When this Macey’s decided to build its floral business, it
turned to nuptial services.
by Cynthia L.
When Floral Supervisor Sarah Parslow wanted
to boost her department’s business at Macey’s new
flagship store in Providence, Utah, she turned to a service
she knew well: weddings. Through savvy salesmanship and
excellent service, she and her staff have made weddings an
integral and profitable part of the business in just three
Macey’s, a 10-store banner of cooperatively owned
wholesaler Associated Food Stores, Inc. (AFS) of Salt
Lake City, Utah, opened the Providence store in February
2007 to replace an aging store nearby and to serve as a
prototype for future Macey’s construction. The
83,000-square-foot store has an upscale tone and prominently
showcases the fresh departments, including full-service meat
and seafood counters, a made-from-scratch bakery and a large
produce department. “What we have done is redesigned the
format of what a Macey’s store looks like,” explains
Blaine Butterworth, the Providence store leader.
starting a new department
Part of that emphasis on fresh included placing the
floral department near the entrance, which is different from
most Macey’s stores, where floral is located toward the
back. In addition, the full-service floral department
replaced the previous store’s cash-and-carry operation that
a local florist stocked with arrangements and plants. The
new department “gives our guests an opportunity to come to
our store where they will get just as good if not better
product at a much better price” than at a traditional
florist, Mr. Butterworth describes.
But first, the department had to earn customers’ trust
with their floral dollars. To do so, Macey’s hired Mrs.
Parslow, an experienced floral designer, to build the
department from the ground up. In the early days, she
recalls, sales were slow. But the energetic and proactive
Mrs. Parslow took several steps to get the business going.
First, she decided to concentrate on weddings as a way
to generate sales for her department. She chose weddings for
two reasons: her expertise and the ample opportunities in
the community for wedding business. Mrs. Parslow previously
had owned a wedding and event business, providing flowers
for about 50 ceremonies, so she had the experience needed.
In addition, the store is near Utah State University and in
an area that skews younger demographically, which meant
there potentially would be more couples looking for wedding
flowers. “In Utah,” Mrs. Parslow reveals, “kids get married
Next, Mrs. Parslow and her staff of two part-timers,
both college students, talked up the wedding business to
customers. That word-of-mouth advertising led to 15 weddings
in the floral department’s first year.
all-store wedding showcase
But Mrs. Parslow knew the department could do more to
grow its wedding business, so she helped the entire store
organize a wedding showcase in August 2008. A large banner
at the front of the store as well as radio advertisements
and public address announcements publicized the event.
Inside the store, wedding shoppers found everything they
needed to plan the big day. The floral department created
vignettes of wedding flowers in four themes: early summer,
late summer/fall, winter, and black and white. Mrs. Parslow
also gave a free class in the store’s “Little Theater” on
wedding ideas and flower styles.
Other store departments participated, too. The deli
department offered hors d’oeuvres and other fare, produce
had vegetable and fruit trays, and bakery created cakes, all
“to show people that Macey’s can do their whole wedding
right here,” Mrs. Parslow says.
Outside vendors helped make the showcase a one-stop
venue for couples. In advance of the showcase, a local
photographer took photos of Macey’s florals, and the store
used them in a wedding brochure and posters. In return, he
received credit for the photos as well as space in the
showcase to exhibit his work. A backdrop business
“transformed our lobby into something amazing,” Mrs. Parslow
shares. A local bridal shop displayed dresses, and a nearby
resort featured its wedding services.
The showcase was a tremendous success, Mrs. Parslow
recalls, with the floral department conducting seven
consultations that day. “It really helped get our name out
there,” she describes.
The floral department also found other creative ways to
promote its wedding business. Mrs. Parslow has continued the
partnership with the photographer, and his professional
photography, in return for photo credits, lets the
department create high-quality marketing pieces for little
cost. The store delivers a free bouquet once a week to the
bridal shop that participated in the showcase, and this
small investment pays off—“We probably get 30 percent of our
business” from the shop, Mrs. Parslow estimates. The
department also participates in wedding expos and advertises
in their programs.
As a result of the positive word-of-mouth, wedding
showcase and strategic vendor partnerships, Macey’s wedding
business has exploded in size since the store opened just
three years ago. The year of the showcase, 2008, Macey’s
provided flowers for 69 weddings, up from 15 the year
before. In 2009, the business grew even more, to 80
Associated Retail Stores (ARS), a subsidiary
of wholesale distributor
Associated Food Stores, Inc. (AFS)
AFS is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah
10, all in Utah
1947, by Walt Macey and Dale A. Jones
Providence location is 83,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE
80 square feet in the Providence store
300 in Providence
1 full time and 2 part time in Providence
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAY
Full-service florals including custom designs,
weddings, events and delivery
FLORAL’S CONTRIBUTION TO STORE SALES
1 percent on average in the Providence store
PROVIDENCE FLORAL SUPERVISOR
a connection with brides
High-quality service is the other key to the
department’s growth in the wedding business. Mrs. Parslow
takes a personal interest in each bride and attempts to make
a connection with each that will enhance the experience.
