E-tailers Rev Up for Valentine’s Day

Lest anyone believe that Valentine’s Day is a small economic opportunity for retailers and e-tailers alike, an estimated $1 billion (US$) in purchases is up for grabs this year, including candy, gifts and 146 million flowers.

Some experts, however, are quietly worrying that online flower and gift operations might flounder in much the same way that some toy e-tailers did during the holiday season. If there is not significant improvement over the holiday effort, there may well be another round of horror stories and even a class action lawsuit.

Retailers Ready

Whether it is bravado, better preparation, or a different business model, some key retailers say that they have revved up to handle the expected crush of orders.

“Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Christmas are key shopping periods for us,” Send.com director of marketing communications Kathryn Carroll told the E-Commerce Times. “While our demand spikes upwards during these holidays, our business model doesn’t make us vulnerable to running out of inventory or not being able to deliver our products like some of the toy companies.”

Carroll explained that Send.com does not have a limited inventory of products sitting in a few large warehouses, which would make the company subject to shortages and delivery delays. Instead, she said, Send.com provides commodity gifts — such as wine — from a variety of suppliers, or special orders like a day at a health spa.

Flower Vendors Also Ready

Proflowers.com and 1-800-flowers also believe that they are ready to meet expected demand. Proflowers.com claims that by providing cut flowers directly from growers, the chances of running out of inventory are slim. Meanwhile, 1-800-flowers believes that its existing nationwide network of florists is protection against potential shortages and delivery problems.

Mark Irace, the Chief Analytical Officer of ProFlowers.com, told the E-Commerce Times that his company is “100 percent confident” that it can handle anticipated orders. Irace added that if demand were unexpectedly heavy, the company “would not take orders it could not deliver.”

Irace also said that ProFlowers.com is expecting orders in the range of “the high tens of thousands.” He added that the company’s three biggest shopping days are Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Mother’s Day, although he declined to put them in volume order.

Proflowers.com has made arrangements with Federal Express and its growers to ship flowers on Sunday to guarantee freshness for the holiday on Monday, February 14th. Because shipping is on a Sunday, however, there is an additional $10 fee.

Can We Trust Them?

While there seems to be no reason to distrust the Valentine’s Day e-tailers — especially since there were no major problems last year — the holiday shopping season has left such a bad taste in many mouths that there are questions about whether e-tailers can deliver during crunch time.

So, while shoppers should not shy away from ordering online, it certainly will not hurt to make sure orders are placed early.

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