Record Spending Expected for Valentine's Day
American Express, which conducted its own survey, also expects average spending to increase 8 percent, with average outlays to approach $200. NRF says more than a third of Valentine’s Day participants (36.0 percent) will buy flowers, versus 34.3 percent last year; 58.2 percent of men plan to, and that’s up 2 percentage points from 2011. Spending on flowers will average $37.44, up from $36.78 and $34.58 last year and the year before, respectively.
More than half the celebrants are expected to purchase candy, and 35.6 percent say they will go out for a Valentine’s Day dinner, according to NRF. Amex put the gift buying, in order, as flowers, gift cards, jewelry and electronics, saying that nearly half will go out to a restaurant.
Total flower purchases should rack up $1.9 billion, from $1.7 billion last year, according to NRF, exceeding spending on candy ($1.5 billion); clothing ($1.4 billion) and gift cards (1.1 billion). The most spending will go towards jewelry ($4.1 billion) and special evenings out ($3.5 billion).
NRF expects 17.8 percent of buyers to do their gift buying at floral shops, up 1 percentage point from a year ago. SAF’s own survey revealed 76 percent of florists expect their sales to exceed last year’s level.
More than half of celebrants will use tablets to research products, compare prices, redeem coupons, look up retailer information or purchase products, compared to 40.4 percent who will use smartphones, according to NRF.
Some Florists' Hopes for Helium Supply Deflated
By Christy O'Farrell
Florists in at least five states have had trouble obtaining helium to fill Valentine’s Day balloon orders due to a shortage that’s prompting suppliers to ration the gas. Once — or if — helium supplies open up, prices are likely to rise nationally, helium and balloon distributors say.
Mike Scott of Scott’s House of Flowers in Lawton, Okla., had to drive 85 miles away to Oklahoma City to buy three helium tanks and transport them back to his shop because his local supplier, Airgas Inc., cut him off, he said.
Tim Parker, Airgas' helium product manager, said the company prioritizes who receives helium because the market is tight even when global production is at full capacity. But supply is reduced because six of nine plants around the world are working at only 50 percent to 75 percent of capacity or less. Plants go down for planned and unplanned maintenance and other issues. Two new plants are being built, but the problem won’t be resolved in the near term, Parker said.
Scott said an Airgas representative told him that the company prioritizes helium distribution during tight supply periods, with the healthcare field getting top priority, followed by law enforcement; industries such as electronics, research and development and manufacturing; and then retailers with national accounts. Hospitals and other medical facilities use helium to cool MRI scanners. One law enforcement use is for surveillance blimps. Government agencies and contractors that use helium, such as NASA and the Defense Department, are not subject to allocations, Parker said.
Because Scott’s shop, in business since 1970, is not in one of those categories, he had to locate another source — and pay $10 more per tank, or $90 each. “Airgas is the only resource in my town of 100,000 people to get helium,” Scott said. “Larger markets are probably not experiencing it as much.”
Airgas, which has more than 1,000 locations in the United States, wasn’t able to tell Scott when the issue would be resolved, he said. The three tanks should be more than enough to fill Valentine’s Day orders, which Scott expects to be about 15 percent to 20 percent of his annual balloon sales. He estimates he will fill 500 to 800 balloons for Valentine’s Day because they’re a “showy,” yet relatively inexpensive add-on that convey a sentiment, he said. One tank will fill about 500 Mylar balloons.
“I’m hoping that after Valentine’s Day, the gate will open up and I’ll be able to secure it” [from Airgas] or from the Oklahoma City supplier, Scott said. If not, he said he would have to return balloons to Burton + Burton, his wholesaler.
La Crosse Floral in La Crosse, Wis., also had to buy a helium tank from a different source because Airgas could not meet the florist’s need, said shop manager Barb Connell. A full tank usually lasts the shop about six months, she said.
Airgas is unable to buy as much helium as it needs to supply all its customers from its providers, because they in turn are limited in the amount they can obtain from the Bureau of Land Management’s pipeline, which runs from Texas to Kansas and feeds four companies along the way, Parker said. “It causes a domino effect,” he said. “We’re at their mercy.”
