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Industry Talk: Sandy Hering

Consultant offers strategies for success at The Super Floral Show and in business.


Sandy Hering, owner of Floral Marketing Innovations, is a floral industry consultant who utilizes extensive experience to aid her clients in creating competitive, high-quality floral
retail opportunities. She recently was vice president of floral for Ahold USA, which owns U.S. supermarkets including Giant Food and Stop & Shop Supermarket Company. Ms. Hering also serves on the advisory board for The Super Floral Show. She talked with Super Floral Retailing writer Morgan Chilson about ways that florists can receive the most benefit from the show as well as her take on mass-market floral retailers’ needs today.


Q. Why is it important to attend The Super Floral Show?

The No. 1 reason is that it allows you to see new ideas in merchandising and products. Every retailer, vendor and supplier needs to stay in tune with what’s going on in the marketplace. What you’ll see at the show is different from the vendors and products that you would normally be seeing, and sometimes you find your own inspirations when you surround yourself with attractive displays.

Q. Do you have any tips for getting the most out of the show?

I recommend attending the education sessions. They allow you to think, “Gee, I need to try something different next year; what kind of ideas would possibly work in my business?” When you spend that day listening to experienced people, you’ll get a good game plan for the rest of the show.

Another strategy I would use is to make it a mission to see every booth and go into the booths of the people with whom you haven’t done business. There are some gems in
these booths that go untapped by those who get distracted by presentations of vendors they already use. Wearing that buyer badge, you should never be afraid to ask any question of anyone at the show. Tell yourself, “I’m on a mission to discover at least 10 new items that would not have been presented to me as a buyer if I had not uncovered them at this show.”

Q. What do mass-market florists need to be concerned with regarding industry trends and changes?

The trends I’m seeing are not revolutionary, but they are evolutionary. Smart mass-market florists are looking for subtle changes and finding ways to apply these trends to their individual businesses. They must understand their product niches, their emographics and how to accommodate their merchandising programs to those specialized niches. Long gone are the days when every floral department in supermarkets looked the same. They shouldn’t. And if you’re a large chain, you probably should have various approaches to merchandising depending on the demographics of each particular neighborhood.

Q. What is essential to running a well-rounded mass-market floral department?

I strongly believe in the concept of category management, which analyzes retailers’ data in order to develop valid strategies and tactics that will carry them forward and become a springboard for change. You use your experience from last year to build better successes for tomorrow. It’s information-based decision making.

A concept that needs to be up front and in everyone’s eyes before they go to a show like Super Floral is: “What can I do tomorrow that I didn’t do yesterday. How can I change my floral department?” If you don’t have change inbred in everything you’re trying to accomplish, then nobody needs to go back to your department. That’s why I believe that floral needs to focus on the word “change.”

Q. What is necessary to be competitive?

The reasons customers buy floral is for gifts and for home décor. I think our business model skipped a few beats while some home décor companies actually grabbed some of our market share, and I’m talking about good companies like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn and others that used color and containers and textures, usually without live goods, in a way that was better than what those of us in live-goods marketing and horticulture were doing. It’s time for us to take a page out of their books, to do a better job with presentation, to do a better job with colors and make sure that our customers are satisfied with quality and buy live goods.


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