How smart businesses bloom for Valentine’s Day
A shipment from South America might make or break Stu White’s Valentine’s Day.
White, co-founder of Sydney florist Jodie McGregor Flowers, is counting down the hours and days until the storm hits. For staff at McGregor’s, Valentine’s Day is nothing short of a war of the roses.
“It’s difficult, a lot of the roses we get now are from South America and last year there was a problem with the airlines, a major issue, and a lot of the roses didn’t come through. But fortunately we had a good relationship [with the supplier] and we got what we needed,” White tellsSmartCompany.
Like florists around the country, McGregor’s is gearing up for the biggest single day of its trading year. Its store in the Sydney suburb of Annandale is transformed in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day into a battle room, as staff madly plan and prepare for a day when things can and sometimes do go wrong.
Of course, delivering quality roses plays a big part in all of this.
“We’ve had situations where the quality hasn’t come through and so we’ve had to source more flowers at a much greater price,” White says.
A reliable supply of roses is just one of the issues White and his team have to deal with on a day that’s expected to seeAustralians spend around $791.4 millionon gifts and experiences, according to IBISWorld.
An IBISWorld report on Valentine’s Day spending says Australians will spend about $86 on average on that special person in their lives, up about 1.8% on last year, with an increasing number of love-struck romantics opting for “premium items” such as weekend getaways or dinner at an expensive restaurant.
While fancier options are on the menu, flowers remain a trusted standby for those looking to woo. IBISWorld estimates Valentine’s Day will generate close to 10% of annual sales for florists, with spending on flowers set to rise by 3.4% to $93.3 million.
For a business like McGregor’s with an annual turnover of about $1.5 million, getting things right for Valentine’s Day is vital. White and his partner, Jodie McGregor, draw up plans well ahead of the day and rely on their staff, and even family and friends, to make sure the day is a success.
“A couple of days out you’re looking over your project plan and you’re running because you’re busy anyway with the day-to-day running of the shop. It’s not like we’ve got a heap of people standing around waiting for Valentine’s Day to happen. You can’t really do that, we’ve still got a business to run,” White says.
As well as making sure things like reliable couriers are in place, White makes sure he takes care of all the little details that can disrupt the smooth running of the operation.
“Invariably, just small things will happen. You might have done all your sundries ordering and then discover on the morning that you don’t have enough sticky tape dispensers. That’s only a small thing, but it becomes a real problem on the day.”
Diamonds are forever – but especially for Valentine’s Day
Shiels Jewellers managing director Toby Bensimon has made sure the managers of the chain’s 40 stores across Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have put on extra staff in preparation for Valentine’s Day trade.
“Absolutely. We have found that most people leave their shopping to the last minute, so we make sure we have additional staff rostered on for the week leading up to Valentine’s Day,” Bensimon tellsSmartCompany.
He says Valentine’s Day is the single biggest day of the year for Shiels, so planning begins at least six months in advance, with special attention paid to the types of jewellery items trending overseas.
He says male customers are not always especially up on trends and can find it hard to pick out a special item, which is where good sales staff and astute buyers earn their keep.
“Before Valentine’s Day, we keep a close eye on the latest fashion and celebrity trends to ensure we are giving our customers contemporary and beautiful pieces to celebrate their special day,” Bensimon says.
“Rose gold is becoming more mainstream and so is stackable or layer-able jewellery cushion-cut diamonds are also more popular.”
Marketing, including a TV ad campaign and a growing focus on social media, is also a key factor in the company’s approach.
“This year, we have initiated a social media campaign (#LOVESHIELS) which will run on Facebook, where we are asking our customers to share their favourite pieces from Shiels and their story behind the selected piece,” he says. The social media campaign ties in with TV and print ads, giving the #LOVESHIELS message more traction, says Bensimon.
IBISWorld estimates jewellery retailers should do well this Valentine’s Day, with spending on jewellery and accessories forecast to grow by 9.2% to $40.5 million, up from $37.1 million in 2013.
Bensimon is optimistic and expects the Valentine’s Day sales period to be even stronger than the pre-Christmas period for the company.
Forecast for chocolate-friendly weather
The head chocolatier and CEO of Hahndorf’s, Peter Anderson, will nervously check the weather forecast in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day.
Chocolates might be a perennial favourite, but Anderson tellsSmartCompanysales can suffer on hot days.
“The problem with Valentine’s Day for us is that I think three out of every four Valentine’s Days is 40 degrees,” Anderson, who founded the company in 2001 with German chocolatiers Manfred and Erica Kolerg.
“Valentine’s Day for us is dependent on the weather, but if the weather’s good it really is a good day for us. It seems to be a last-minute kind of thing, where people come out and buy a present for their partner or the boss might go out and buy a present for the girls in the office,” says Anderson, whose company turns over about $8 million a year in total.
“They’ll go for the substitute product if it’s a hot day, like the flowers. We’ve had some years where if it has been really hot our sales will just be like a normal day.”
According to IBISWorld, chocolate’s popularity as a Valentine’s Day gift is in decline, with it expected to drop 7.1% this year to $90.9 million. However, it forecasts premium chocolates should still sell well, which is good news for smaller specialist companies like Hahndorf’s.
In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, Anderson checks in with Hahndorf’s 13 stores across Melbourne, of which four are company owned and nine are franchised. The company’s factory in Kilsyth supplies all its stores, while the prep and presentation work is mostly done in the individual stores.
“We tailor the shops to Valentine’s Day and we do a lot of chocolate boxes and hampers, all those kind of things, red and white hearts. We don’t change our products much from what we normally do; we just really decorate it as if it is for Valentine’s Day.”
He says customers know they will get quality chocolates, so the focus is very much on presentation.
“I’d say about 70% of people buying chocolate are guys buying for girls rather than the other way around.
“I think the prevailing mentality of guys is ‘I don’t care what’s inside the box, I know the chocolate’s good, just make sure the box looks good’. Things like making sure the cellophane is right and the ribbons are right and the boxes look right are really important for us.
“They just want that kiss and chocolate’s a good way to get it.”