The floral industry just got an unlikely — but worrisome — competitor for Valentine’s Day: Whole Foods.
Hoping to snatch a bigger share of the near $19 billion that Americans are expected to spend on Valentine’s Day gifts of all kinds, the nation’s largest natural and organic grocery chain is rolling out a program in 15 of its biggest metro markets, to deliver a dozen “Whole Trade” roses — in conjunction with the Instacart delivery service — at prices starting at $25.
Watch out, FTD. Head’s up, 1-800-FLOWERS FREE.
For Whole Foods, often-mocked for its “Whole Paycheck” reputation of high prices, this is a serious attempt to undercut the costs of both local florists and national delivery services. The clincher may be the low delivery fee and the quick turnaround: $3.99 if you want it delivered within two hours of the order; $5.99 for one-hour delivery. And first-time users of Instacart pay nothing at all for the delivery.
“We’re watching the slow-motion erosion of traditional retail,” says brand consultant Kate Newlin. “Conventional florists will have to fight a multi-front war.”
But who ever thought one battle front might be at Whole Foods?
Whole Foods is simply looking at the numbers. Nearly 38% of consumers who purchase gifts this Valentine’s Day will buy flowers, spending $2.1 billion in the process, according to a National Retail Federation survey.
“We like to think of Whole Foods as a place for all occasions,” says Jeannine D’Addario, global vice president and chief marketing officer at Whole Foods. What’s more, she insists, the “Whole Paycheck” moniker is a thing of the past. “We have value offerings in every department — including flowers.”
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For $25, three bouquet options are available via Instacart from Whole Foods: a dozen Whole Trade red roses; a dozen non-red roses or 20-stem bouquet of tulips. Between Feb. 9 and 15, customers can log into Instacart.com or the Instacart mobile app and order.
The Whole Foods flowers will also are delivered with a hand-written note — not a typed message, says D’Addario.
The “Whole Trade” status of its roses means that farmworkers were paid decent wages under reasonable working condition. Also, under the chain’s “Responsibly Grown” program, the farms that grow the flowers have taken steps to protect air, soil, water and human health.
Officials at FTD and 1-800-FLOWERS FREE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
There’s one more competitive edge to the Whole Foods delivery program: It also will deliver everything from chocolates to lotions to special foods, such as exotic cheeses, from the store.
The new program — which could spread to more of the chain’s 400 stores by next Valentine’s Day — is being promoted via social media, customer e-mails and in-store signage, says D’Addario.
“You can’t get ingredients for a romantic dinner delivered from the florist,” says D’Addario.