SALT LAKE CITY -- Cindy Hanauer once wheeled a grocery cart containing 20 loaves of bread into a meeting of store executives. She wanted to make a point.
"How many times do you see a customer with 20 loaves of bread in their basket?" she asked the room of Winn-Dixie executives.
Then Hanauer pointed out that one jumbo bouquet from the floral department has the same dollar profit as 20 loaves of bread.
Hanauer, director of floral operations at Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., was one of four panelists who discussed methods of selling top management on the supermarket floral business during a seminar at the Super Floral Show here.
Besides creative, clear-cut demonstrations like the one Hanauer used, there is nothing like sticking to cold, hard numbers, the panel said.
"Let managers know that flowers will do more than just make the front of the store look pretty," said Donna Shultz, Ukrop's Supermarkets, Richmond, Va. "If they don't know anything about flowers, you need to know that. Then you teach them."
Attend meetings armed with profit and loss numbers, sales per square foot, and what the labor costs are for a floral department.
"Those managers are responsible for millions of dollars, so know those numbers like the back of your hand," Hanauer said. "If you don't understand them, find a mentor who does."
Jerri Prose, director of floral operations for Buehler Foods/Buehler's Flowers Plus, Jasper, Ind., suggested a teamwork approach.
"Ask them how you can help them reach their goals. There are very few original ideas. Talk to them," she said.
Once the idea of increasing floral sales is presented to corporate executives, it has to be taken to the store managers and presented again, said Shultz. Be approachable and gain their trust. Her company recently adopted a "business casual" dress code to set store managers and employees at ease during visits.
"You're not going to get them to listen to you if you come in like the police," Shultz said. Kathy Hession, floral director of Sam's Club, Bentonville, Ark., agreed.
"Our store managers have been trained in Floral 101. They have to understand what is going on," she said.
Teaming up with other categories to cross-promote floral products also guarantees a successful department, Hanauer said. "Offer a free rose with a $50 meat purchase, or a picnic package from the deli that includes balloons," she added.
Know the demographics of each store. The economics in some areas might support a higher-end product, Prose said.
Make sure the items in the floral department have the proper labels and scan correctly. "There is nothing as frustrating for a checker than to have three customers in line and a bouquet that won't scan," Shultz said. To make sure figures accurately reflect floral department sales, make sure everything in the floral department is properly tagged.
Tell management that flowers only sell if they look good. Floral items hold a potential 54% profit. "But only if we don't kill it first," Hanauer said. "It's not like a can of green beans on the shelf. We have to make an investment in the product" by using cold-chain best practices and adhering to high handling standards, she said.
Be enthusiastic, said Hanauer. "The whine factor does not work. It's not like two years ago when we could whistle while we worked. If you have bad news to report, say, 'Here's the problem, and here's how we can fix this."'
Encourage store managers to staff the floral department during the hours customers are there to use it. "Suggest to the manager it would be wise time management," Shultz said. Bring visibility to the floral department by meeting sales goals and taking responsibility for the floral product. Never forget the customer. "Drill it down to the final level, which is the customer in all our stores. How happy are our customers with us? What is the customer seeing? Never forget that," Hession said.