PHOENIX -- Supermarket floral departments are blossoming.
Generating almost half of all U.S. floral sales, they have become formidable competition for traditional retail florists.
So said Richard Glauser, floral merchandiser at Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio, and Pamela Smith, director of marketing for Nature's Flowers, St. Louis, and formerly a floral executive with Schnuck Markets, St. Louis.
Glauser and Smith also said departments have become more competitive by becoming more sophisticated through expanded product lines and the adoption of many of the merchandising strategies used by traditional retail florists.
Gains have been aided by the willingness of many supermarket floral directors and their suppliers to put together retail marketing programs, the executives said during a breakfast session at the annual Floral Marketing Association Convention and Super Floral Show held here June 16 to 18.
"We're getting more sophisticated and better in terms of how we're presenting and integrating merchandising," said Glauser.
"The days of selling just bouquets, some roses and carnations are long gone," he said in an interview with SN following the seminar.
"The direction supermarkets are going according to the latest Food Marketing Institute research is in full service floral departments with dedicated space, hours and labor," he said. "The products targeted to that environment are upscale or upgraded: plants with pot covers, plants with bows, long-stemmed [fresh cut] mixes, fancy vases.
"You're seeing a lot of things that weren't normally associated with supermarket florists but were more associated with traditional retail florists: containers, gift wares, silk flowers," he added. "These things are now in supermarkets where they're gaining a broader audience at a far better retail price. The product mix has broadened in depth and scope."
Glauser said he has more than 60 varieties on hand on a daily basis, many of which "we wouldn't have dreamed of carrying 10 years ago," he said.
Seaway operates 65 supermarkets throughout Ohio and Michigan, 27 of which have full-service floral shops.
Smith said that now more than ever retailers need to work in partnership with their suppliers to develop successful marketing programs.
"It is very clear that labor is down, and we're expected to do more with less," she said to an audience packed with retailers and floral suppliers. "In order to do that you must rely on your suppliers to help put together programs to help you do a better job."
"Most people feel that the buyer-seller relationship is adversarial," she said. "Many people feel that you have to do what the buyer says and in many cases we do. But the secret to putting together marketing and merchandising efforts comes with your relationships, your ability to organize and to be a visionary in the industry."
Smith and Glauser suggested several merchandising ideas -- from movable displays to custom signs -- that can be developed with the help of suppliers.
"Merchandising for the '90s is not just bringing in product and throwing it up against the wall," Smith said. "It's being organized, working with your vendor and having a vision about where you want your products to be. It's the whole package."