BLM began allocating helium in May, and the Exxon helium plant in Wyoming, down for maintenance for six weeks, didn’t start producing again until mid-September, said Graham Pratt, Airgas’ vice president for retail markets. Reduced supply made it hard for Airgas to prepare for retailers’ needs by filling tens of thousands of cylinders in the offseason that it knew clients would need in the first half of 2012 for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and graduation.
Retail has “definitely been the hardest hit,” Pratt said. “We don’t have the product to meet everyone’s demand.”
Randy Adelson, president of J&R Wholesale Balloon Distributors in Brooklyn, N.Y., said the issue of a shrinking helium supply is not new. “Several years ago, the price of helium nearly doubled and supplies dwindled drastically due to a similar situation involving two of the three main sources of helium,” Adelson said. “I have heard about a 15 percent increase in helium prices coming, and I fully expect prices to double within the next five years.
“The key to this business, like any other,” Adelson said, “is building relationships with your suppliers and having a back-up plan when and if those relationships fail.”
Adelson said some florists now use air or a mixture of air and helium to inflate products to stretch their helium supply, or sidestep the problem altogether. “As far as décor goes, many savvy decorators are exploring air-filled décor options that not only save on costly, and potentially not available, helium, but are also longer lasting,” he said. “Those who adapt to air-filled décor and air-helium mixes, through the use of an adapter attached to the tank regulator, will find that the balloon business is still viable and highly profitable.”
Scott said he would investigate the air mix option because he may face the same helium supply issue again once his three tanks run out.
Airgas has been educating its helium users at shows, including florists, party suppliers and laboratories, about conserving helium and finding alternatives, Pratt said. The company is experimenting with a helium-nitrogen mix that works in foil balloons.
Florists in North Carolina, New Jersey and South Carolina also said their helium suppliers haven’t been able to come through.
“My supplier says he can't promise another tank for Valentine's Day as his supply is limited,” commented Michael Trogdon, owner of Burge Flower Shop in Asheboro, N.C., on the SAF Facebook page in response to a query about helium.
“Tried to order yesterday and I can't get anymore,” posted Alyssa Santia. “I'm in NJ and we're told florists, party supply stores, and the like are last priority. I just hope we last through Valentine's Day.”
Emerging Options, Best Practices at Retail Growth Solutions
Dion opens the conference with a look at the latest consumer and technology trends and how they impact the retail florist’s approach to sales and service. He’ll then moderate a discussion among attendees on how to turn those trends into opportunities for flower shop owners.
Framed by that insight, the program gets down to the practical aspects of floral shop operations. Four best-practices sessions and a retail technology showcase complete the day-and-a-half event. On the list:
Global View for Gold Clubbers at Congressional Action Days
“He has the unique double perspective of someone who’s been a state department insider and is now an international business leader,” said David Mitchell, AAF, Mitchell's Flowers, Orland Park, Ill. “It should be fascinating.”
Christman is senior vice president for International Affairs at the United States Chamber of Commerce. He provides strategic leadership on international issues affecting the business community to foreign business leaders and government officials on behalf of the Chamber.
Before retiring from active duty, Christman spent two years as assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, travelling with and advising then Secretary of State Warren Christopher in the late 1970s. He was directly involved with negotiations between Israel and Syria as a member of the secretary’s Middle East Peace Team. Christman also represented the U.S. as a member of NATO’s Military Committee in Brussels.
Top supporters of SAF’s Political Action Committee (SAFPAC) are invited to the Gold Club Lunch. For more information about SAFPAC, contact SAF’s Brian Gamberini, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fascinating presentations from political insiders are a hallmark of Congressional Action Days, which takes place March 19-20 in Washington, D.C. For more information visit safnow.org/congressional-action-days or contact Laura Weaver, email@example.com or Brian Gamberini or call (800) 336-4743.
Ben Veldkamp Jr.: 1931-2011
Former FTD President and member of the SAF Government Relations committee Ben Veldkamp Jr., died Jan. 21. A funeral was held on Jan. 28 in Littleton, Colo. He was the founder of well-established retailer Veldkamp’s Flowers and Gifts, in Lakewood, Colo.
