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distribution costs
income stream
customer satisfaction
fresh produce
Artificial Flowers – Time To Out This “bogey Man” Of Retailers
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Artificial Flowers – Time to Out This “bogey Man” Of Retailers

Most convenience store operators whether one man - one store operations, or a multi branch outfit with 100 plus units, are very proud, very dedicated people. They will often tell you that they are every bit as good as their large superstore cousins and frequently go further to provide that little bit extra that the large superstore either cannot do, or is less motivated to do.

Amongst the biggest challenges convenience store operators face in competing for market share is in selecting, presenting and profiting from offering fresh produce and in particular, fresh cut flowers.

This retail sector has now matured and there has been significant consolidation in the sector over the last 12 years. There is still however, a sizeable number of individual retailers as well as small groups slugging it out alongside the growing presence of the major retail powers who have moved into this area of retail in a major way throughout the same period.

If we take the millennium as a starting point, probably most convenience stores would have been offering fresh cut flowers, or been happy to take the category on board but steadily, since then, many have dropped out of the category all together, whilst some maintain a very modest presence mainly as a service to customers they say, (rather than as an income stream), and I really don’t know of any that have actually gone on to develop a growing fresh flower business within this type of operation.

The low level of category performance in this retail format is not determined by one area of weakness. The key issues that have created barriers to success have been and remain:

• High distribution costs within the supply chain;

• Lack of economies of scale;

• Lack of adequate display space limiting choice and impulse sales;

• Weak in-store discipline resulting in poor customer satisfaction;

• Consistently high wastage resulting in negligible returns and very often persistent losses.

The list is not exhaustive and it is not the case that all operators or stores suffer from the same weaknesses but there is an element of at least one these factors evident throughout the sector whether the operator is a globally successful retailer, or an individual working 18 hours a day with all of his family committed to making his store a success.

With such diverse operators and none them covering themselves in glory as far as retailing fresh flowers is concerned you would think that solutions had been fully explored without much success and that would be not unreasonable. But what was uncovered and then virtually ignored, was the creation of a quite unexpected niche – still waiting to be exploited, by anyone brave enough to come out and declare their affiliation to this much maligned product.

Artificial flowers are a bit like a secret vice or the family shame. Everybody knows they exist, but nobody will admit to owning a bunch or even liking them. But here’s the thing. Drive about any suburban area and just pay attention. Have a look at the number of windows that are displaying an artificial flower arrangement. Have a look in your local cemetery especially during winter when the weather’s frosty, and check how many graves have artificial flower bunches decorating them.

Most of the major supermarket operators barely touch this category if at all, while some florists dabble. Garden centres seem to dominate the market in terms of where you can buy but these outlets tend to be expensive and internet companies lack the ability to stimulate the impulse sales that a good “traditional” retailer can create with such a product.

So, there is a market, not huge but relatively easy to access and that so far is inadequately served in respect of value and choice. With such a win, win for both retailer and consumer this is an area, a true niche that the convenience sector could do well to capture and lead, and in addition earn a very respectable margin whilst presenting improved value for consumers.

With virtually no waste and no negative quality complaints arising from short shelf life issues, this is perhaps one taboo subject that good business sense dictates, needs to come out into the open.

Street Talk

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