last year. It's a dozen roses arranged by one of the store's floral designers in an attractive vase. The arrangement will retail for $24.99.
"That was very successful last year. We sold at least a third to half of all our roses in that form last Valentine's Day, and we could take a gross margin of 33% on those. That's compared to an 11% gross margin on the [sleeved] dozens. This time, we're bringing in more designers for the day. Last year, we had five, but this year, I'll have six or eight at this one store. We're going to be very busy. Last year, we were up about 15%. This year, I think it'll be nearer 20% growth," Adams said.
"We chose that station because I think it reaches men in their 30s and 40s, and maybe early 50s -- those willing to spend $25 for a nice vase of roses. It's still a great value, when you consider a florist here in this same shopping center is charging $100 for a dozen roses in a vase," Adams said.
Pleasant Grove, Utah-based Macey's Supermarkets expects to boost sales by adding a drive-up kiosk in the parking lot, just for rose sales. "It'll just make it that much easier for guys to drive up and buy a dozen roses," said a source at the retailer's supplier, Associated Foods.
On the East Coast, Clemens Family Markets, Kulpsville, Pa., is banking on a strategy that worked very well in 2004. As it did for the first time last year, Clemens is packaging a dozen roses in upscale boxes and renting tuxedos for its floral associates, said Rose Clayton, director of floral for the 21-unit independent.
The eye-catching scenario is designed to set Clemens' branded floral departments apart from the competition, as well as sell more roses.
"We decided to box our own roses in craft-paper boxes with a lacy-look design on the top because we hadn't seen any roses already boxed that live up to our branded, floral trademark," Clayton said. "Most are in clear or white paper boxes. Ours look terrific, like a real gift. Our oval-shaped, copper-colored seal with our brand, 'Gatherings,' is placed on top."
It wasn't a difficult decision to do a repeat performance this year. Last Valentine's Day, there was 99% sell-through chainwide of the store-boxed roses and virtually no shrink, Clayton said. One of the chain's higher-volume stores sold 50 of the boxed dozens, on top of more than 200 bunched dozens in sleeves and about 200 single stems. The company expects sales of the boxed dozens to rise 5% to 7% over last year's.
The premium boxes, copper-colored bows, tissue paper, cards and UPC codes for the boxes arrived at the stores two weeks ago. Floral managers and associates have already had their measurements taken for rental tuxedos.
Clayton explained she introduced the idea of creating premium, store-boxed dozens because she knew Clemens' floral managers and associates could pull it off and make money on the items.
What sounds terribly labor-intensive is really not because much of the work is done in steps over a two-week period, Clayton said. Each step in getting the boxes ready, from folding them to creating bows from pull-bows, is plotted out. Members of the floral team follow her schedule. By Valentine's Day weekend, all they'll have to do is drop the dozen roses into the boxes.
While Clayton declined to say what the retail price is, she said the store-boxed roses will be competitively priced. "The bottom line is we made money on them, we met our profit goal, and we will again," she said.