Busy Season Just Now Blooming for Calyx & Corolla

While most catalog marketers take a rest after Dec. 25, upscale flower cataloger Calyx & Corolla has just begun its rush. Its Valentine’s Day catalog ships the first week of January.

The December holiday season is only the first of Calyx & Corolla’s string of four big holiday selling periods, ending with the single busiest time for the floral provider: Mother’s Day.

“We stay geared from Christmas on through Mother’s Day and then start over again,” said Ann Hayes Lee, executive vice president at Calyx & Corolla, San Francisco. Lee is responsible for catalog production, direct marketing, new business development, corporate gifts and the Internet.

The company mailed 12 million catalogs in 1999 and expects to increase that number to between 12 million and 15 million in 2000.

Calyx & Corolla’s formula for presenting high-end floral arrangements to upscale customers hasn’t changed drastically in 10 years. Like many traditional direct marketers, the $20 million company prefers to test and adapt over time. It offers a range of exotic floral arrangements packaged in vases and pots that reflect current fashion and design trends such as the Asian-inspired vase on the autumn 1999 cover. “As direct marketers, you kind of sneak out there and test these things and you don’t talk about it a lot,” said Lee. “You gradually build it into your strategy and everyday thinking.”

A new wrinkle is its first-ever marketing partnership. A Baccarat vase presented as a gift package with fresh-cut flowers in the Christmas catalog did well enough this month despite its $2,000 price tag that a similar vase filled with roses will be featured in the Valentine’s Day book.

A total of 1.5 million catalogs for Valentine’s Day will be sent out in three waves with three distinct covers. The second mailing will arrive in homes at the end of January, and the third, dubbed “the male book” because it goes out to male customers and prospects, arrives in homes at the end of the first week in February.

The first mail drop, according to Lee, will go primarily to its core customers, while the second “has a fair amount of prospecting,” she said. Calyx & Corolla’s list brokers are American List Counsel, Princeton, NJ, and Paradysz Matera, New York. Paradysz tends to recommend offbeat and unusual lists. “They strategize with us on marketing ideas,” said Lee. “They’re also great at finding lists for our corporate gift department.”

The corporate gift business is growing steadily, said Lee, without much effort. “We’re doing a lot of outbound calling to lists to pull in a business profile,” she said. “We’ve developed corporate gift business to about 10 percent of our revenues without a sophisticated program behind it. We know there’s big business out there to be had.”

The catalogs are produced inhouse through the use of various design and copywriting freelancers. Catalogs are mailed through Arandell Corp., Milwaukee. Easter and Mother’s Day mailings follow close on the heels of next month’s mailings.

Calyx & Corolla became a wholly-owned subsidiary of floral retailer Gerald Stevens Inc., Fort Lauderdale, FL, in August. Ruth Owades, who remains CEO of Calyx & Corolla, also has joined the Gerald Stevens board. Acquiring Calyx & Corolla gives publicly held Gerald Stevens’ entry into direct marketing in addition to its 298 retail locations around the United States and its Internet operations. The $110 million Gerald Stevens, through a series of acquisitions and partnerships over the past year, also has four call centers and Internet operations that include www.geraldstevens.com and www.flowerlink.com, in addition to Calyx & Corolla’s redesigned Web site www.calyxandcorolla.com.

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