December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Flower power

By Nicole Grasse, T.J. Becker

Editor in Chief

1800-Flowers.com wins laurels for never resting on them. Though “a pretty boring site at first,” says George Whalin, president of Retail Management Consultants in San Marcos, Calif., 1-800-Flowers has done a good job of re-inventing itself. Constant upgrades have made the site both sharper looking and easier to use.

Others praise the florist for providing shopping options. Competitor GeraldStevens.com may be a more aesthetically pleasing site, but its visitors have to wander around. 1-800-Flowers values a shopper’s time, making it easy to get in the door and start browsing bouquets. Visitors can browse by product category, occasion or season.

An online registry keeps forgetful gift-givers out of hot water by reminding them of upcoming special events via e-mail-and making gift recommendations. The online florist is also a pioneer of Web chat, something that is showing up on many sites for the holidays. A lot of 1-800-Flowers customers are buying gifts for same-day or next-day delivery, explains Donna Iucolano, vice president of interactive services: “We’re trying to collapse the time it takes to respond to questions.”

The retailer’s online evolution includes expanding categories. Today it boasts than 1,000 SKUs, up tenfold from 1995, with candles, gourmet food and limited home items added to the mix. The goal is to become a “one-stop gift giving resource-regardless of age,” says Iucolano.

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