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Store Profile

How a Dutch supermarket
                  sells flowers


In a country that loves florals, this grocery store operation uses presentation, convenience and service to stand out from the competition.

by Cynthia L. McGowan

Flowers are part of daily life in the Netherlands. They’re sold everywhere, from flower shops to street corners to supermarkets and even gas stations. People buy them regularly for themselves and as gifts. Flowers adorn homes, businesses and restaurants.
In fact, the latest figures from the Flower Council of Holland (FCH) show that the Dutch spent an average of 53.8 euros ($70.88) per person on cut flowers in 2005, ranking the Netherlands third among the 24 countries surveyed. In that same survey, the United States ranked 17th, spending an average of 20.9 euros ($27.54) per person on cut flowers. (On Dec. 22, 1 euro equaled approximately $1.32.)
To find out how supermarket florists fare in a country that has such a strong appreciation for flowers, Super Floral Retailing visited a grocery store floral operation in Hoofddorp, Netherlands. We found that supermarket florists capture a small part of the Dutch floriculture market, but they are growing their business, using many of the same merchandising techniques as their counterparts in the United States.
 
 
dirk van den broek
 
 
OWNERS Family owned
STORES 130 supermarkets in the Netherlands; the company also owns travel agencies, liquor stores and drug stores
ESTABLISHED 1948
EMPLOYEES 13,500
FLORAL SERVICES Niek’s Bloemenshop rents space in the Hoofddorp store and offers custom designs upon request, but most customers prefer to purchase cash-and-carry bouquets, plants and arrangements; Niek’s is owned by Niek B.V., which also supplies flowers to other supermarkets on commission
FLORAL EMPLOYEES 5 in Niek’s Bloemenshop in Hoofddorp
WEB SITE www.dirk.nl

 

overcoming obstacles
Supermarket florists in Holland accounted for just 15 percent of the country’s cut-flower sales in 2005 and only 10 percent of its plant sales, according to the FCH. In contrast, U.S. grocery stores had 26.7 percent of the cut-flower market and 22.4 percent of the potted flowering plant market in the latest Ipsos-Insight Floral Trends survey.
A problem Dutch supermarkets have encountered as they strive to increase their market share is one of image. Interviews with Dutch shoppers reveal that many think supermarket flowers are of lower quality and that traditional floral shops give a more professional presentation to their flowers. Indeed, Gijs Kakebeeke, retail specialist for the FCH, says that Dutch consumers turn to traditional floral shops for gift giving and events like funerals and weddings.
But Mr. Kakebeeke says Dutch supermarkets are increasing their sales and improving their image, especially in the past two years, as they become convenient venues for shoppers seeking flowers for home decor. “That’s a growing niche,” he notes.


levels of service
As in the United States, Dutch grocery stores often benefit from impulse sales of shoppers already in the stores. Not all Dutch stores, however, merchandise to take advantage of those impulse sales, Mr. Kakebeeke says.
“The market leaders, they know how to sell flowers,” he says. But smaller, locally owned grocery stores still lag in those skills, and the FCH offers tips to help them improve their merchandising.
“You need to make an extra effort to sell flowers; otherwise, it won’t work,” Mr. Kakebeeke advises. “You have to put them in a primary location in the store, preferably in a walking route, so the customer sees the flowers.” The FCH also advises grocery stores to change product assortment and create interesting, visual displays.
As the merchandising skills vary, so too does the range of services and products. Some Dutch supermarkets provide a limited assortment, such as cash-and-carry bouquets and plants, while others offer more items and custom designs. Mr. Kakebeeke says the level of service varies greatly even within chains because most don’t have a corporate floral operation. In fact, he says, the Netherlands has fewer than 10 supermarket chains, and most of them franchise their stores, which means that each individual owner can decide what kind of flower department he or she wants.

