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Connells Maple Lee introduces fresh gathered bouquets

Do it yourself doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.

A case in point: Connells Maple Lee’s new fresh gathered bouquets.

Available in 13 different options (with the promise of more to come), the bouquets sell for $19.99 or $29.99 including delivery. They arrive in a brown craft paper sleeve tied with raffia, giving the package a “rustic, farmers market feel,” said Cheryl Brill, our chief operating officer.

The small ($19.99) version of the Tuscan bouquet, for instance, comprises mini green hydrangea, alstroemeria, daisy poms, viking poms, carnations, mini carnations, caspia, and tree fern. The larger ($29.99) version adds two roses to the mix.

Increasingly, flower buyers like to purchase loose bouquets they can arrange themselves, often using favorite containers, Brill said.

Hands-on

Yet customers can take comfort in knowing that each fresh gathered bouquet is professionally designed with complementary colors and textures (caspia and tree fern, for instance) in mind and then hand-assembled in our stores.

This removes some of the guesswork for customers while allowing them to be hands-on at home.

Brill said she took one of the bouquets home, trimmed the stems to the appropriate length, and dropped the bouquet into a vase.

“I couldn’t be happier with how that turned out,” she said. “And if customers can do that at home, I would think they’d be very happy with that, too.”

Many customers like to purchase for themselves. Of course, as with any other Connells Maple Lee product, the fresh gathered bouquets can be sent to someone as a gift.

While fresh gathered bouquets currently are available only in Connells Maple Lee’s market area, Brill delivered this tidbit: soon customers will have the opportunity to ship them almost anywhere in the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY: FROM FIELD TO FRONT DOOR

Whether you’re a planner or procrastinator, online or in-store shopper, you can expect the same high-quality product and customer service from Connells Maple Lee.

We really shine at Valentine’s Day. It’s our busiest time, and we enjoy the challenge of rising to the occasion. If a customer buys flowers once per year, it’s probably for Feb. 14. And with matters of the heart, the pressure really ramps up to deliver in a special way, for lovers and florists alike.

We handle a similar volume of orders during the Christmas season, but that’s over a month or longer. By comparison, the Valentine’s Day “season” squeezes a similar volume into several days.

FROM SOUTH AMERICA, WITH LOVE

But behind the scenes, Valentine’s Day is months in the making, and it takes us thousands of miles from our stores.

You see, we don’t just place a phone call and wait for roses to come to us. We go directly to the flower farms in South America, where we can see firsthand the crop that’s being grown just for our customers. This way we can make sure everything is to our satisfaction. If there are problems, then we have more time to correct them.

Once the Valentine’s Day crop is harvested, it is flown to Miami, where it is inspected by U.S. customs officials. From there, we move the flowers to a refrigerated tractor-trailer for their journey to our Grove City distribution center.

The flowers are either picked up by drivers from our stores or headed to another part of the building and our central design department.

CENTRAL DESIGN: THE HEART OF THE OPERATION

The demand is so great at Valentine’s Day that our stores simply can’t accommodate all the work. They get a big assist from central design, where a team of workers packs roses in boxes or turns them and other flowers into beautiful arrangements.

Whether you give or receive Valentine’s Day roses, or both, we want to make sure you get the most out of them. In fact, with the right amount of care, you should be able to keep your roses looking just rosy for a week.

Click here for specific care instructions, which differ depending on whether your roses arrived in a vase or loose in a box. Either way, it’s best to keep them cool and, of course, sufficiently watered.

From the farm to your front door, we love making Valentine’s Day special for our customers.

Thanks for letting us show you how.

A Guy’s Guide to Flower Buying

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There’s a gender gap when it comes to buying flowers: Women buy 65 percent of fresh flowers, according to the Society of American Florists, while men buy 35 percent.

To the extent that men might be intimidated or uncomfortable buying flowers, we’d like to make the experience a more enjoyable one for them.

To do this, we tapped the expertise of our own Cheryl Brill, who shared these insights based her more than 20 years of experience in the flower business.

