Single Roses On Valentine's Day
Earlier in the week I was speaking with a florist who was finalizing their Valentine's Day pricing - specifically for single roses - and it brought me back to something I debated with my father for years.
Every Valentine's Day I would work the door almost like the store was a nightclub. The place would get packed and there was always the concern people could walk out without paying so I had to watch for that and, sometimes, I'd even have to ask people to wait outside until others left. It also meant that I was often the first and last person customers would speak to and it gave me some insight into their buying habits.
In the early years my dad refused to sell single roses. His argument was that it let people off the hook to easily. He was convinced that someone who came looking for a single rose would go to a dozen if singles weren't available. He was also convinced that some people who came for a dozen would go with a cheaper single if they saw that option.
It made sense but working the door and talking to people I realized that most of the people that wanted singles weren't being cheap, they just really wanted a single rose. And if we didn't have them they would leave empty handed. It couldn't be argued - every year people I'd stop the people leaving without purchasing anything and ask if I could help. "Do you have single roses?" they would ask. I'd always say "no, but we have a great price on dozens". It never worked - the answer was pretty much always "Thanks but I just wanted a single".
Sometimes they'd tell me why. Often it was because they thought a single was more romantic, other times because they thought a dozen was too big a statement. That was especially true with younger people. And sometimes it was because the dozen just wasn't in their budget.
After a year or two I convinced my dad to try singles. We priced them based on the standard markup and there were a lot of rules about who could have them. They wouldn't be on display - we'd only bring them up from the basement if I saw someone leaving empty-handed and, when questioned, they asked for a single. And I wasn't supposed to offer them to anyone that wasn't an adult or looked like they could afford more.
It didn't work very well. When the single roses would materialize there would always be a couple of other people that would start asking about them and we probably did cannibalize sales of dozens a little.
Eventually my dad came up with what, for us, was the best possible solution. He took the biggest single roses he could get, arranged them with babies breath and greens (some would say dated but that was what the single buyers wanted at that time) and packed them in clear, rigid single rose boxes.
And he made them really expensive. His thinking was that if a customer was going to choose a single instead of a dozen he wanted to make the same amount of money.
I think at the time (10+ years ago) the cheapest dozen was something like $19.99 (sleeve, no babies breath), a boxed dozen more nicely presented was around $29.99 and the 'spectacular single' was maybe $12.99.
It worked well. The people that really wanted singles got a single better than anything they had ever imagined and we made great money on it. For people that didn't want singles the dozens probably seemed like a better value but if they chose a single instead we weren't really losing any money.
There may have been a few people who didn't want to pay that much for a single but it didn't happen often. Generally they weren't going to move to a dozen under any circumstances, but they would pay almost anything for the single that they came for. They got what they wanted, arguably more, and our profit stayed about the same.