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20090328 Flower sales blooming despite recession

Published on 28 Mar 2009

20090328 Flower sales blooming despite recession

Published on 28 Mar 2009

20090328 Flower sales blooming despite recession

NetFlorist attributes boom 'to better public relations and promotions'

By Brendan Seery - You'd think that saying it with flowers would be taking a back seat to staying alive as the recession bites and people watch every rand carefully.

Yet, at NetFlorist - the Internet-based florist and gift supplier - they have actually noticed an uptick in business.

Perhaps people are determined to keep up their spirits in dark times; perhaps romance is an antidote to depression, admits marketing director Sue Morris.

"Our business is actually up on the same period last year - and we had a very successful Valentine's Day, for example," says Morris.

But, it is apparent that people are cutting back - "they're spending less per order, "focusing on quality not quantity".

NetFlorist realised that the tougher times would mean offering value-for-money products, but, says MD Ryan Bacher, that meant doing things which would go against generations of romantic conditioning.

"Traditionally, the way to say 'I love you' is with a bunch of 12 red roses. Anything less and you run the risk of being looked at strangely," laughs Bacher.

Morris says that, in response to the economic climate, NetFlorist offered a six rose arrangement in addition to the standard 12 this Valentine's Day.

"Many customers voted for our six rose bouquet this year, which possibly reflects market conditions, so we are happy to have made this option available," says Morris.

But now, in addition to the "buying" down flower deal, NetFlorist has come up with a bigger "value pack".

That's because, says the company's advertising consultant, well-known creative adman Brett Morris, "selling is all about understanding basic human behaviour".

And, even when flowers are being used to send a message that cannot be conveyed in words or when the recipient is some distance away from the sender, value for money is important. So, NetFlorist now offers a special deal where customers can get 15 roses for the price they would normally pay for 12.

Back in the Great Depression in the US, the company says, bakers often gave 13 items to those purchasing an "even dozen" out of generosity or compassion for their struggling customers.

Says Morris: "It's not often in this day and age that you get more than you expect or something for nothing. By expanding our dozen to 15, we're effectively giving 25% more value to our customers".

It is also interesting from a marketing point of view, that NetFlorist's good results, especially over the Valentine's Day period, were achieved with a new marketing strategy which cut back significantly on conventional advertising in favour of public relations and promotional activities.

According to Morris, the value of PR and below the line marketing really hit home after this recent experiment.

"We spent far less money on PR and promotions than we would ordinarily spend on advertising, but we have found the return to be profound. We opted for strategic interactions with the media, including product exchanges for space in magazines and building strong relationships with editors and key radio personalities".

Bacher says the company has noticed an increasing tendency for women - normally the majority recipients of Valentine's Day deliveries - to want to buy gifts for their partners.

So special gifts, like gingerbread love letters, went down very well, becoming the top selling non-floral product this year.

And 80 percent were sent by women.

This article appeared in the Saturday Star on March 28, 2009

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