Sales & Customer Service

Floral Statistics:

Floral industry statistics show that supermarkets and other non-traditional outlets are capturing a larger share of the $13 billion retail floral market. The Floral Index put non-florist share of the market at 42% in 1990, compared with 39% a year earlier. According to a Progressive Grocer’s Annual Report, 65% of supermarket chains and 35% of the independents carried florals in 1990. The most recent survey of Supermarket Floral Retailing found that limited-service departments generated the highest proportion (52%) of floral sales among supermarkets surveyed and extended full-service departments accounted for 21% of floral sales.

The continuation of these favorable trends depends on the ability of supermarket floral departments to successfully merchandise floral products. Included in this section are hands-on techniques of floral merchandising and salesmanship.

Following is a list of some of the differences and similarities between supermarket and retail florist customers. By understanding the characteristics of the two types of customers, you may find it easier to attract them.


  • 55% percent of florist customers buy floral products as gifts compared to 35 percent of supermarket floral customers.
  • Florist customers buy cut flowers an average of six times a year, while supermarket customers average four times a year.
  • Florist customers spend an average of $19.75 per purchase compared to supermarket customers, who spend an average $6.86.
  • 27% percent of florist customers are male compared to 14 percent of supermarket customers.


  • 55% percent of florist customers are employed outside the home compared to 21 percent of supermarket customers. Florist customers generally are high school graduates with one to two years of college. Supermarket customers are high school graduates.
  • Both supermarket and florist customers read one to two floral magazine articles each month.
  • Both own at least two horticultural books.
  • Both own five blooming plants and purchased four blooming plants in the past year.

Capturing Impulse Sales:

With the introduction of full-scale floral departments in grocery stores, consumers are confronted with a new way to obtain floral products. Not only can they make their planned, regular floral purchases without the inconvenience of going to a florist, but they can also obtain their spur-of-the-moment “day brighteners”. For the retailer, getting that impulse buy is both a special opportunity and a challenge. It has been estimated that impulse purchases account for as much as 80 to 90 percent of the supermarket’s total floral sales.

Making sure consumers get a look at the available floral items ranks high on the list of ideas for increasing floral impulse buys. What’s shown, however, must not only be colorful and eye catching, but of the highest quality as well. When the consumer visits the department, it should be accessible and “user-friendly” with helpful personnel.

Tips for Boosting Impulse Sales:

Creating variety in the department with frequent changes of display and movement of regularly sold merchandise also entices customers. Recognizing items that typically make a minimal contribution to sales and replacing them with items that create “sales appeal” increases the likelihood of impulse sales. Displays that tie in with a national slogan or store-wide theme generate interest, as do displays that highlight special products and services.

TIP 1: Use color to create original, eye-catching displays.

There’s an obvious trend toward more color in what people want to buy, therefore flowers need to be displayed properly for better eye and sales appeal. For instance, all mums could be arranged in a pie shape with contrasting color “slices”. Floral personnel can create appealing displays by grouping items according to color and variety. Mixing several colors of the same item in a display looks sloppy. Putting all the yellows together, followed by all the whites and all the pinks, creates a colorful, orderly display.

Shiny black display counters and shelves are especially effective for highlighting colorful arrangements. You can place the arrangements on them directly, or drape them with inexpensive fabric in a contrasting color. At Valentine’s Day, tables can set up with contrasting displays of white, pink, red and lavender.

TIP 2: Use themes to create interest in unusual products and renew interest in everyday items.

The recent interest in the environment and the push to switch to practices that are environmentally sound create the perfect opportunity to push green plants, which are often overlooked in favor of showy floral arrangements. The ’90s are going to be a very ecology-minded time, with movements like “Earth Day” and “Save the Planet”. Green plants produce oxygen and tie in with that theme. Setting up some type of ecology table that extols the benefits of plants could be very influential in getting people to buy more plants.

Displays that bring in the flavor of the Southwest are also very popular. An Indian print blanket across a table is a good, easy way to display cactus in clay pots. Themes such as “Rodeo Days” that can be carried on in other departments of the store also stimulate impulse floral purchases. Arrangements of the same colors as those used in store displays allow the consumer to take home the spirit of the celebration.

TIP 3: Keep undecorated plants available to attract consumers who are buying for themselves.

If an item is too gifty-looking, people may be reluctant to buy it for themselves or may overlook it for home use. Giving them the choice of buying something less dressy can stimulate people who don’t normally buy flowers for themselves.

Undecorated plants also are popular with people who like to create their own designs or prefer to use a favorite container from home. Displaying the undecorated plant with several upgraded plants gives the customer an idea of what can be done. Keeping a variety of picks and ribbons on hand creates further impulse sales as consumers come back for supplies and ideas. Displays of undecorated and decorated items also are a good way to show buyers how much more value they get with the decorated item.

TIP 4: Create displays that emphasize special products or services.

Brides-to-be may not be thinking about floral arrangements for their wedding when they head into the supermarket, but bridal flower displays quickly change that. Mannequins dressed in bridal attire have been very successful in attracting brides who hadn’t thought of having the store do their flowers.

