By Jack Nissen
Clinton County Chatter
Michigan’s cold temperatures and blistering winds are impacting more than just college students’ commute to classes this winter. Classified by the store’s owner Beth Herendeen as the “Modern Day General Store,” DeWitt’s own Twiggies saw a decline in business this Valentine’s Day.
Normally a bustling day of business for the floral and retail design shop, Herendeen saw the timing of this February 14 inhibited many potential buyers from making use of Twiggies services. Along with the holiday falling on a weekend, frigid temperatures made selling flowers hard.
“Numbers were down quite a bit from last year,” said Herendeen. “We were down 15% in sales.”
A lot of Herendeen’s business operates on seasonal events and annual holidays. Being a floral arrangement business, many of the services they cater too involve decorative flowers, bouquet deliveries and table assortments that are covered in all kinds of flowers.
“Traditional roses are our number one seller,” said Herendeen. “The majority of business on Valentine’s Day is floral.”
Not even roses could survive the arctic air onslaught that gripped the Greater Lansing area this weekend. Herendeen and her employees attempted to stop the bleeding by triple wrapping the flowers, however business still suffered.
“Seventy-Five percent of our sales are delivery, while 25 percent are pick ups,” Herendeen said. “It’s difficult to make deliveries when we risk losing the flowers to the cold.”
Much of the décor and cards also available for sale never left the shop. Less people walking through the doors picking up for their spouse. For Herendeen, this meant an increased drop from the already expected decline in sales of retail.
“Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays sales are always high for us,” said Herendeen. “Mondays, Fridays and the weekends are always a little slower. Couples spend more time together on these days. They do something, rather than buy something.”
For small business owners, this represents a shift in the consumer mindset.
What Bonnie Knutson, a professor at the School of Hospitality Business in the Broad College of Business, said this isn’t just a weekend trend, but a lifestyle change. She specializes in research based around changing consumer lifestyle and buying trends and has studied the emphasis society now puts on the experience.
“Luxury is redefined as what you do, not what you have,” said Knutson. “Consumer trends tell us we crave experience.”
This trend is common with students looking to celebrate any kind of holiday together.
“My boyfriend and I always look for fun things to do during Valentine’s Day,” said Emily Matz, a sophomore at MSU. “We really try to do presents and go out, but it’s just fun spending time together.”
For Matz, the temporary factor that plagues goodies and flowers doesn’t mean as much to her as the time spent together.
“Flowers especially don’t last long in dorm rooms,” said Matz. “I guess being a poor college kid, it’s okay to just get food and watch movies together.”
As for Herendeen, Twiggies has adapted to this economic norm.
“We try to make each purchase at Twiggies an experience,” said Herendeen. “We are always working with customization. We’ll ask questions about hobbies or favorite sports teams to design our purchases around the patron.”
Knutson notes an article written by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore titled “The Experience Economy.” In the article they follow the path of valued products in our economic history, with the next step being the experience. Experiencing an event is eternal. While flowers will die and chocolate will be consumed, carrying a memory lasts a long time.
“It’s got little to do with the weekend,” said Knutson “It’s growing consumer trends. As for the weather, that’s God’s marketing plan.”