Starbucks (aka Fivebucks) & Vera Wang

Starbucks (aka Fivebucks) & Vera Wang

Question – What do Vera Wang, Starbucks and bedding plants all have in common? Answer–They are all used in decorating decisions by our customers. Some of you faithful readers of this column will likely be able to connect Vera Wang to a geranium, but the coffee giant Starbucks may be a leap. Let me attempt to connect the dots.

Any of you who know me know what a snappy dresser I am–baggy jeans, old denim shirt and clogs. There’s a random chance my belt and shoe color will match. Dressing up is to iron the above mentioned denim shirt. If it doesn’t come from Land’s End or Target, I do not own it. I think I am pretty typical of most of my fellow Y-chromosome brethren with my very badly developed (or cared about) fashion sense. For you fellow fashion plates out there in reader land, Vera Wang is one of the world’s best-known fashion designers. Think red carpet at Oscar night. Ms. Wang sells dresses for $20,000. My entire closet full of old denim shirts is worth the cost of about 1 percent of one of her dresses. She runs not only a design company but has licensed her brand out to companies such as Kohl’s and FTD.

Before Valentine’s Day, I saw an ad in newspapers around the United States for Vera Wang flowers at FTD. Just click on FTD.com and get your sweetie not just flowers, but flowers that had the seal of approval from the queen of fashion. Yup, take that plain bouquet of roses and give a hand-tied bouquet with some glam.

Why would anyone care? Why would you pay more money for the very same roses you could get cheaper elsewhere? It makes no sense! And that, my fellow Y-chromosome team, is why we should be on the sidelines for all product decisions from now till eternity. Yup, it is just flowers. It is just a designer name. But the person who is getting the flowers is going to use them–gasp–in a home décor design. We sell accents for decorating, not flowers, and bless FTD for figuring that out. 

Fivebucks Units

I was on the plane the other day chatting to a seatmate, a nice young woman who is a doctor, works goofy hours at a hospital and is kept sane by her frequent trips to Starbucks. In fact, she told me that she no longer calls it Starbucks, but has affectionately renamed the corporation ‘Fivebucks’–you cannot go in without spending $5.

So what? Everyone knows that. But the nice doctor lady went on to explain she actually makes important financial decisions in Fivebucks units! When faced with a $2,000 purchase decision, she immediately translates into Fivebucks and might say, “Well, $2,000 is only 400 ‘Fivebucks.’ That is less than a year so that is a good choice.” When she said that, I rocked in my heels.

I knew that we all dropped way too much money at Starbucks (Grande latte for me and a Quad Tall latte for wifey = $8.08) and I knew that Starbucks is the success story for a company repositioning a product–cheap cup of Joe becomes chic and pricey. But I did not appreciate how Starbucks could completely change how Americans shoppers make purchase decisions, not until that Fivebucks moment. How does any of this tie back into the price of a geranium?

1. FTD flowers by Vera Wang are the perfect connection of fashion and flowers. How do you do that? Many of you are already selling colorbowls and mixed hanging baskets. Many have made the mixed plantings spectacular and charge appropriately. For those of you who have the all-male shipping crew plant mixed containers out of leftover plants, there is a lesson buried in the above. FTD flowers by Vera Wang is one more example of how the consumer is willing to look for something special when it comes to things of beauty. And we grow flowers.

There is an opportunity to connect our great flowers with other areas of design. Connect with your local artists. If I ran a garden center today, I would have the store full of art for sale from all my local artists, sold on consignment. I would have spring fashion shows and match flowers to the dresses. Tags can talk about color combinations or how your designer would use the flowers in the landscape, as well as sun/shade and height. We sell color and we often forget that.

2. If my airplane seatmate can think in ‘fivebuck’ units, she could also think in Encore azalea units. That is not a stretch. When you work retail, you meet the garden crazies who actually do think in garden units of work and money. All hobbies have those enthusiasts. But Starbucks has made consumers cross over from the fringe to us normal types. So how do you create flower products that can become actual units of measure? Why don’t we have certain size flowers or containers that carry a simple price. The $5 unit of flowers? Stepables is sort of like that, but go one more step (pun) and lock the monetary price down for a few years. Get your customers keen on looking for that three buck or five buck unit of color. Yup, I was looking at that new HDTV and it was only 300 colorbowls. I want to get there.

If Vera and Starbucks can do it, so can we. We have the flowers and large consumer market to pull it off. Me, I gotta go now and get my Grande latte and Quad Tall latte.

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