RETAILER FIRES UP FLORAL FOR JULY FOURTH

LITITZ, Pa. -- Stauffers of Kissel Hill has heightened its efforts to boost floral sales by tripling the size of its July Fourth-themed displays and cross merchandising red, white and blue bouquets in other parts of the store.The retailer has routinely latched onto opportunities for seasonal theme merchandising, but the push was on this year to grandly top last year's Fourth of July week sales, said

LITITZ, Pa. -- Stauffers of Kissel Hill has heightened its efforts to boost floral sales by tripling the size of its July Fourth-themed displays and cross merchandising red, white and blue bouquets in other parts of the store.

The retailer has routinely latched onto opportunities for seasonal theme merchandising, but the push was on this year to grandly top last year's Fourth of July week sales, said Michael Hoke, fresh flower buyer for the four-unit, upscale independent.

The floral department's "Happy Birthday, America" display this year incorporated fresh floral arrangements in ceramic pots and in painted, patriotic-themed metal containers, a big selection of red, white and blue pillar candles and a mass display of American flags, in three different sizes. Buckets of red, white and blue bouquets at three different price points were featured in a dressed-up floral department that was attracting a lot of attention, officials said.

"I'd say the display in floral is nearer to being four times as big as the one last year. We're selling flags and other things that people could use at their July Fourth picnics -- candles, bouquets for the table. This is the first Fourth of July, too, that we've cross merchandised the bouquets in produce and dairy," Hoke told SN.

Cross merchandising has become a major priority with all the buyers at Stauffers, he said.

"Since the end of last summer, for example, we've been placing buckets of bunches at one price point in the produce aisle and in dairy. It's part of our responsibility."

Hoke estimates that sales are up 3% to 5% year-to-date over what could be reasonably expected in growth from one year to the next.

"The key is to put the bunches in a highly visible area that has a lot of traffic, like near the milk. It's nice and cold there, too. We've been putting one or two buckets in dairy and in produce early in the week and then as many as three buckets on weekends. I definitely think it's the added visibility that has produced that kind of sales growth for us. We do have to keep filling the buckets. It's not only selling the flowers there in dairy and produce, though; it also reminds people of our floral department and they may come back to it."

No matter where they're displayed, the cross-merchandised bouquets are maintained by the floral staff and rings go to the floral department. The UPC code on the cut bunches displayed outside floral is the same as that on the bunches in floral so sales of the cross-merchandised bunches can't be tracked separately, Hoke explained.

For the sake of simplicity, the cross-merchandised bunches are kept to one design at one price point, either $3.99, $4.99 or $5.99, and signs above them usually say, "Got Flowers?" This past week, the Independence Day bouquets were accompanied by a sign, "Got flowers for July Fourth?"

The special bouquets were made up of mini-carnations, chrysanthemums and alstromeria. One bunch, with a retail price of $4.99, included two large cushion poms as well as mini-carnations, alstromeria and statice.

"We have three different recipes at different price points for the Fourth of July, but we use one price point at a time [in the cross-merchandised displays], probably with as many as four buckets for the days right before the July Fourth weekend."

The red, white and blue displays were set up in dairy and produce the weekend starting June 24 and regular announcements on the stores' public address systems called customers attention to "Independence Day bouquets and arrangements to be used for your Fourth of July picnic."

Over the last couple of years, the retailer has added more non-perishable items in its floral departments, even picnic baskets, and especially items with a patriotic theme, said Mitch Rodkey, home accent buyer for the company.

"We've added country kinds of containers. Blue glass and ruby red and galvanized containers painted with a red, white and blue design. Since Sept. 11, patriotism and Americana themes have been very strong. People want that," Rodkey said.

The patriotic flurry in floral for July Fourth is not highlighted in the retailer's ad circular. In fact, all the effort was in-store last week, via signs and the public address system.

"We make regular announcements on our audio system, at least once an hour. With that and all the cross merchandising, we're trying to appeal to all our customers. You know we have customers who just shop grocery or even just our garden centers. We want to get them into other areas of the store," Hoke said.

While the July Fourth weekend and the week preceding it is not one of the bigger selling periods for floral, it has grown in sales importance each year over the last few years, Hoke said.

"It's no ways near like spring holiday sales [Easter, Mother's Day and graduations], but we do see sales go up 15% to 20% for Fourth of July week over, for instance, a regular week during summer."