Jim: We are in the business of helping our customers express themselves.
Chris: Ultimately what we do is we deliver smiles.
Jim: When we started in 1976 our first store on First Avenue, it was a small store, but it really only took 40 customers to make that store work. We developed relationships with those customers. Fast-forward 40 years, it's what we're still trying to do.
Stephen: I love companies like the 1-800-Flowers story. Talk about Jim starting out as a social worker, coming across a retail flower shop, purchasing that.
Rich: And then went into the 800 telephone line. And then it became 1-800-Flowers.com.
Chris: We're not technologists by trade, but we knew we had to get involved early because if that changed consumer behavior, that could change our business.
Stephen: I've been doing this for 23 years. You start out managing a company and not only are you part of the growth, but you take an interest and a role in helping them get from the bottom to the top.
Chris: One of the things that really has made the relationship with J.P.Morgan so valuable to us is the advice that we get. And advice that comes from really understanding our business.
Alfred: 1-800-Flowers is all about innovation, so we're always at the forefront of what's new.
Susan: We're mandated to look for new ways to use technology to engage with our customer, whether it's from a transactional perspective or a customer service experience.
Jim: We started doing gift baskets and our customers said, "We'd like some balloons, too." And then they said, "Have you ever tried these cookies?" So we bought Cheryl's and then they said, "We'd like to have chocolates as well." And then the most recent acquisition is a company called Harry & David.Chris: When we got into the transaction many bankers would say, "The first thing you do is sell off the agriculture." But J.P.Morgan listened to us when we said the agriculture is an important part of the brand. We believe it needs to stay part of the company. Their response was, "If you believe that, we believe it, we'll finance it."
Jim: Probably the biggest challenge we faced as a company was this little thing you might have read about called a recession. But having a good collection of partners, especially our lead bank, J.P.Morgan, was uh, critically important to surviving that and prospering as a result, at the end of it.
Rich: What Jim and Chris have shown over the many years that J.P.Morgan's been banking them is, whatever hand they were dealt, they are able to deal with that situation and get to the ultimate outcome, which is putting a smile on their client's face.
Susan: The company's commitment to the community makes me really proud to work for 1-800-Flowers.
Yogeshwar: Smile Farms allows folks with development issues to have gainful, meaningful employment.
Jim: We're growing Smile Farms to put more and more people at work, in our greenhouses. But, it's more than I could have dreamed of.
Chris: We learned early on we were part of the community.
Jim: We're still trying to develop relationships with people like we did 40 years ago. Only now we're trying to use technology to make it more efficient. If you want to predict where we're gonna go in the future, just stand outside near our shop and talk to customers and say, “What else do you like to send as a gift?”
Few things embody beauty like a humble flower. Today, Mother Nature gets a boost from the innovative application of emerging technologies, allowing millions of people around the country to send and receive fresh floral arrangements through 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.
In 1976, founder Jim McCann started the business as a single brick-and-mortar store on First Avenue in New York City; it has since grown into a multi-brand gift retailer worth more than $1 billion. The story of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. holds important lessons for transforming with technology and the value of a customer-focused business model, as well as the strategic guidance and financing solutions that JPMorgan Chase offers.
Jim McCann describes the company’s history as having five waves. The brick-and-mortar stores in New York City constituted the first wave. The second wave was the integration of sales via its 800 phone number, prompting the business to start using its iconic name: 1-800-Flowers. The third wave was the emergence of e-commerce, and the fourth was the steady consumer shift to mobile and social engaging and shopping.
“Today, we’re out on the front of what we think is the fifth wave of change for us, and that’s called conversational commerce,” said President and CEO Chris McCann (younger brother to Jim). “That is a confluence of technologies—a combination of big data, analytics, artificial intelligence, and then layer on top of that the user interface of the future, voice.”
Jim McCann put it this way: “It’s become part of our DNA to look at what’s next.”
As a part of the company’s “what’s next” philosophy, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. has focused on delivering not just high-quality floral arrangements, but also expanding to other gift options for its customers. In catering to consumer demands and shopping behaviors, the company acquired and grew brands that allowed them to offer gift baskets, gourmet foods including baked goods, popcorn, chocolate and other products. However, acquisitions and strategic brand development are complex endeavors that often require specialized guidance, services and financing.
“As we’ve grown our business, we’ve built what we call the celebratory ecosystem where we have this all-star lineup of brands,” Chris McCann explained. “All along the way, the J.P. Morgan team was right there with us.” He went on to say that J.P. Morgan was with them for the long haul, making sure 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. had the lending capabilities and flexibility to grow and innovate.
As it did to many companies, the 2008 recession threatened to disrupt the company’s stellar growth and frustrate its brand expansion and implementation of new technologies. Jim McCann said that during the company’s most challenging years, J.P. Morgan’s support was instrumental in its continued success.
“We went to JPMorgan Chase early [during the recession],” said Jim McCann. “We said ‘we’re concerned with how things are going. What’s your advice?’ That was critical in those couple years that we had to go through the recession.”
Jim McCann said the recession was the biggest challenge they faced as a company, but that having the J.P. Morgan team at their side helped them survive and prosper at the end of it.
That same assistance was essential when the company acquired the gourmet gift company Harry & David. The deep understanding of the 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. business and competitive landscape allowed J.P. Morgan to not only offer strategic and financial advice, but to do so in a way that aligned with the company’s vision. While private equity groups and others advised 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. to minimize capital requirements by selling the agricultural component of Harry & David, that was not in line with what Jim and Chris McCann envisioned.
“J.P. Morgan Chase listened to us when we said, ‘The agriculture is an important part of the authenticity of the brand, Harry & David. We believe it needs to stay a part of the company,’ ” said Chris McCann. “Their response was, ‘If you believe that, we believe it. We’ll finance it.’ ”
In addition to its core business model, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. is also deeply committed to the community and is working on advancing the nonprofit organization the McCann family founded in 2015, Smile Farms, Inc . Through partnerships with other organizations, Smile Farms creates meaningful agricultural work opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.
“It’s more than I could have dreamed of,” Jim McCann said. “And yet, our dreams are growing every day of what it can be and how many lives we can impact with Smile Farms.” The operating ethos at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. remains one of constant re-invention and enhancement. Looking for opportunities in the fifth wave of conversational commerce while also expanding produce innovation and contributing to Smile Farms, the company’s continued success will rely on the relationships it cultivates with its customers and partners.
“We have a mantra in our business,” Chris McCann said. “If you want to really impact someone, you build a relationship first; you do business second. I think we have such a good relationship with JPMorgan Chase because they embrace that same value.”