"On Special" is a monthly look at evolving store categories with insights on how different grocers are capitalizing on top trends.
Grocers are this year’s Valentine’s Day wingmen as they come through in the clutch with flowers for consumers’ special someones.
Cingari Family Markets, a 12-store family-owned grocery chain in Connecticut under the ShopRite banner, takes the typical supermarket floral department a step further by offering everything a standalone floral shop would at all of its stores, Tom Cingari Jr., the grocer’s vice president of produce, floral and e-commerce, said in an interview.
“If you were to rewind the clock to supermarket floral departments, it was a place that you could run in and grab a quick bouquet that you needed to take somewhere kind of last minute,” Cingari said.
While Cingari stores still carry these quick-grab “consumer bunches,” the grocer also creates custom bouquets, supplies arrangements for weddings and makes boutonnieres and corsages for dances, Cingari said.
Over the past few years, Cingari store’s floral sales have been increasing between 8% and 12% each year, Cingari said, and the grocery chain continues to expand its offerings to meet the growing demand.
As mom and pop floral shops continue to close, shoppers are turning to grocers not only for high quality flowers, but for top-notch service, as well, Cingari said. He noted that the staff at the Cingari stores quickly learn what repeat customers are looking for, down to the color they prefer their flowers to be: “It’s really about that personalized service,” he said.
He added that Cingari locations have also diversified their floral offerings with various household plants, a line of orchids, tropical and exotic plants as well as outdoor plants.
Here’s a look at how grocer’s floral departments and offerings have bloomed in recent years.
Grocers saw inflation cool in the floral department in 2023, according to research by the International Fresh Produce Association and 210 Analytics.
Supermarkets have steadily grown floral department sales from $273,000 in average annual sales per store in 2019 to $364,000 in 2022, according to IFPA. Chains recorded slightly higher average floral sales ($420,000) than independents ($400,000) in first half of 2023, the trade association found.
Full service sees higher average floral department sales
Floral sales bloom during the holidays. For the last four weeks ending Dec. 3, 2023, multi-outlets’ floral departments recorded $474 million in sales and 44.6 million in units sold, with both metrics up just over 5% from the same period a year ago, according to Circana data cited by 210 Analytics.
For that period, roses saw double-digit year-over-year sales and unit increases. Arrangements and consumer bunches saw strong single-digit increases in both metrics.
Sales of bouquets, roses and arrangements are blooming for supermarkets
Stand out grocers
Whole Foods Market’s flower power
The Amazon-owned specialty grocer brought one of its newest sustainability efforts to its floral section with the recent launch of a new pollinator policy. The policy applies to all Whole Foods’ floral product and fresh produce suppliers, excluding wholesalers, in an effort to support pollinators like honeybees, wasps and butterflies.
The pollinator policy, implemented at the tail end of 2023, requires all fresh produce and floral growers to implement an Integrated Pest Management system as well as prohibits the use of nitroguanidine neonicotinoids in all of the potted plants Whole Foods sells.
Kroger’s iris-istible combo
Want to plan a sushi date complete with a fresh flower bouquet for your Valentine? Kroger’s got you covered.
Customers can receive rapid delivery of custom-wrapped Bloom Haus bouquets as well as an array of fresh sushi, such as rolls and combos, dumplings, poke and bottled sauces through DoorDash and Uber Eats.
The grocer is currently running a promotion where shoppers can save 40% on orders totaling $30 or more through Thursday.
While online grocery delivery demand has dropped since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocers appear to still be upping their floral delivery game.
Cingari believes the draw to floral delivery lies in the element of surprise. The offering allows flowers to be sent to a person’s work or home for any occasion, making the bouquet “a little bit more special,” he said.
Cingari Family Markets currently offers floral arrangement deliveries for large, catered events like weddings and is now in the process of rolling out floral delivery in partnership with DoorDash for bouquets and other arrangements.
In a recent report, DoorDash noted that a majority of its customers who ordered flowers for Valentine’s Day last year typically paired them with treats like chocolate, donuts and even fries. Other items commonly delivered with flowers are balloons, a teddy bear and a card. DoorDash found that roses were best sellers with sunflowers close behind, followed by tulips and alstroemerias.
Grocers can also look to tap into the blossoming floral gifting market. In the U.S., that market totaled nearly $12.3 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow to almost $19 billion by 2028, according to Arizton research.
With Valentine’s Day coming up this week, grocers have been busy spotlighting their floral offerings. Safeway, for example, noted in a recent announcement that its on-site floral designers can create custom arrangements, bouquets and gift baskets: “While roses are a popular choice, Safeway floral departments will offer more than 100 different fresh floral items.”
Watch the weather
While Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are where Cingari Family Markets continuously sees the biggest uptick in sales, an earlier spring can also do the trick.
“When the weather starts getting warmer, people start buying more flowers. That’s just the way it works,” Cingari said.
Cingari noted the chain’s floral sales last year were down compared to 2022, when temperatures rose a few weeks earlier than normal.
Grocers may get lucky this year as Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring earlier this month.