The latest Christmas data can help you
maximize your sales this coming holiday season.
by Morgan Chilson
The average consumer spent more than $700 last Christmas, with $16.10
being purchases of flowers, according to the National Retail Federation
(NRF). But savvy florists should not focus solely on the floral category
because consumers also shelled out about $36 for decorations and nearly
$407 for gifts. One of the keys to increasing holiday sales can be
determining the best way to pull additional dollars in those categories.
THE KEYS TO A HAPPY HOLIDAY
Michael Russo, chairman and president of the Gift Association of America
(GAA) has spent the past three years visiting retail florists at
Christmas. “I like to see what florists are not providing that other
retailers are providing,” he explains.
While gift shops and other types of retailers really can’t get into what
florists do, such as create customized décor, Mr. Russo says the
challenge for florists during the holidays is to focus on uniqueness and
quality. “That’s where florists can pick up the ball,” he suggests,
“creating upscale, specialized designs.”
DECOR AND GIFTWARE
The American Floral Industry Association’s (AFIA) “2005 Industry
Benchmark Study” reveals that
consumers spent slightly more than $137 on seasonal décor items in 2004
(compared to $87 in 1999), with the bulk of that (88.4 percent) being
spent at Christmas. The study also found that consumers today are three
times more likely to buy seasonal home décor items for gifts than they
were in 1999.
About where shoppers buy those items, the survey shows that seasonal
products were purchased at florist shops 12.6 percent of the time in
2004, which is up from 8 percent in 1999; however, crafts stores and
mass merchants, like Wal-Mart and Michaels, have experienced the largest
surge in seasonal décor sales (up from 37 percent of the market in 1999
to 75 percent in 2004). Specialty retailers and department stores appear
to have lost ground in this category.
The Christmas/Hanukkah season accounts for 30 percent of all holiday
fresh flower and plant sales, according to the “IPSOS/AFE Consumer
Tracking Study, 2004.” Poinsettias made up about 83 percent of all
Christmas plant sales last year, with sales topping 66 million plants.
Crystal Springs Florist & Garden Center in Benton Harbor, Mich., grows
poinsettias, and they draw people from Chicago, almost 100 miles away.
The key with poinsettias, says office manager Judy Weingart, is quality
and color selection.
“Florists have to make themselves special and go after consumers who
want something different,” she says “Our blooms range from 12 to 14
inches in diameter, and we carry unusual varieties, like marble and
James Wanko, executive vice president of the Wholesale Florist & Florist
Supplier Association (WF&FSA), agrees that the quality of poinsettias
can be important, especially for businesses that send gift plants to
their clients. “I’ve received poinsettias that I know came from The Home
Depot, and that’s a bad thing,” he says. “Business-to-business gifts
really need to be florist poinsettias.”
BUSINESS TO BUSINESS
Mr. Wanko advises florists who want to expand their Christmas business to appeal to the corporate market by offering commercial decorating
services. “Corporate business is out there to be had,” he says. “Tailor
the decorations to the business, and bring in some of the richness that
only florists deliver.”
Brenda Pytash, owner of
Westwood Floral & Gifts in Johnston, Pa., says her store caters to many
businesses at Christmas. “Restaurants, mall stores—particularly jewelry
stores—and convention centers are especially lucrative for us,” she
Fresh Christmas tree sales totaled $521 million in 2003, up $55 million,
or 11.8 percent, from 2002. According to the National Christmas Tree
Association (NCTA), sales of farm-grown Christmas trees exceeded 2004
projections, and buying real is the “in” thing to do.
When it comes to artificial Christmas trees, it is reported that
9 million households purchased them in 2004, and for florists with
limited floor space, Mr. Russo has good news. A survey done about a year
ago found that many consumers today want 1.5-, 3- and 4-foot-tall trees
for smaller rooms as well as half trees that can hang on walls, he says.
If florists carry artificial trees, here again, they need to upgrade the
quality. Consumers can purchase decent trees everywhere, Mr. Russo
acknowledges, but when they come to a florist, they expect better.
“Florists shouldn’t try to compete with the Wal-Marts of the world,” he
says. “They should go upscale a bit, offering something different and of
The AFIA’s “2005 Industry Benchmark Study” reveals that more consumers
purchase lights and ornaments (see chart on page 89), and demand in
those categories has increased tremendously since 1999. The study,
however, did not specify from what kinds of retail stores those
purchases are made.
As with all holiday merchandise, Mr. Russo encourages florists to carry
the best in ornaments—the higher-end collectibles. This decision can
vary depending on market, however.
“Ornaments can be a tough sell,” says Ms. Weingart, of Crystal Springs
Florist & Garden Center. “Because ornaments can be pricey, you have to
know your market and find things that other retailers don’t offer.”
Retail sales of candles in the United States total approximately $2
billion annually, according to the National Candle Association, and
about 35 percent of those candles are sold during the December holiday
season. In the AFIA’s Benchmark Study, candles ranked third on the list
of items purchased for seasonal décor.
RIBBON AND BOWS
In his explorations of retail florists, Mr. Russo says he noticed two
years ago that there’s a big market for bows, and they can command high
prices. “We shopped for bows at both Wal-Mart and flower shops,” he
says. “Wal-Mart had the biggest section, mostly red velvet, but they
high as $12 and weren’t as nice as the ones the florists made.”
Mr. Russo suggests that florists could display a wall of bows. To him,
the bow story is a perfect example of what florists can do to expand
their Christmas market.
Gift-card use has significantly increased, making them almost a
must-have for retailers. An American Express survey found that 69
percent of customers wanted to give monetary gifts for the holiday
season in 2004, up 44 percent from five years ago. More importantly, 72
percent of customers wanted to receive monetary gifts. For florists,
heavily promoted gift certificates can be a good option.
Morgan Chilson, formerly a business reporter and editor in the
newspaper industry, is now a freelance writer living in Topeka, Kan.
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