But his biggest challenge was maintaining efficient inventory. In any place of business where perishable food products are sold, inventory control is critical. Each perishable item represents a temporarily unrealized profit. If an item spoils or cannot be used due to inefficient inventory management, the profit is lost.
The key in spoilage prevention was to pay attention to the condition and shelf life of Edible Arrangements strawberries, melons, and other fresh fruits during their storage period. Welton used a software program to track and time stamp goods with an expiration date. He continues to do projections for the next day, week, and month to determine how much inventory to order and carry.
Big purchases are done only as needed, says Welton, noting that the holidays are the busiest times of the year, especially Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, each of which may call for 1,000 arrangements compared to the 50 arrangements daily on average.
In addition to inventory control, Welton stayed on a tight operating budget, making sure he saved and never overspent on anything—himself included. To grow business, he utilized his three R rule, “‘R to the Third Power’ as I call it: recruit, retain, and recycle. “Recruiting is marketing the business. Whatever way I could work my way into the door—from anniversaries to weddings to birthdays—I would talk about it and try to get the buzz out there,” he explains.
Retaining customers is about sending thank-you letters back to the senders and the recipients of Edible Arrangements and offering $5 off their next purchase in hopes of bringing them back to the store. Recycling involves referring customers to other neighborhood stores.
“I like the idea of carry-over traffic and recycling customers back to other businesses so the whole community can survive.”
Marching forward, Welton will introduce new items, including whole pears, oranges, and fruit baskets to be shipped across the country. Also in the works is an Edible Arrangements kiosk that will open at one of the largest local malls. He plans to set up three kiosks within the next 18 months.