Roses are red – and lots of other colors

Too often, men think only of roses for their significant others, and then only in red. Cheryl encourages male customers to be more adventurous, whether it’s with other colors of roses, other flower varieties, or other looks such as a textured garden appearance.

Don’t stop at Valentine’s Day

Maybe the tendency to focus on red roses has a lot to do with Valentine’s Day which, let’s face it, is ruled by red roses. But the year has only just begun when Valentine’s Day rolls around, so why not mix it up for the 364 days that don’t fall on Feb. 14?

What’s more, 63 percent of flower purchases are for the buyer, compared with 37 percent as gifts. And 86 percent of purchases are for non-calendar occasions, 50 percent of which fall into the “no special occasion” category. The bottom line is that people like to receive flowers any day of the year.

Bouquets don’t have to break the bank

Flower prices tend to rise around Valentine’s Day, in concert with a spike in demand for what is the floral industry’s equivalent of football’s Super Bowl. If that’s the only time of year that you purchase flowers, you can get a warped sense of how much they cost on a day-to-day basis.

Cheryl described how a $7.99 rose bunch made a positive impression on one male customer, who realized that he could afford to be a more frequent flower buyer.

Get the right vase

If she likes to arrange flowers, Cheryl said, then get her a vase that lends itself to arranging and one that fits the décor of the room where it will be used. Does she tend to put flowers on the kitchen counter or on the coffee table?

You don’t have to DIY

In this age of do-it-yourself, there’s a tendency to think that we must go it alone with everything. Rest assured, your trained florist is eager to help. It starts with the right container; she noted that it doesn’t have to be a plain, clear vase. Either bring one in, or your florist can help you select one.

Think about what you want to say

Before you visit or call your florist, Cheryl advised, think about the words you want to send along with the flowers. She said florists are a bit like bartenders: they’ve seen and heard everything, so don’t be embarrassed. Speak from the heart because the sentiment is just as important as the flowers that it goes with.

Valentine’s Day is an oasis amid the darkness of winter, Cheryl said, but it’s nice to see male customers the rest of the year, too.

Highlights from our fall catalog

Every year, we introduce a fall catalog that contains approximately 20 percent new products. We asked Geoff Royer, a member of our product development team, to describe how some of the new arrangements came about. Here’s what he told us:

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One of the tasks of the product development team was to come up with more arrangements that are specific to birthdays. This arrangement does just that with the birthday bear that’s attached to the vase.

This is the fourth in our lineup of Big Hugs vases. We also have redesigned the baby boy and baby girl versions of that style.

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We realized in the spring that we could do better on the pricing of the mini callas than we had before so we opted to develop a few arrangements with them.

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This collection of arrangements is a new style for us, each one in a nine-inch glass bowl that we’d never carried before. We used them in some new lifestyle shots we are using to enhance our brochure and websites.

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This addition features several flowers that are new to us, namely the Memphis daisy pom, charmellia alstromeria, and Nobbio cherry carnation.

We had featured Memphis at previous holidays. We loved the color and the lateral lengths on the daisy but no one grew it year-round until now.

Charmellia is a new product in the floral world. It lasts incredibly long and, as it opens, it changes from dark pink to a lighter pink.

The colors and variegation of the Nobbio cherry petals are like nothing we’d ever seen. This carnation is from a farm called Geoflora, which is associated with South American carnation breeder S.B. Talee.

Talee developed the Nobbio series in response to a Japanese market that wanted something beyond the standard red, white and pink combination with a longer stem length. We can take the sizes the Japanese markets don’t want at a good price.

Refresh: Connells Maple Lee launches new website

Temperatures go from warm to cool, green leaves turn gold, red, orange.

And just as fall is the season of change in the natural world, it can be in the digital realm, too.

At Connells Maple Lee, this fall coincides with the launch of our new website. It’s still at cmlflowers.com, of course, but it has a fresh, crisp new look and functionality that should make the shopping experience even more fulfilling. (This look also is evident in our e-blasts and printed fall catalog.)

