MELROSE PARK, Ill. -- Floral sales are blossoming here at Jewel-Osco where an expanded floral program now includes delivery service throughout the greater Chicagoland area.
The new program -- Flowers Delivered -- aims to provide a fresh array of affordably priced floral arrangements for any occasion. It promises its customers an extensive selection, prompt delivery and guaranteed satisfaction.
According to Cindy Rapshus, Jewel's floral merchandising director, the food-and-drug combination retailer recognized the great profit potential of a delivery program through customer interest and its previous experience with an outbound wire-delivery program. Flowers Delivered seeks to build on its strong community reputation and bring in additional business, she said.
"For years, local consumers have relied on us as their neighborhood florist," said Rapshus. "This was an opportunity to expand our services and provide a more complete program for our customers."
Confident in its abilities, Jewel has made certain promises regarding the new delivery service. Orders taken by 11 a.m. are guaranteed for same-day delivery and those taken after 4 p.m. are guaranteed for delivery the following day. While the bulk of deliveries are made between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., Rapshus said special requests can almost always be accommodated.
"Any orders being shipped to an office or a funeral parlor, or any time-sensitive destination, are given priority treatment," she said. "And our phone operators always verify that someone will be there to accept the delivery. The main goal is to work with the customer and fulfill their needs."
Orders can be placed by telephone from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Phone operators are floral associates, trained according to a week-long program devised by Rapshus. The operators are not designers, but Rapshus stressed they are knowledgeable in the full scope of Jewel's floral capabilities and are fully qualified to field inquiries from callers.
"Our operators first complete our training program, to learn the details of our operation and our full list of products," Rapshus said. "They are then given a script and product information and are well-prepared to provide suggestions to customers, depending on price and occasion."
Phone orders are not divided among the many Jewel-Osco locations but rather filtered to the chain's new fulfillment center located in downtown Chicago. There, a team of two full-time and five part-time designers work daily at filling the orders. Rapshus said it is too early for specific financial figures, but orders are increasing every day.
Arrangements vary in size and design from a $30 blooming mum basket to $60 for the one-dozen premium rose arrangement to a large sympathy spray in a willow basket for $75.
All flowers are kept refrigerated throughout the design process to preserve freshness. They are then shipped, via delivery vans, along 13 different delivery routes. Jewel has employed a separate delivery company for this service. While the vans do not feature refrigerated compartments, Rapshus stressed this to be a non-issue.
"We focus on getting the product to the recipient as quickly as possible," she said. "There is no need for refrigerated vans since the transition period is so brief."
The delivery fee for the majority of the Chicagoland area is $8.50, regardless of the size or cost of the order. For shipments made to southern Wisconsin and northern Indiana there may be an additional fee of $2 to $3. The same applies for Sunday delivery requests. All fees are discussed thoroughly with customers when they place their phone orders.
Orders may still be placed in-store to be filled by on-site designers, as has been the practice in the past. Jewel will also continue its affiliation with the outbound wire-delivery service to handle requests outside its area.
Advertising for the new delivery program was kicked off through Jewel's direct mailer, published about once a month, which reaches in excess of four million people. There are also brochures and signage throughout the individual stores promoting the new service.
"We have always been successful in floral," said Rapshus. "Adding the delivery program simply allows us to offer a more complete program to our customers. We are progressing to the next level by offering more service."
Jewel-Osco, a division of Salt Lake City-based American Stores Co., operates 270 locations throughout the Midwest, 190 of which are combination food-and-drug stores. All combination stores feature in-store floral departments.