“shop in a shop”
One arrangement that Mr. Kakebeeke says works well is the “shop in a shop” concept, where a flower shop rents space from a grocery store and hires the employees. Super Floral Retailing saw that concept in action at the Dutch supermarket it visited last fall, a Dirk van den Broek in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam.
Because supermarket-owned floral departments often find it difficult to attract employees with experience, the shop-in-a-shop concept “can be a good solution,” Mr. Kakebeeke says. Having ownership also gives the flower shop incentive to merchandise well, offer good customer service and sell top-quality flowers, he says.

 
keys to success
 
 
MERCHANDISING Niek’s Bloemenshop uses color blocking and mass displays for visual impact. Flowers and plants are abundant and well-organized, enticing customers to buy. The shop has a low-price special on a designated flower every week.
PRODUCTS Flowers come straight from one of Holland’s famous auctions, ensuring freshness and low prices. Customers can choose from a wide variety of flowers by the stem, bouquets, arrangements and plants.
CUSTOMER SERVICE Niek’s floral attendants interact well with customers. The floral counter also serves as the workstation, letting customers see and talk with the attendants as they work with flowers.

 

niek’s bloemenshop
That appears to be the case at the Dirk van den Broek floral operation, which has the look of a small floral shop and where customers are enticed by an inviting array of bouquets, arrangements and plants. The shop has about 646 square feet, or 60 square meters, of display space, which is rented by floral company Niek B.V. of Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands, for a fixed amount per square meter.
The florist is called Niek’s Bloemenshop (Niek’s Flower Shop), but “most customers think we are a division of Dirk van den Broek,” a family-owned chain with 130 discount supermarkets in the Netherlands, says Niek van der Zijden, owner of Niek B.V. The association works well for both businesses. “Not only are the supermarket customers buying [flowers],” he says, “but the shop itself also attracts a lot of customers.”
They are first drawn into Niek’s by its highly visual merchandising displays. “Presentation is very important,” Mr. van der Zijden acknowledges, and the shop utilizes color-blocking and mass displays to attract attention to its products.
The shop has an open, vertical layout with shelves full of products displayed along the walls. Buckets of more than two dozen varieties of flowers and foliages by the stem, including huge Hydrangeas, gorgeous Gerberas, beautiful roses, exotic Leucodendrons and stems of lucky bamboo are on tiered shelves, just asking for customers to touch, smell and buy them. Stylish arrangements, green and blooming plants, and colorful vases are found on tables and shelves throughout the shop. The counter serves as a workstation, so customers can see and talk with the floral attendant as he or she works with the flowers.

customer service
During Super Floral Retailing’s visit, the attendant on duty, Siv Lorentzen, was attentive to customers, answering their questions and helping them with their flower selections. She spoke to each person who came into the flower shop and gave children free flowers. All the while, she created large, lush bouquets with eye-catching flowers and foliages like flowering kale (Brassica), Hydrangeas and Eucalyptus.
The shop employs five florists, who were trained by an experienced floral designer on staff. In addition, Ms. Lorentzen received training through a one-day class offered by the Flower Council of Holland.

inviting products
Mr. van der Zijden says some customers like to have bouquets and arrangements made in the shop, but most buy the “grab-and-go” products. He estimates the shop sells 250 to 300 bouquets a week, making them the best-selling item. Rose bouquets are the top sellers, followed by lilies and chrysanthemums. Prices range from 5.99 euros to 14.00 euros ($7.89 to $18.45).
The company gets its flowers fresh from one of the flower auctions in Holland, and Mr. van der Zijden says doing so lets him offer high-quality flowers at low prices. The store offers a weekly special on a selected flower; one week had 20 roses for 2.99 euros ($3.94).
Floral designs, often made with arrangement gel, are priced from 5.99 to 9.99 euros ($7.89 to $13.16). The designs have an upscale look; for example, a tall, glass vase contained Gerberas, Anthuriums, Leucodendrons and one apple. Another design included a Phalaenopsis orchid plant whose root system was wrapped in cellophane. The plant rested on pink arrangement gel at the top of a clear glass vase, with stunning results.
Plants are important to the shop’s product selection, which includes orchids for 6.99 euros ($9.21), heather baskets for 5.99 euros ($7.89) and azaleas for 3.99 euros ($5.26). Green plants including hanging ivies and Ficuses fill display shelves.
The products and services keep customers coming back: The shop has been in business for nearly 20 years and has established a loyal clientele. “We serve about 1,000 to 1,200 customers a week,” Mr. van der Zijden remarks, and “70 percent of these are regular customers who buy on a weekly basis.”
That’s the kind of track record that will help Dutch supermarkets as they work to increase the confidence and sales of their flower-loving countrymen.

You may reach Cynthia L. McGowan at cmcgowan@superfloralretailing.com or by phone at (800) 355-8086.


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