“What sets us apart,” she says, “the biggest thing, is that
I really get to know these brides.” The staff takes the time
for free in-depth consultations in the store’s dining area,
where they talk about the couple’s style, look through
books, create sketches and fill out a form that asks for
detailed information on preferences. “We write a lot of
information,” Mrs. Parslow shares. “That way we know we’re
doing the right thing.”
Instead of a set price list for wedding flowers, “I
tell the brides, ‘I’m going to get you the best price for
the season that you get married in,’” Mrs. Parslow remarks.
The average wedding costs $300, but the store has handled a
$2,500 ceremony. Macey’s will include delivery and setup,
charging $25 to drop off flowers and up to $100 for more
involved setup. “We can do as little or as much as they
[couples] want,” Mrs. Parslow describes. Macey’s asks
couples to sign a contract and to put down a 10 percent or
$50 (whichever is greater) nonrefundable deposit.
Couples fill out follow-up surveys after the weddings
to rate their service at Macey’s, and Mrs. Parslow shares
that the vast majority of customers have judged the
department highly. The surveys confirm that, “We’re the best
price and the best service,” she remarks.
In addition to its wedding services, the store offers
a full range of floral services from custom designs to
events and delivery. Mrs. Parslow and the staff also will
create arrangements for customers while they shop—“That’s
why we’re here full time,” she notes.
The staff also forges connections with its everyday
customers, not just with brides. Mrs. Parslow describes
giving a consumer bunch of Gerberas to a customer who
was having a bad day, and she says her staff also has the
freedom to do so on occasion. “We really believe in that
‘pay-it-forward’ philosophy,” she confirms.
Mrs. Parslow further connects with customers through
free floral classes that she teaches in the store’s Little
Theater. A class she recently presented on Florists’
Review’s “2010-2011 American Floral Trends Forecast”
attracted 70 people.
The floral department has found that trendier, more
modern arrangements sell well. That’s not surprising in a
community of people whose average age is under 30, something
Mrs. Parslow learned in training that Macey’s offered in an
effort to educate employees about their customers. The
department creates all the designs in house, with prices
ranging from $6.99 for a bud vase up to $35 for larger
Dozen roses for $12.99 are top sellers in bouquets.
Mixed bouquets start at $7.99 and top out at $10.99 for a
bouquet that has two carnations, a Gerbera and
chrysanthemums. The store also carries consumer bunches at
three for $10, including Asiatic lilies, Gerberas,
hybrid tea roses, spray roses, Ruscus and
Potted Gerberas, at $4.99 for a 4-inch pot, are
customers’ favorite plant variety. “I go through probably 50
of them a week,” Mrs. Parslow confides. She also promotes
foliage plants for their ability to help reduce indoor air
pollution. That’s important to her customers, who live in an
area called Cache Valley, where there are seasonal concerns
about poor air quality.
Mrs. Parslow orders flowers and plants from AFS,
wholesalers and local growers, and deliveries are made three
times a week. Quality is the most important consideration in
choosing a vendor, shares Mrs. Parslow, because customers
won’t return if their flowers don’t last.
The staff also takes the time to talk to customers
about their purchases in an effort to give them lasting
value. “We always try to educate,” she remarks. “When people
pick up a dozen roses, we say, ‘Make sure you cut these
stems under water and remove all the foliage, and if you
change your water every other day, they’re going to last
taking care of customers
Such an approach to customer care is part of the Macey’s culture, remarks Mr. Butterworth, the store leader.
He says training is important to reinforcing good customer
service but that the first step is to hire right. “We hire
people, or try to hire people, that fit what we want
portrayed to our guests,” he elaborates.
That’s why so many brides have discovered the wedding
services of Macey’s, where it’s more than just a business to
Mrs. Parslow. As she describes, “In Utah, a lot of people
believe they’re going to be married forever, and this is
their one wedding, and so it’s their big occasion,
basically, in life, other than [having] their children. So
we want to make sure it’s perfect, and we’ll do just about
anything to make it right.”
keys to success
Sarah Parslow, floral supervisor at the
Macey’s in Providence, Utah, used her wedding
expertise to build the nuptial business at Macey’s
new floral department, growing it from 15 weddings
in 2007 to 80 in 2009.
Although Providence, in northern Utah, has only
about 6,500 people, it is less than two miles from
Logan, which boasts about 50,000 people and is home
to Utah State University. With an average age under
30, the community’s young demographics make it an
ideal target for the wedding business.
The floral department gets the word out about its
floral services through partnerships with local
businesses, advertisements, public address
announcements and word-of-mouth.
The store receives deliveries of high-quality
products three times a week from Associated Food
Stores, Inc., wholesalers and local growers,
Reach Editor in Chief
Cynthia L. McGowan at
or (800) 355-8086.