“A customer is a blessing.”
That was the mantra of Edible Arrangements founder Tariq Farid’s first business partner—his mother. The two worked side-by-side at Farid’s Flowers, a sliver of a shop in East Haven, Connecticut that Farid opened in 1985, when he was just 16.
“Customers would come in and place orders for $50 or $75 dollars,” he says, “And she would say, ‘People don’t have to spend money on flowers. They’re making $8 or $10 an hour. You have to take good care of people who are giving you their hard-earned money.’”
“That’s how I grew up,” he says.
That obsession with taking good care of the customer, combined with Farid’s ingenuity and entrepreneurial drive, led to a string of innovations that enhanced the customer experience, and in the process grew the bottom line.
Long before fast delivery was a competitive necessity, Farid pioneered flowers in an hour. With today’s algorithms and GPS technology, that doesn’t seem so remarkable, but back then, Farid’s employees would load products into vans equipped with CB radios. When an order came in, they’d look at a map and figure out which van was closest and radio that driver to deliver the order.
“On Valentine’s Day, you could place an order with us and 15 minutes later, we’d be walking in with a box of roses,” Farid says. “Customers thought, ‘Wow. How'd you do that so fast?’ Well, because we had vans driving around with 100 boxes of roses in them.”
Long before people started talking about multi-channel retail, Farid saw the opportunity where others only saw threat. When 1-800-Flowers became one of the first retailers to match a product name with a toll-free number, “Everybody thought, ‘That's it. The days of people buying from flower shops are over,’” he says. “What happened was people were calling 1-800-Flowers, but then they needed the local florist to do the delivery, so those orders started coming through us.”
Farid built his own electronic point of sale (POS) system even before they were in widespread use. “As soon as I started the floral shop, the first thing I did was put everything on a computer my father bought me on a layaway plan,” he says. “It had two floppy disks, one with the program file and the other with the data file. I created my own website and POS system, and started to sell POS systems in 1988. That turned out to be a bigger business than the floral business, and so we also got into the IT business.”
Farid sold the POS company in 1997, and with the proceeds of that sale along with a small bank loan, Farid founded Edible Arrangements in 1999. Over the past two decades, the company has evolved into an iconic fruit bouquet franchise that specialises in fresh fruit arrangements with designs inspired by the floral business.
As he expanded the company to 1,200 stores, Farid also assembled an IT team to build technology for franchisees and store operations. One nut they couldn’t crack: payments. For that, Farid turned to Amazon Pay.
“What I've always loved about Amazon is the convenience,” he says. “But when I went to my developers and said, ‘Hey, I want to do one-click checkout,’ they had all these compliance challenges and reasons why it couldn't be done.”
Edible Arrangements first launched Amazon Pay within its internal marketplace to make it easier for franchises to buy supplies. “They didn't have to have their credit card, and we didn't have to save that credit card data,” he says. A couple months later, the company rolled out Amazon Pay on its customer-facing website.
“It's been one of the best collaborations we've experienced,” Farid says. “The best part is the knowledge sharing. All my career I’ve tried to learn from other businesses that were doing things in a way that was a little bit smarter. I’ve never had people from banks explaining how things work, and what we can do to protect ourselves from fraud. And it feeds into our culture of being customer-centred. If we can give customers that convenience, we want to do it.”
Despite his talent for powering businesses with technology, Farid says he remains a florist at heart. And as Edible Arrangements has taken off, Farid says he continues to take his mother’s mantra to heart that every customer is a blessing.
“It’s not that we don’t think about money,” he says. “But some of those special moments when you take care of customers, they remember forever, and the moments stay with you forever. And customers will gladly pay you a premium for the service they receive.”
This Valentine’s Day, as you shop for that special someone, be sure to visit the Edible Arrangements website.