Sweet Success

As Valentine’s Day approaches, florists reveal how they market and sell the classic combination of flowers and chocolates.

by Kelsey E. Smith
Flowers and chocolates are among the most iconic gifts for Valentine’s Day, whether for lovers, friends or family members. So to many florists, it just makes sense to sweeten their businesses with the tempting indulgence of fine chocolates and other gourmet goodies.

Ramon John, owner of Flowers by Ramon in Lawton, Okla., has offered chocolates from Sweet Shop USA for more than 35 years. Although the business sells a lot of boxed chocolates as gifts, customers often purchase one or two truffles as an affordable self-indulgence.

Offering a chic ambiance, the chocolate café inside Enchanted Florist in Ashland Ore., welcomes as many as 40 customers on a busy day. The tables feature floral centerpieces that are available for purchase.

Here, three florists share their experiences in attracting customers with their rich array of luscious confections. And although two of them report that, for the most part, customers do not seem to purchase flowers and chocolates together, they see great rewards in carrying chocolates, which many consumers view as an affordable “pick-me-up.” In fact, you’ll meet one florist who, despite the economic recession, grew sales by approximately 40 percent this year with the addition of a chocolate café that offers not only fine truffles, exotic chocolate bars and original drinking chocolate concoctions but also an inviting atmosphere that entices the senses with an escape from the daily grind.

bulking up business
Flowers by Ramon, which has served residents of Lawton, Okla., a city of about 92,000 residents, and surrounding areas since 1959, has carried chocolates from Sweet Shop USA, a purveyor of handmade chocolates based in Mount Pleasant, Texas, for more than 35 years.

“They’re just very good chocolates,” says Ramon John, owner of the floral, gift and home décor business, which is more casually known as Ramon’s.

A three-shelf, temperature-controlled candy counter—located at the back of the store, in close proximity to the floral cooler as well as the checkout counter—is topped with floral arrangements and showcases 50 delectable varieties of truffles, Brags® nut clusters, chocolate-covered pretzels and other confections, including several sugar-free selections. The most popular variety, by far, is Sweet Shop’s signature Fudge Love® truffles, Mr. John says, and a majority of customers favor milk chocolate over dark chocolate. He adds that the shop sells about 10 times more chocolates in bulk than boxed, with many people buying them as a self-indulgence rather than as a gift.

      ... For the rest of the story, look to the December 2009 issue of Florists' Review.

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