Profile on Plow & Hearth--Reaping What You Sow (2,623 words)
"Larry was the person we used to identify prospects. 1-800-FLOWERS was a company we never would have thought of in a million years," admits Rice. "Why would we really? We had no way of knowing what they were thinking and didn't know enough about them to know the potential synergies."
Those synergies include the related specialities of flowers, gifts and garden merchandise, as well as strengths in complimentary sales channels. 1-800-FLOWERS was an e-commerce pioneer, but it lacked direct mail, catalog or distribution experience. Plow & Hearth was an expert in catalog sales, database management and fulfillment, but it had not yet developed an Internet presence.
Another plus of the acquisition was the efficiency of pooled call centers. "A huge benefit is that our service centers work with one another," says Rice. In November 1998, 50 agents at Westbury, CT, the primary service center for 1-800-FLOWERS, were available to take holiday orders for Plow & Hearth.
"Around Valentine's Day, we turn almost totally into a 1-800-FLOWERS center," says Rice. "It gives more flexibility in terms of call center resources."
In addition, Hay explains, "Using ModelMax also helped Plow & Hearth take advantage of the 1-800-FLOWERS database. "We've been very pleased with the results we've gotten from their buyer file."
Early this year, Plow & Hearth will move its Web site to the 1800flowers.com engine, adding real-time ordering and inventory.
Next up, according to Rice, is a brand-new Internet collaboration between the two branches. He says, "We are working on another business in conjunction with 1-800-FLOWERS called GardenWorks.com, and we're looking at a launch in early 2000. Merchandising and content will be out of Virginia, but it will run on the new 1-800-FLOWERS engine."
Otherwise, not much has changed around Plow & Hearth. The Rices, including son Pete Rice Jr., still operate from their Madison headquarters. And running the catalog business continues to be the top priority.