Fresh cut flowers can be given as gifts at many different holidays and occasions. The wholesale value of domestic cut flower production was $403 million in 2008 (USDA, 2009). Still, imported cut flowers account for a greater percentage of U.S. sales; in 2003 (most recent available data), the value of imported cut flowers was $611 million, but domestic production was valued at $425 million (USDA, 2005). Flowers promote self-esteem and satisfy the need for aesthetically pleasing surroundings (Krech et al., 1969). Recent studies reinforced the premise that flowers and plants have psychological, emotional, behavioral, and environmental benefits. Haviland-Jones et al. (2005) found that flowers as gifts had positive effects on people's emotion, mood, social behavior, and even immediate and long-term memory.
Flower color is a primary product attribute for combination planters (Mason et al., 2008), edible flowers (Kelley et al., 2001, 2002), geraniums (Behe et al., 1999), and poinsettias (Redman et al., 1997). Robertson and Chatfield (1982) published some of the early consumer research that provided evidence that red flower color was preferred by men and pastel colors by women. This was especially true for roses (Hutchison and Robertson, 1979). Both men and women preferred red geraniums (Behe et al., 1999) and poinsettias (Redman et al., 1997), but there was a significant market for a hypothetical blue geranium (Behe et al., 1999).
Consumers have attributed meanings and symbolism to flower colors and they use different flower colors to convey different feelings, which somehow may guide consumers' choice of different colors of flowers at different occasions. Attributing meaning to certain flower colors may have begun in Victorian times. Traditionally, red has conveyed passionate love and affection; pink—grace, gentility, and happiness; orange—energy, enthusiasm, and warmth; purple—dignity, pride, and success; white—innocence, humility, and reverence; yellow—joy, lightheartedness, and friendship; and blue—peace, openness, and serenity (Anonymous, 2008). Doyle et al. (1994) studied how people connected six meanings with particular arrangements of flowers and found that participants reliably associated three arrangements with particular meanings. For instance, three red roses were particularly appropriate to convey the messages “I love you” and “I apologize,” but three yellow carnations and three white daisy sprays were inappropriate in conveying these messages. Birren (1940, 1972, 1988) associated different flower colors with different personalities: long-wavelength colors such as red and orange indicate extroverted personalities and short-wave colors such as blue and violet indicate introverted personalities. Red is a commonly used color at Christmas and most consumers preferred red poinsettias (Redman et al., 1997).
A better understanding of consumers' preferences for cut flower colors and their purchasing patterns and behaviors at various calendar holidays and noncalendar occasions can help retailers more effectively merchandise certain flower colors for certain events and potentially increase their sales, market share, price per transaction, or profitability. However, there is little insight with regard to consumer choices of flower colors at different calendar and noncalendar occasions. This study helps to fill this gap.
Consumers' choice of different colors is motivated by and depends on the flower receivers' (buyer's own or gift recipients') latent degree of satisfaction that is derived from the particular colors at different occasions (Greene, 2002; Yue and Behe, 2008). In theory, consumers chose the flower color that gave the giver and recipient the highest latent degree of satisfaction. Although latent satisfaction cannot be observed, flower color choice can be.
Behe, B., Nelson, R., Barton, S., Hall, C., Safley, C.D. & Turner, S. 1999 Consumer preferences for geranium flower color, leaf variegation, and price HortScience 34 740 742
Behe, B.K., Walden, R.M., Duck, M., Cregg, B., Kelley, K. & Lineberger, R.D. 2005 Consumer preferences for and cost of production of tabletop Christmas trees HortScience 40 409 412
Haviland-Jones, J., Holly, H.R., Wilson, P. & McGuire, T.R. 2005 An environmental approach to positive emotion: Flowers Ecol. Psychol. 3 104 132
Kelley, K.M., Behe, B.K., Biernbaum, J.A. & Poff, K.L. 2001 Consumer preference for edible flower color, container size, and price HortScience 36 801 804
Kelley, K.M., Behe, B.K., Biernbaum, J.A. & Poff, K.L. 2002 Combinations of colors & species of containerized edible flowers: Effect on consumer preferences HortScience 37 218 221
Mason, S., Starman, T., Lineberger, R.D. & Behe, B.K. 2008 Consumer preferences for price, color harmony and care information of container gardens HortScience 43 380 384
Saito, M. 1998 Comparative studies on color preference in Japan and other Asian regions, with special emphasis on the preference for white Color Res. Appl. 21 35 49
USDA 2005 Floriculture and nursery crops situation and outlook yearbook 15 July 2009 <http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/Flo/Jun04/FLO2004.pdf>.
USDA 2009 Floriculture crops 2008 summary 15 July 2009 <http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/FlorCrop/FlorCrop-04-23-2009.pdf>.
Yue, C. & Tong, C. 2009 Organic or local? Investigating consumer preference for fresh produce using a choice experiment with real economic incentives HortScience 44 366 371