US florists explore market change at Retail Growth Solutions

Posted On 27 Jun 2012
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ALEXANDRIA, USA, June 27, 2012: If you think it’s tough to keep up with change now, grab your running shoes. It’s about to hit warp speed. That’s the wake-up call 130 florists and other industry members heard June 19 at the opening session of SAF’s Retail Growth Solutions in Cherry Hill, N.J. Speaking to a packed room, Jim Dion of Dionco, Inc., painted a clear picture of broad market changes, how retailers in other industries have successfully responded and where florists need to focus right now.
The short version: Expect tougher competition, higher consumer expectations and world-altering technologies arriving at a pace Dion called “absolutely frightening.”
Consumers today have more computing power, memory and storage in their phones than NASA had when it put a man on the moon, he said. “We’re three or four years away from simultaneous translation,” he said. “You’ll talk on your phone to someone in Colombia and they’ll hear Spanish while you’ll hear them in English. That’s going to revolutionize the world.”
Bill and Kathy Ardle came from Springfield, Ohio for precisely that kind of perspective. “It was one of the best conference programs I’ve ever seen,” said Bill about Dion’s presentation. Their shop, Schneider’s Florist, is one of six remaining independent florists in a market that used to support 14 stores, Kathy said: “This is the kind of information that helps keep us in business. I don’t know what we’d do without SAF.”
Here are some highlights from Dion’s comments and what they mean to retail florists:

Changing demographic
Baby boomers may be aging but don’t write them off. Unlike earlier generations, boomers are remaining active and they spend more of their income on discretionary purchases than any other age group. “They’re going to be your prime customer for the next 15-20 years,” Dion said.
The largest percentage of the population today is single. To capture that business, big box stores like WalMart and Target are putting smaller format stores in downtown urban settings.
Younger consumers have high expectations, but less cash, “so the focus there is on (capturing a) share of (their) wallet.” In a down economy, Dion said, “you’re competing against everybody. All those retailers in your Rotary club … are the enemy.”
The Hispanic population is growing dramatically — already dominating 23 metro areas. “They’re 10 years younger than African Americans and Caucasians and moving into their prime spending years,” Dion said. But the population is made up of many distinct cultural groups and nationalities, and it’s hard for national marketers to reach them. “That’s an opportunity for independent retail florists,” he said. “You know who’s in your local market.”

Consumer attitudes and expectations
“Consumers don’t compare a florist to a florist,” Dion warned. “When they come into your shop, they’re thinking about their experiences at Safeway, the Gap, Victoria’s Secret — any store that’s part of their normal shopping day.” Shoppers won’t cut you any slack, and they’re raising the bar every day.
Basic shopper expectations of retailers today include:
Speedy service. “If they want flowers that morning, that’s what they’ll expect you to do,” said Dion.
24/7 access. Mobile phones and tablets mean shoppers make purchases wherever they are at all times of the day and night. “Twenty-four percent of surfing happens while they’re on the toilet.”
Price transparency. Consumers can find the lowest prices for anything today, and they don’t know why every red rose bouquet is not created equal.
Curated knowledge and customized offers. Customers want to be engaged and informed, to share your taste, knowledge and point of view. “Nobody buys flowers … they’re buying beauty, love, forgiveness,” said Dion. “Curation implies a more intimate understanding of the customer.”
Peace of mind – in the form of guaranteed quality and service and a hassle-free return policy.

Technology
Point of Sale. The new systems are so easy to use. The customer signs it with a finger, said Dion. “At its New York stores Apple has enabled self-checkout with the camera on a phone.”
QR Codes. Home Depot puts barcodes on plants. When the customer scans it they get information about the product, how to care for and plant it, etc.
Mobility. It’s extremely important to engage customers where they are and when they’re ready to buy, Dion emphasized. Mobile sales are approaching 30 percent of Internet sales. “Make sure your website is mobile ready and consider a mobile app.” He also recommended exploring technologies, which allow you to send special offers to customers when they’re actually near your shop.
Social media – Pinterest is the place to be, with a 70 percent female demographic and an average order double that of a Facebook shopper, “Pinterest is actually delivering,” Dion said.

Retail Growth Solutions also featured a technology showcase and roundup of the latest retail floral technology options, plus educational programs on website optimization, driving local customers to the retail florist, profitable design techniques and telephone order sales/service best practices. Complete conference coverage will be published on safnow.org

“If we really amaze the customer and give great service we can charge at least 20 percent more,” Jim Dion told florists at Retail Growth Solutions.

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