In his weekly newsletter, “All the News from Transflora and DV,” Bill Schodowski wrote the following tribute:
The industry lost one of "the truly good ones" on Saturday morning with the passing of Ben Veldkamp Jr. of Veldkamp's, Lakewood, CO. Ben fought a valiant battle with Parkinson's disease over the last few years. I was fortunate enough to know Ben during his prime. First, as the proprietor of the Veldkamp retail empire...then as the president of FTD during it's member owner day. However, his true legacy was with the development of the FTD Young Owner/Manager program. During the '80s & '90s, YO/M was THE premier floral education program. To this day...a week does not pass when I don't run into someone whose business was not significantly molded or impacted because of their involvement in this program. I had the pleasure of administering Ben's program for five years in the early 80's under his direction.
Ben, your time on earth is over and your job is complete. Your contributions were significant and those that knew you and worked with you were in awe of your vision. Our prayers and best wishes go out to the family and friends of Ben Veldkamp Jr. Rest in peace, Ben.
What Not to Say
By Christy O'Farrell
TLC’s “What Not to Wear” hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly dispense fashion expertise, but their rules could also apply to polishing florists’ Valentine’s Day media relations skills. They preach staying true to one’s style, while projecting self-confidence and respect to others — not bad advice for florists looking to be viewed as the local authority without sounding snarky. When a reporter puts you on the spot, your gut response may be one you regret later. That’s why you must prepare, whether the questions come from consumers or the local TV station. Makeover your answers with our help:
Q: Why are rose prices so high for Valentine’s Day?
Before: My grower (or wholesaler) inflates the prices, and I have to pass it on.
After: Supply and demand affects the price of roses, and roses are one of the most appreciated Valentine’s Day gifts, so we encounter our heaviest demand of the year for this one-day. Also, we must hire additional help to fulfill the huge demand.
Q: Why do your roses cost more than Safeway’s?
Before: The grocers sell roses as a loss leader to get you in the store to buy steak.
After: The price of a dozen roses varies based on the variety, design and service level. For example, delivering longstemmed roses arranged in a vase to your sweetheart’s doorstep costs more than a cash-and-carry unarranged bunch of medium-length stems. Our customers value our added services and superior quality.
Q: What do you offer for people who can’t afford a dozen roses?
Before: We offered a special two weeks ago; sorry you missed it.
After: We have countless ways to help you express your love. Whether a single rose or a mixed flower arrangement in any size, we have gifts that work with any budget.
Q: How do you get all these Valentine’s Day orders out?
Before: It’s so hard. We turn off our phones if we have to. We wish people would spread their orders out more over the year.
After: We’re very organized and we hire extra staff to fill the orders. Flowers have a magical effect. We’re in the business of making people happy — and that makes it all worthwhile.
Get Your Facts Straight about Environmental, Social Issues
By Jenny Scala
Growing practices and worker conditions in South America are often falsely reported during the holiday season. SAF has visited dozens of farms in Colombia and Ecuador. Here are the facts on growing conditions:
As an environmentally responsible industry, flower growers around the world have reduced the use of pesticides.
If reporters have more specific questions, refer them to SAF’s Jennifer Sparks at (800) 336-4743; firstname.lastname@example.org. For tips on handling the media, including Potential Media Questions & Answers, please visit www.safnow.org/valentines-day.
Look at Your Business with New Pinterest
By Christy O'Farrell
Retailers can put Pinterest to work for them in several ways, outlined in an article by Radian6, a company that helps organizations with their social media strategy.
Stick a pin in it. Zoë Geddes-Soltess, a community engagement specialist with Radian6, recommends adding a “Pin It” button to your website and blog, next to your other social networking buttons, to make it easy for your community to share your content for you.
Search for mentions. Someone may already have shared your content. To find out, do a quick search of your brand to see what types of pins show up, Geddes-Soltess suggests. You can find content people have pinned from your website by adding, “/source/” and your website address to the Pinterest homepage URL. For example, to see what content people have shared from Botanica International Design Studio in Tampa, Fla., enter http://pinterest.com/source/botanicaflorist.com/.
Pin away. “If you are new to Pinterest, start by thinking about what inspires you as a brand,” Geddes-Soltess says. “Just keep in mind that blatant self-promotion is frowned upon, so be sure to share a healthy mix of content.” She recommends this beginners’ guide to Pinterest.
Want Men to Spend More? Feed 'Em
By Katie Hendrick
The path to your customers’ wallets: their stomachs.
