Isle florists look for some love


POSTED: Saturday, February 14, 2009

At lunch time yesterday, a steady flow of customers—mostly men—streamed out of Watanabe Floral Inc. carrying flower arrangements of all sizes.

But while florists experienced a surge of customers in the days before Valentine's Day, all remain affected by the dismal economy—some seeing sales drop up to 30 percent.

At Watanabe Floral, 1607 Hart St., sales for Valentine's Day fell 3 percent from last year, but chief financial officer Leon Dodson said yesterday and today will determine whether they maintained the same pace. The company's goal was to hit $400,000 for the two days.

Watanabe Floral tried a new marketing tactic this year, contacting customers early and offering free delivery for those who ordered ahead of time.

“;It's been successful,”; said Dodson.

The store was decked out in decorations including pink and red paper lanterns and heart-shaped boxes hanging from the ceiling.

Some customers happily spent a bundle despite the bleak economic times.

Waikele resident Jesse Balgas paid $209 for two dozen pink roses, a box of Godiva chocolates and a stuffed bear at the store yesterday.

“;I wasn't on a budget,”; said Balgas, who recently sold a house in Kaneohe.

Waiting near the checkout counter for his business partner, Mililani resident Davin Kubo held a large red rose floral arrangement for his wife, Carrie Ann, and a box of Godiva truffles at the “;recession special price of $150,”; he quipped.

Can't scrimp on Valentine's Day, he said with a laugh. “;My wife deserves it.”;

Fujikami Florist at 1200 Pensacola St. experienced a morning rush yesterday, but sales remain down. “;It's not going as well,”; said owner Stephen Fujikami.

Business has dropped about a third for Valentine's, he said, adding sales were further weakened this year because of the day falling on a Saturday, compared with last year when it fell on a Thursday. “;The best days are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for Valentine's,”; he said.

Fujikami also noted that they failed to take an assertive approach to increase sales. The idea of contacting customers who pre-ordered Valentine's Day floral arrangements in years past came a week too late. “;We should have (done that),”; he said.

Despite a 15 percent drop in business at Beretania Florist, 1293 S. Beretania St., owner June Nakamoto said, “;Love is still in the air. People are still buying flowers. Roses are still the most popular item.”;

The store is sold out of roses already, but other floral arrangements were still available yesterday. “;We're still very busy,”; she said. “;We'll be making a lot of deliveries to homes (today). We'll have a lot of people walking in to purchase flowers. So far, it's nice.”;

Because of the struggling economy, Nakamoto said they made a point to conduct heavy marketing for their 71-year-old family-operated business which involved phone calls to previous customers.

“;It was necessary to be able to have a good Valentine's Day,”; said Nakamoto.