feature story

What color is your tulip?

Selling consumers on bud-stage bulb plants will increase enjoyment and future sales, says the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center.

by Amy Bauer

The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center (NFBIC) wants you to make selling green the hottest trend in spring-flowering bulb sales this season. Green meaning merchandising your bulb plants in bud stage to give the end consumer the longest plant life and the full show of color.

going green
Sally Ferguson, director of the NFBIC in Danby, Vt., says merchandising plants only in full bloom represents a missed opportunity for wholesalers, retailers and consumers. Her organization has been communicating to consumers directly through the media about buying in bud but has found that often such plants are difficult to find at retail.

Bob Yedowitz Sr., owner of Emil Yedowitz Sons Inc. Florists and Growers in Yonkers, N.Y., says convincing consumers green is the way to go is the major hurdle. “There’s a certain segment of the population that understand or for personal consumption would buy it that way,” he says, but notes that those buying bulb plants as gifts may be a hard sell. “I don’t think most people would buy bulbs that aren’t showing color for gifts.”

The answer, Ms. Ferguson says, is to serve both groups, offering bulb plants in all stages of development. The tip to impress upon consumers, she suggests, is: “Buy in bud for weeks of bloom, buy in bloom for instant gratification.” Another option is to offer packaging and accompaniments like bows and ribbons that can make a stunning gift of budding blooms and to let gift-givers know their recipients will enjoy their gift longer this way.

tapping into strengths
Mr. Yedowitz, who provides a weekly gardening segment for the metropolitan New York area via a local Cablevision news station, says his business sells some of its bulb plants in the green stage, and he agrees that’s the best time for consumers to buy such plants. He suggests that florists communicate this message directly to their consumers in selling situations. If consumers are inquiring about such plants, steer them to the bud versions. And he says if consumers approach the cash register with a bulb plant in bloom, the salesperson can kindly suggest that they will get a longer showing of color if they select a plant still in bud.

Such suggestions can seem counterintuitive for florists who need to sell flowering plants that may have been in the shop for a while, but Mr. Yedowitz emphasizes that greater consumer satisfaction is the goal of such suggestions. And the eventual result should be increased loyalty and repeat sales.

Ms. Ferguson suggests displays that are primarily masses of green plants in tight bud stage, maybe with a little bit of color showing. Just a few blooming versions of the same plant are arranged alongside as an example of the color and form the plants will take upon flowering. “Those are the sizzle,” she says.
“The goal is that the ones that bloom will sell
the ones that are green.”

consumer care tips
- Advise your customers to keep their bulb plants in a cool spot in their home for the longest enjoyment. Warmer temperatures will speed up flowering. Avoid furnace vents and drafts.

- Advise your customers to provide plenty of light for their bulb plants, such as enough for a person to comfortably read a newspaper by.

- Advise your customers to keep the soil moist to the touch but to provide good drainage and not to overwater the plants. Occasionally mist the plant as the flowers open to prevent them from drying out.

tips for sales success
1 Buy the best. Your stock’s quality can set you apart. Consider offering a guarantee. If you don’t have faith in your stock, why should a customer?

2 Group by color. Keep your preflowering potted bulbs gathered in color groups, and include a few flowering examples among them. Keep enough of these “decoys” on hand to show off the plants’ eventual look and to satisfy those looking for blooming gifts. Placing such plants in warmer spots a few days earlier will help bring them into bloom.

3 Display for effect. A display with a central theme or featured flower, with several satellite displays to support it, should be placed in your shop’s most heavily trafficked area to draw attention. Tempt customers with some spring-flowering plants just inside the shop doors as well, and create clusters of color with bloomers on a small garden table, a low stool, in a cupboard or on a windowsill.

4 Make pricing clear. Con-sumers don’t want to hunt for pricing information and are more likely to commit to a purchase if they’re armed with all the information they need. Use overall signage or individual plant tags to share pricing information. And if you’re running a special on potted bulbs, make sure that’s communicated several places in your store.

5 Keep it cool. To keep your potted bulbs from showing off their colors too early, keep them in a room that is as cool as possible without freezing. If purchased at the correct stage, potted bulbs should hold for several days in your shop without loss of bloom life for consumers. In extreme circumstances, if bulb plants are developing too quickly, they can be kept in your cooler, but if buds or blooms are present, they can’t tolerate temperatures lower than 40 F for longer than one week, or the foliage and blooms may show signs of damage.

Source: Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

Download printable versions of our handy tulip placards for your green tulip plants:

Right-click here and choose "Save As"
for the Tulip Sign

Right-click here and choose "Save As"
for the Tulip Plant Tag

Right-click here and choose "Save As"
for the Tulip Poster

You may contact Amy Bauer by e-mail at abauer@floristsreview.com or by phone at (800) 367-4708.

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