Among the improvements, both functionally and aesthetically:

  • The website now features “responsive” design, which means that it adjusts to the size of the browser in which it is viewed. We realize that customers shop online from different-sized screens, from desktop to laptop, tablet to smart phone.
  • Additional filters help shoppers more readily find what they’re looking for. For instance, instead of just searching by price across all products, it’s now possible to narrow that search by categories. Soon you’ll be able to filter by flower and color, too.
  • Arrangements are shown bigger and scale according to screen size.
  • Text is set against transparent colors, allowing more of the background flower images to shine through.
  • If the curvy page designs have a familiar feel, it’s because they are macro-views of actual flower shapes. The size, color and placement of the shapes are not determined by templates but rather are unique to each layout. This allows the layouts to remain fresh and change with the seasons.

What do you think of our new website? We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below, or let us know the next time you visit one of our stores.

Oh, Atlanta, we hear you calling

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We don’t procrastinate when it comes to holiday shopping. In fact, no sooner is one Christmas in the rearview mirror than we start planning for the next one.

It’s not that we’re eager for the passage of time. Rather, we’re beckoned by AmericasMart in Atlanta, which describes itself as the nation’s leading gift, home furnishings and area rug wholesale marketplace.

In Atlanta, we might purchase containers bearing a Christmas decoration, or snowflake or snowman stick-ins to complement an arrangement. We source Christmas décor at AmericasMart but also gifts that customers will give at the holidays, such as a picture frame.

A half-dozen Connells Maple Lee representatives visit AmericasMart’s three-building, 7 million-square-foot complex every January, buying gifts and arrangement accents for the next Christmas season, and again in July, when the focus will be on the next spring.

Focus on larger gifts

Jenni Eberly has made six trips to Atlanta, so she’s a veteran now. But as a first-time visitor, she found the experience daunting.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said, “looking at all that merchandise set out in the displays. Because then you have to take these huge displays and then pick out what you’re going to buy.”

As vast as AmericasMart is, Connells Maple Lee spends most of its time on five floral and holiday floors. In July, the group arrived in Atlanta on a Wednesday and worked through Friday. The pace is constant, and even lunch and dinner conversation turns to what each of them has seen from vendors.

Geoff Royer coordinates the Atlanta trips. He sets up meetings with specific vendors. He also arms each member of the Connells Maple Lee delegation with a folder that identifies, by holiday, items on their shopping list.

The needs range from broad to specific. In January, some of the focus was on larger gifts, such as clocks, afghans and pillows that are relatively new for Connells Maple Lee. In July, one of the goals was to find new versions of a heart stick-in and accent ribbon to give a new look to an existing arrangement.

Erica Bixby has been to Atlanta three times. With experience, she has learned to think beyond the initial appeal of new products to identify how they will work in Connells Maple Lee’s stores.

How will they complement other items, and will they work given the price at which they will have to sell, including once freight costs are factored in?

Something might look nice, Erica suggested, “but you can’t really sell it for $50.”

Moments of inspiration

Technology has made it easier to document the trips. Photos taken with a tablet or smart phone are invaluable for jogging memories. After all, Christmas giftware purchased in January won’t arrive until summer or fall.

Photos also capture moments of inspiration.

“I have a bunch of things that I liked for silks,” Erica said, with an eye toward Connells Maple Lee crafting similar arrangements in-house rather than buying them already made.

“Or I take pictures of displays that I’d like to duplicate in the stores,” Jenni added.

On her phone, Jenni pulled up a photo showing how one vendor used eye hooks and ropes to display pillows.

“It’s up, it’s still in the display, but it’s out of the way,” Jenni said, noting that pillows are vulnerable in a flower shop, where the need to water plants is constant.

One week after returning from the July trip, Erica and Jenni were looking at tables filled with arrangements being created or revamped for fall debuts. They estimated that 30 percent of the items were from Atlanta.

“That container, that container, that container,” Jenni said, pointing at specific arrangements. “That vase. Those deer [figures]. Those are all things that we picked up in January.”

