Fresh-cut Flowers

Fresh flowers are a far more important and stable market than the well-publicised floral events of Mother’s and Valentine’s Day might suggest. The success of the market can be explained by low-key regular purchasing from supermarkets by female

Buying fresh flowers is a popular activity for a large proportion of the UK population. Three-quarters of all adults aged 15 or over buy fresh-cut flowers at some time during the year and 42 per cent buy them at least once a month.

Although NOP conducted the research at the end of January, flower-buying does not appear to show a great seasonal variation – two-thirds of adults buy as many flowers in summer as in winter. This pattern is the same for country-dwellers as it is for people living in towns and cities. The findings indicate that cut flowers are a purchase in their own right and not a substitute for home-grown blooms.

Flowers are not only for special occasions, although at least half of purchases are given as presents. Only a third of buyers defined themselves as “only buying flowers for special occasions” and about the same number – 35 per cent – bought flowers “only as a gift for someone else”, while nearly twice as many – 63 per cent – bought flowers “just to put around the house”.

About 70 per cent bought flowers for “someone who was unwell or in hospital” – the biggest single reason for purchase, although they do not represent the greatest volume of sales. Just under two-thirds bought flowers for “friends’ or relatives’ birthdays” and six out of ten as “a non-birthday present”. A similar number said “thank you” with flowers. Mother’s day was the prompt for 56 per cent of buyers, but only 35 per cent bought flowers for Valentine’s day.

Flower buyers can be divided into two almost equal parts, with occasional purchasers – buying less often than once a month – making up 45 per cent of all buyers, with the remaining 55 per cent buying flowers at least once a month.

Of regular buyers, 44 per cent buy flowers once a month, 31 per cent two or three times a month, and a quarter buy flowers at least once a week. This last group, although numerically the smallest, constitutes the majority of overall sales. Frequent purchasers – buying flowers once a week – contribute 45 per cent of purchase occasions, compared with about a third for regular – two or three times a month – purchasers, and about a quarter is made up by monthly buyers.

Older consumers

Older consumers are an important group in the fresh-flower market. People aged 55 and over (31 per cent of the adult population) make up 47 per cent of frequent buyers, 12 per cent more than 35to 54-year-olds and nearly three times as many as 15to 34-year-olds.

Women are more important to the market than men – as purchasers, not merely recipients. Seven out of ten frequent buyers, and two-thirds of regular buyers, are women, although men are almost as likely to buy flowers as women. Male purchasing equals female in only two categories: Mother’s Day and non-birthday gifts, although men constitute three-quarters of purchasers of flowers for Valentine’s Day.

The most prosperous class, the professional and managerial ABs, have the highest rate of purchase and make up the largest proportion of people who buy flowers at least once a month. Price is the most likely explanation for this difference, with six out of ten people saying they would “buy more flowers if they were less expensive.” This figure rises to two-thirds among the least affluent, the DEs.

The secret lies in attitudes to flowers. Only one in ten women said they did not “really enjoy choosing flowers”. This compares with half of the men in NOP’s research. Men represent a better prospect for growth, and would be more likely to buy flowers “if they were less expensive”. Conversely men are more likely to only buy flowers “for special occasions” and nearly twice as many men as women buy flowers “only as a gift”.

Supermarket dominance

Although six out of ten purchasers buy flowers from three or more different types of retailer, three types dominate the market. Three-quarters of purchasers buy flowers from supermarkets or large stores (for instance, Marks & Spencer). Six out of ten choose flowers “face-to-face in specialist florists’ shops”, and just over half from “a market stall”.

A third of purchasers buy flowers from a “garden centre or nursery”, the same as from a “local grocer or corner shop”. Just over a quarter buy flowers “by phone”, 22 per cent from a “petrol station”. Only five per cent use the Internet to buy flowers – less than a fifth of telephone voice orders.

When the question was narrowed to the place where you buy most of your flowers, only the top three types of outlets retained any significance. Nearly four out of ten purchasers bought from “a supermarket or large store”, three out of ten preferred a “specialist florist” and 15 per cent bought flowers from a “market stall” – an informal type of specialist. Other outlets attracted less than one in ten people.

The supermarkets’ position is strengthened by their hold on frequent and regular buyers, half of whom buy flowers from multiples. This compares with 24 per cent of frequent and regular buyers who buy from florists, and 15 per cent who buy from a market stall.

The supermarkets’ dominance can be partly explained by the importance of female customers in the market, especially as regular customers. Supermarkets have taken particular trouble to position attractively presented bunches of flowers at the entrance of stores, where they can catch the shoppers before they begin shopping. Some supermarkets even include flower holders on trolleys to stop flowers being crushed by groceries. As long as conditions remain favourable, the market for flowers, especially through supermarkets, looks set for continued growth.

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