Free food is the persuasion tactic at least one retailer will use this year to drive up Valentine’s Day sales, according to the SAF’s Valentine’s Day Intentions survey, which asked florists to share their promotional ideas for the holiday. This florist said he plans to throw a “guy’s day” in the shop, plying men with free food in hopes of loosening their wallets.
Social scientists explain the success of this approach with the gift reciprocity theory, which says that, when people receive something for free, they feel the urge to pay the giver back in some fashion. Social norms dictate that it’s right to show thanks, so according to the theory, customers who nosh gratis should feel inclined to pick a pricier bouquet than the one they originally intended to buy.
And don’t forget your employees. In his “Valentine Boot Camp” webinar (Jan. 11), customer service expert Tim Huckabee named food as one of the best ways to create goodwill among your staff. “It’s also makes sure people are properly nourished during a very hectic and tiring period,” he said. Want more of Huckabee’s ideas for increasing sales and adding efficiency to 2012 Valentine’s Day? SAF members can buy the DVD for a reduced price of $84.99.
Put Prom on Your To Do List for Feb. 15
While you spent the month of January organizing product, drivers, design space and your workforce for Valentine’s Day, Floral Management’s editorial team was busy gathering the industry’s secrets for pulling off a much smaller yet potentially profitable flower buying occasion: prom. The results of that search-and-find mission are in the February issue of Floral Management, fresh off the digital press and also headed to your mailboxes any day. If you can’t check it out before Feb. 14, then put it at the top of your stack for Feb. 15, say florists who do a bang-up prom business: the old adage about that early bird definitely applies to prom business. Haven’t received your digital edition of the February issue of Floral Management? Let us know.
Do Higher Prices Drive Customers Away?
Retail Customer Experience
Higher prices = lost customers. That's a common belief among business owners. But sometimes, business owners who raise prices to levels that more accurately reflect the value they provide grow their customer base as well. Why? Because their value claims become more credible. Instinctively buyers understand that higher value requires higher pricing. Read more.
What Caring Can Do For Your Business
Small Business Trends
What can caring do for your business? Anyone who has ever patronized a business where folks don't care knows the answer to this question. But just in case you need some more help on the subject, here are some thoughts on how you can take things to the next level. Read more.
Prom Fashion 2012: Prepare For Frocks That Shock
By Katie Hendrick
Don’t expect to see many demure or youthful dresses at prom this year. Today’s teens are gravitating to dresses with a decidedly grown up vibe (read: they show a lot of skin).
So you can prepare some prom designs that complement these modern styles, Floral Management chatted with TeenPROM editor Jane Fort for a preview of the most popular looks you’ll see this spring. After examining hundreds of dresses at prom trade shows, consulting dozens of dress manufacturers and watching countless runway shows and red-carpet interviews, Fort identified 11 dominant trends, which include feathers, animal prints, high hemlines and — to the chagrin of many a parent — cut-outs along the torso.
For Fort’s complete list (and photos!), see “Pretty in Prints, Feathers, Sequins and More.”
8 Mobile Trends for Small Businesses to Watch in 2012
The Huffington Post
With so many types of social networks available, small businesses need to figure out how to use them to their advantage without getting overwhelmed. Social networks help businesses connect to customers and help the businesses grow and reach a wider audience. Mobile opportunities are big trend this year after the number of tablet and e-reader owners doubled this past holiday season. Read about the top mobile trends and how they will affect businesses. Read more.
Tips for Hiring the Best Employees
Just as when you evaluate potential co-founders, there are three essential questions you need to answer when considering any potential hire for your startup: Can they do the job? Will they do the job? And, will they fit the culture of the organization? Read more.
Pre-Brief Before the Valentine's Day Debrief
By Shelley Estersohn
Do you debrief your staff after every holiday asking for thoughts about what went well, what didn’t and ideas they have for next year? Great! This year, start capturing that info as you prep for and work through Valentine’s Day.
Pick up a pack of notepads and put them (plus a few extra pens) in convenient locations throughout the building: behind the front desk or checkout, in the back room, greenhouse, warehouse, on delivery trucks…even the restroom. Encourage your team to take 10 seconds to jot down ideas for improvements for next year as they pop up. Add some fun by offering small prizes for the most prolific contributors. Plan to discuss everyone’s thoughts during your post-holiday debrief.
Earn brownie points from industry peers by contributing your collective brainpower to the MySAF community’s Holiday Ideas Exchange.
On the Horizon
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