No Roses on Valentine's Day

We have a little flower shop here in Perrysburg. It's a block from my house, and I buy a lot of flowers and other stuff there. For the past several years on Valentine's Day, I walk in and buy a dozen roses for my lovely wife Lori. This year, when I arrived mid-afternoon and asked for a dozen roses, I was told by the lady who's always there, "We're all out" (I think she may own it; she's usually there when I go in, but she's never tried to build any relationship with me, so I'm not really sure. That may be a future discussion).

It was mid-afternoon. No smile. No apology. Not a tone of empathy. No attempt to sell me anything else. I was dumbfounded and did a quick mental recap: Valentine's Day - check. Mid-afternoon, not during the after-work "rush" many businesses get from frantic, forgetful husbands, when I might expect to find them out of things - check. I was trying to spend money at a local business where I'm a regular customer - check. Another trip into a place I often find myself: Bizarro Service Land. Maybe I notice more because I own a mystery shopping business. Maybe it's just that some people don't see the obvious when it's right in front of them.

Now, I'm open to the possibility that the flower business may be tough (find me one that isn't!). Flowers are fickle, and don't always stay alive as long as you expect. It's probably tough to predict walk-in business (but not impossible). But, what's the true cost of running out of flowers on one of the top sales days of the year? It's such short-sighted, non-customer-focused thinking that I still can't believe it.

If not the biggest, Valentine's Day is certainly in the top three sales days for flower shops, right? Shouldn't owners want to sell us as much as possible on those days? Aren't roses still Numero Uno on Valentine's Day? By far? Don't they worry about things like: "If I don't have enough, and my customers have to go to a competitor today, will they ever come back?" Don't they think one day past today? Isn't a service business supposed to, at some point, service their customers? In my book, this means that your customers' needs come first, not yours. THAT is what solidifies customers to long-term loyalty.

Couldn't they get tons of free word-of-mouth advertising by selling the excess very cheaply, or even just giving it away, to the last few customers that day? What if they advertised a "Twice As Nice, Day After Valentine's Sale" and offered roses at 25% of the cost on Valentine's Day (only for the excess)?

If they can't be happy, appreciative and customer-focused on Valentine's Day, when can they? Don't small shopkeepers need to think this way in order to avoid extinction? Get out of the box. Differentiate. Serve.

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