Mannequins can be placed at the end of an aisle with arches and wedding bells above it, and white linen and sprays of flowers behind it. Champagne and wedding cakes are also used in displays to promote wedding floral services.

TIP 5: Change stock and displays often so consumers are drawn into the department each week.

Creating a floral department that looks new and different to consumers every week is crucial to capturing the impulse buy, especially when much of the stock remains the same from one week to the next. Repositioning display tables on the floor and spot-lighting different items every few days gives the department the fresh appearance that encourages the impulse purchase.

Good variety is important-you can’t have the same things all the time. If a customer buys a mum this week, they may not want to see another one for six months, but they might buy a fresh bouquet. One way to increase variety in the department is buying large quantities of an item and selling it at a slightly reduced margin. The favorable bulk price offsets the margin cut and minimizes the loss if the item doesn’t sell as well as expected.

TIP 6: Be flexible enough to change an item or arrangement that isn’t selling.

Taking the time to completely redesign an arrangement may not be possible, but changing just one or two elements in a design may give it that eye-catching quality that grabs the impulse buyer. It takes only a few minutes to pull out a couple of flowers and put in some others to create something somebody wants to buy. If you put it out and don’t see a response in two to three days, it’s not attracting the consumers. That means you have to do something else with it.

TIP 7: Have a person on hand to provide information and assistance at all times.

Lack of knowledge about how to care for a plant or floral arrangement frequently stops would-be buyers from making a purchase. When someone is available to offer advice, shoppers are more likely to take something home.

Customers often need information, and a lot of it, before they will decide to make a purchase. Having someone there all the time makes sales happen. The person can promote other tie-in items, too, like plant polish and fertilizer.

TIP 8: Create a friendly, comfortable atmosphere with accessible displays that encourage browsing.

When the floral department seems to be very carefully organized, consumers may hesitate to enter the area unless they have already planned a purchase. A casual layout of displays with plenty of space to move around in invites more potential buyers.

Displays that one can see and browse around, push a cart through and not worry about knocking something over-these departments encourage impulse buying. The customer has to be comfortable in the area, or they won’t stay long enough to make a selection. Spraying an aerosol floral fragrance through the department several times a day can draw in passing customers. It creates an interest in the area and makes them stop and look around.

TIP 9: Offer only quality plants and floral arrangements.

Regardless of whether floral items are sold by the individual stem or as part of ornate arrangements, top quality plants in excellent condition attract the greatest attention. Getting and holding that initial glance is the first step in setting up the impulse buy. Creative, exciting displays can draw consumers, but if the product isn’t acceptable, they won’t make the purchase.

Quality is really the number one thing, above all else. Arrangements must look clean, fresh and full to be attractive to the consumer. If consumers hadn’t already planned floral purchases when they came into the store, they aren’t likely to select something that isn’t top quality. For this reason, supermarkets often move floral items before they reach the stage of questionable quality.

You’ve got to have quality. There is just no such thing as a “reduced quality plant”. There are only good and bad plants. If something isn’t selling, move it at cost as a “Tuesday special” while it’s still good. Poor quality products have no place in the floral department.

TIP 10: Situate the department so that customers know where it is and can see it from most areas of the store.

You have to position the floral department so that everyone knows it’s there. You don’t want to hide it behind the produce department, but get it right out front. If the customer can see it when they come in and can see it later from other areas of the store, they are more likely to stop and take a look.

Although the highly visible location may not be possible in many stores, placing tables with flowers and plants near checkout stands also stimulates the impulse purchase. If consumers don’t immediately see something that appeals to their taste, they may be stimulated to visit the floral department.

For people who might not make the trip into floral, placing floral items outside the department really pulls them in. When they’re at the check stand, they’re waiting and looking at our plants. Having the display in an area where the most traffic will pass through is the single most important thing. If they don’t see it, they won’t buy it.

Getting Into Supermarket Services:

In the past 15 years, as supermarkets have increased the size and sophistication of their floral departments, many have become experts at generating impulse purchases, which now account for as much as 80 percent of supermarket floral sales. But what about planned purchases? How can supermarkets get their floral products on the customer’s shopping list?

For supermarkets that are not content with capturing the impulse market, the only option is to go head to head with retail florists by offering special services, including custom arranging, upgrading and decorating, acceptance of major credit cards, and, where possible, wire service and delivery.

But making the transition into a service-oriented operation is not a step to be taken lightly. Supermarkets that say they offer full-service need to be able to back up the claim with the attention, time, labor and follow-through that is a daily requirement of a service department.

For starters, it is difficult to operate a service-oriented department on anything less than 40 hours a week. To get the job done effectively requires at least one full-time employee who is responsible for overseeing the department, and one or more part-time employees who can take care of many of the basic tasks and also fill in for the department manager on days off and during vacation.

Personnel must be knowledgeable and trained not only in handling floral tasks but in how to sell and how to work with customers. They must be readily available during peak sales hours, and visible, working out on the sales floor not in the back room.

Duty hours should be posted in the department with instructions about who customers should see for assistance after regular business hours. The person who works after hours must have a minimum amount of training, and should at least know how to decorate a plant, wrap a bouquet of fresh flowers, inflate a balloon and write up a special order.

