An inside look at what goes on within supermarket flower departments.
Year-round consistency is critical
When designing floral products for supermarkets, every bouquet within a particular price point must appear consistent in value for money, throughout the year. This means that every stem has to be researched carefully. If thousands of bouquets are dependent on a specific kind of Germini, we need to make sure that enough will be grown, which in turn means the grower has to schedule it into their programme for the following year. This involves lots of calendars and Excel spreadsheets!
Each bouquet design will sell in-store for six to seven weeks before it’s altered with new packaging and flower content. Varieties are carefully selected and tested, cellophane is designed, tags and labels are produced to match, and many samples are produced.
Every flower is trialled – extensively
All flower varieties and designs are trialled to establish growing habits, considerations for cropping, vase-life and transportability; bouquets are measured and weighed, and a complex set of specifications is produced. Considerations include; how many can be made per hour, how should it be handled, what water treatments will be used, which packaging method will be used, and how many can be delivered per box?
Christmas comes in July
Large commercial flower sellers start planning for peaks over a year in advance; they’ll be working on the following Christmas in October – before they’ve even started selling for the current year. Their Christmas press events take place in the summer, which is challenging behind-the-scenes because development teams have to come up with all sorts of creative methods for replicating a flower that’s six months out of season. At one event, I pinned a fresh mistletoe buttonhole onto Heston Blumenthal, when outside it was a balmy summer evening!
Planning for peaks means warning growers
Designs for Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother’s Day and Easter are often prepared in conjunction with each other; all working with a similar bouquet structure, but using different colour themes. This enables growers to plan their crops – ensuring they’ll produce enough flowers, and it allows enough time for large volumes of sundries to be sourced, designed and produced.
Finding the perfect shade of red
There’s been endless discussion about which shade of red tulip should be sold at Valentine’s; dark red, bright red or pale red?! We sampled a selection of varieties with a group of people, and the ladies preferred darker, richer shades of burgundy, while the gents picked bright, pillar-box reds. The question is: who is your customer?
Large volumes create discounts
Supermarkets can buy at exceptionally discounted rates because they’re buying in bulk; particularly so for sundries and packaging, and it’s also easier for flower growers to deal in large blocks of crops. That said, it’s also a risky business – if an entire crop fails, or grows at the wrong speed, this causes serious problems for the retailer relying on it.
Their biggest disadvantage
Large retailers want to appear on-trend and every big business wants their designs to seem unique, but this requires a great deal of work and risk-taking behind-the-scenes. To sell products on such a huge scale, supermarkets have to be certain that they’ll sell enough to gain bulk discount on items like glass vases, but not so much that they’ll have an abundance of vases leftover afterwards. There’s a whole department of people dedicated to crunching numbers and calculating future sales for this purpose.