To get the best value, buy from a local florist instead of a wire service

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There are lots of statistics out there about the economic benefits of buying local. When you buy from locally owned stores, the money stays in your community and puts your neighbors to work.

It’s true whether you spend your money at a local restaurant, hardware store or florist.

Speaking of flowers, buying directly from a local florist rather than through a national wire service such as FTD (which last year bought ProFlowers) or Teleflora can put money back in your pocket, too.

That’s because the wire services are middlemen, adding another layer of charges that consumers pay for without realizing any added value in return. The wire services are marketing companies that hand orders over to local florists, who make the arrangements and deliver them to your home or office.

CNN Money, in a story timed to Valentine’s Day 2013, noted how FTD had advertised a glass vase with roses and mini-carnations for $44.99. However, to send that arrangement to Reno, Nev., FTD’s service charge bumped to price to $65.

By comparison, that same arrangement ordered directly from a Reno florist: $53.

“If all orders came in this way, our business would not be sustainable,” the florist said.

Of course, this begs the question of why they stick with the wire services if florists have trouble making money on incoming orders.

Greg Royer, president and CEO of Connells Maple Lee, said that FTD and Teleflora are generally well regarded; they have been in business since 1910 and 1934, respectively.

“We also want to be able to send orders to other florists, so accepting orders via the wire services is only fair play,” he said.

However, he noted that from a consumer perspective, it’s a better deal to work with a local florist. You’ll be dealing with the same people who are going to arrange and deliver your flowers.

And you’ll avoid the added fees associated with the wire services.

Valentine’s Day survival guide: 5 tips

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A local florist will give you the best value for your money, according to NBC News.

 

Love is all around at Valentine’s Day, but you never want to take matters of the heart for granted.

Our survival guide is here to help, before, during and after the holiday. And it’ll help you whether you’re giving or receiving flowers — or both.

SHOP EARLY

One of the keys to a successful Valentine’s Day is not forgetting that it is Valentine’s Day. Order your flowers early and even have them delivered early. This way, you’ll be sure to stay ahead of any snowstorms, and the recipient will just have longer to enjoy the flowers.

What’s more, Connells Maple Lee offers a special incentive: Have your Valentine’s Day order delivered Feb. 12 or earlier, and the delivery will include a coupon for a free dozen-rose bunch redeemable in March.

SHOP LOCALLY

The big national retailers will spend a lot of time and money bombarding you with their offers, but you’ll get the most bang for your bouquet when you purchase it from a local florist. Don’t take our word for it, though. Just watch this story from NBC News.

DON’T LET THE ‘DOGS’ OUT

Be wary of “deceptive order gatherers,” or DOGs, that often make it look like they are local florists but aren’t. They might even be located out of state. And if they sink their teeth into your order, they’ll take an unnecessary bite out of your wallet. Click here for details on why you will want to avoid them.

PICK YOUR PRICE POINTS

It’s the thought that counts, so you don’t have to spend a lot to show that you care about someone. From a single rose or a stuffed bear to a mixed bunch or mixed-color roses, you can find many options for below $50.

HANDLE WITH CARE

Given proper amounts of water and cool-enough temperatures, high-quality roses from a local florist can last a week or longer. Just follow these easy steps.

With these tips, you’re not just going to survive Valentine’s Day, but you’re going to thrive.

And what’s not to love about that?

We’re in South America getting your Valentine’s Day flowers

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and so are your roses.

Connells Maple Lee is on site in Colombia, South America, where our flowers are being cut, processed and shipped for delivery to our Grove City distribution center. This hands-on approach ensures the highest quality product will be in our stores and delivered to homes and businesses throughout Valentine’s Week.

There’s no cutting corners with these square holiday wreaths

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Teddy Roosevelt had his Square Deal. Huey Lewis said it was hip to be square.

We have the square holiday wreath, and it’s pretty hip.

Of course, you’ll still find more round wreaths, but we’re stocking a small number of square wreaths in each of our stores.

No matter the shape of your evergreen wreath, here’s a great tip for keeping them in great shape throughout the holiday season: hairspray. Click here for details.