Novelty colors helped sales of poinsettias blossom in the weeks leading up to Christmas in supermarket floral departments this month.
Floral executives interviewed by SN said this has been a strong season for the holiday plants, helped by good growing weather that produced an abundant supply and by the increased color options. "We're seeing an increase in the percentage of red to colored poinsettias," said Gina Antoniotti, executive director of the Poinsettia Growers Association, Encinitas, Calif.
Antoniotti said one of this year's hottest novelty poinsettias is the Monet, which has cream-colored leaves with raspberry flecks. "I don't think growers anticipated the demand for it," she said.
Rich Glauser, floral merchandiser for Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio, a 44-unit retailer, said he sold out of the Monet weeks before Christmas. "We played it up, and they're all gone," he said. He estimated that 30% of the poinsettias he sold this season were novelty colors. Pink was the "runaway favorite," although sales for all colors were excellent, he said. Prices started at $2.99 for a four-inch poinsettia, he said.
A floral executive with a large Southeastern chain, who asked not to be named, said sales of pink and white poinsettias are extremely strong this season. The executive said these sell particularly well in the Florida market, because pastels are a popular color for decorating. "Sales this year are great," the executive said. "And our sales on whites and pinks are probably
Charles Sealock, director of produce for Homeland Stores, Oklahoma City, said this is the best selling season he's seen for poinsettias in 10 years. Red is popular, but he said he is also carrying the white and sparkling plants. "Any way you can get a poinsettia, I want to sell it," he said.
Betty Massell, floral buyer and merchandiser for Food Circus Supermarkets, Middletown, N.J., said she received quite a few calls from consumers for the novelty poinsettias. She said there's an increased demand for salmon-colored, white and marble poinsettias, which she had not quite anticipated. She said she was prepared for the "excellent" sales on the red poinsettias, though.
Massell said she priced four-inch poinsettias at $2.49. Six-inch poinsettias were sold three for $10, which is competitive with other area retailers, she said. The 10-inch plants retailed for $35 each, she said. Leslie Meiners, floral buyer-merchandiser for Hughes Family Markets, Irwindale, Calif., said she had a different experience. In her company, which operates 52 units in the Los Angeles area, there was a shift back to red poinsettias from pink and salmon, which were popular several years ago. "I think at the beginning the customers really liked that the poinsettias were different," she said. "But I see now they are going back to the traditional red." Several retailers said they went all out with cross-merchandising and mass displays to get the biggest sales effect for this impulse-driven category. Meiners of Hughes said she tried to place poinsettias at the front of the stores, instead of in her floral departments, which are generally in the back of the store. "They work better as impulse items," she said.
Glauser of Seaway Food Town said he generally groups the poinsettias together in the front end in a mass display.
"We have found in the past if we start sprinkling them throughout the store, we lose the impact of the color," he said. "We also found employees tend to forget about them back there and they maybe don't get the care they need." He said he started marketing the plants the first week of December, with television, radio and print ads. He said he also used poinsettias as artwork in ads. "For example, we'll be running fruit basket and deli tray ads on television for the next couple weeks, and we manage to stick some poinsettias on the set for that," he said earlier this month.
Felice Family Food Center & ValuLand Food Center, based in Waterford, Mich., gets several large shipments of poinsettias during the season, instead of many small shipments, according to Bob Flewelling, general manager for the three-unit chain. "We could buy them as needed, but instead we use them as decorations," he said.
He said the poinsettias are not hard to maintain, and the extra labor involved in watering the plants is worth it, because of the color they bring to the stores.
Joe Verdeyen, store manager of a ValuLand Food Center in Sterling Heights, Mich., said people come into the stores just to look at the decorations.
The poinsettias are cross-merchandised through the units, Flewelling said. In the bakery of one, a 25-foot Christmas tree created out of poinsettias is surrounded by cakes and other holiday baked goods. The executive at the Southeastern chain said there is not enough room in the stores to group poinsettias together in one area of the store, although there is a mass display of poinsettias at the front of most units. Warm weather allows outdoor displays, and the plants are also placed in floral and produce departments and on endcaps.
Poinsettias aren't the only strong sellers for the holidays this year. "There's a bigger demand for things like the narcissus and amaryllis," said the executive from the Southeastern chain. "I think there are some more sophisticated decorating needs. Maybe the retail florists have always done them, but for the supermarket this year seems to be a very good year for those things," the executive said. Massell of Food Circus said this year she introduced some ivy topiaries in the shape of Christmas trees, which retailed for $7.99. "They're doing very well for the people who want something upgraded," she said. Christmas cacti, the red-flowered plants that blossom during the holidays, are also doing well, she said. Homeland's Sealock said he was surprised by how well mums sold during the holidays. "Normally, mum sales taper off because of the poinsettias, but this year, mum sales are going neck-to-neck with poinsettias," he said.