In the service floral department, the floral clerk should be the first one to speak, asking customers if they need any special assistance. Don’t wait for customers to approach the counter to ask a question. Also, always remember that the customer comes first before telephone calls, watering plants, lunch hours and quitting time. Customers never should be given the impression that they are interrupting your work.

When adding services to a floral department, start gradually. In other words, wait before you run. Initially you may want to offer only custom arranging and decorating. The best way to promote this service is to display plenty of examples with a large sign advertising the fact that you will do special design work on request.

Your fresh-cut case should contain a selection of assorted bud vases and various styles of arrangements. A good selection of single stems also should be available to give customers something to choose from when placing a special order. Let your customers know that unusual and exotic flowers, or special colors, can be obtained with advance notice.

Be sure to give customers instructions on how to care for their arrangements. If customers plan to pick up an order after business hours, make certain they know where to look, or who to look for to locate it. Pricing should be discussed when the order is placed, not when it is picked up.

The same principles apply to other item categories that are offered in the floral department. Examples of different styles of silk and dried flower arrangements should be displayed, particularly specialty items such as corsages, wreaths and door decorations. Make sure you have signs up that tell customers about the variety of products you offer for special occasions, such as balloon bouquets, birthday mums and gift baskets.

Your foliage and blooming plant tables should be kept full, and should feature a reasonable selection of varieties. Again, place a small sign on the display letting customers know that if they don’t see what they are looking for, other varieties can be ordered.

Once your floral department has mastered handling small special and custom orders on a regular basis, you might want to tackle larger special orders such as funeral or wedding designs. Larger orders should be accepted only if they do not interfere with the daily operations in the floral department, and more importantly, if they will make a profit for you. If you take many orders costing more than $30, it is probably a good idea to accept major credit cards.

Often, supermarket floral departments become so anxious to emulate all the services of retail florist that they bite off more than they can chew. Wedding work is very labor intensive. It also requires many special supplies, which can result in an excessive inventory.

When working on a wedding, beware of two potential pitfalls. One is getting so caught up in filling a wedding order that you ignore the rest of the department. The other is spending more on supplies than you will make in profits on the order. It is easy to purchase $200 worth of supplies and then wind up clearing only $150.

Wire service is another amenity that should be offered only when you are capable of handling other custom services. There are numerous wire services available; choosing one depends on individual circumstances and on whether or not you can meet a wire service’s requirements. For example, some require that you have delivery. If you offer wire service, make certain someone in the store can take orders correctly and courteously, whether by telephone or in person.

Delivery is a service that increasing numbers of floral departments are providing, but it can be a very complicated and expensive undertaking. It should be attempted only by those that have extensive experience operating a floral department. A viable option to running your own delivery service is to use a local independent delivery company and then pass the service charge on to your customers.

As supermarket floral departments continue to grow more sophisticated, the necessity to compete directly with retail florists will increase. However, becoming a full-service floral department requires training and experience, and a strong commitment to always offer customers something extra. Services can enhance a floral department’s profits and its professional image, but only if a supermarket steers a careful course.

Basics of Clean Displays:

When your department looks good, people notice. Impulse sales in supermarket floral departments relate directly to how well the displays and department are merchandised and maintained. But everybody knows that in the real world there are days that the floral department just doesn’t get the attention it should. As a result, the quality presentation that should attract customers is not there on a consistent basis. Such inconsistencies have a negative impact not only on impulse sales but on planned purchases, and they certainly contribute to the image problem facing supermarket floral departments.

Mass-market strategy may be part of the problem. Mass-marketers have worked hard to establish an image that includes not only freshness and quality, but also low prices, large selection, convenience and self-service. This may be working against them. Some customers may associate low price with inferior quality. Likewise, some customers may think a large selection only means more wilted and dried up plants, and more dead flowers in the cooler. As for self-service, if a customer does have a question, it’s not too impressive if the only person on hand is the produce clerk trimming lettuce.

Even though basically these are misconceptions, supermarkets need to correct them. Supermarkets can provide the same and sometimes better quality as retail florists and customers should be told that.

Supermarket floral buyers use the same suppliers available to the retail florist. In many instances, they buy directly from the source, so their product should be as fresh as anything available. In fact, many of the leading suppliers in the country, known for quality and consistency, supply only the mass-market. This means that in some cases, the quality of product sold to supermarkets is actually superior to that available to retail flower shops.

Supermarkets all over the country are working harder to improve the image of their floral departments. Supermarket chains are increasing floral budgets to allow for more field supervision and store-level training. The industry finally has reached the level of sophistication necessary to capture the majority of floral purchases made in this country, but the big changes and improvements will not happen overnight.

Until the supermarket floral industry achieves these goals, putting on a “better face” for customers can sometimes be as simple as using schedules and checklists, and sticking to maintenance schedules. Establishing simple criteria that are strictly adhered to can make a tremendous difference in the day-to-day presentation of your floral department.

A department with fresh product that is attractively merchandised on a consistent basis will draw more and more business, and will become known as the place to go for all floral purchases. Regular maintenance makes a big difference in the way your department looks and in your sales volume.

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