1-800-Flowers.com hopes for blooming mobile sales

Initiative with Verizon Wireless starting soon, founder says

1-800-Flowers.com started life (as its name might remind you) as a florist-by-phone service. It hit the Internet in 1992 to retail flowers, and has since expanded to sell candy, popcorn and other items, as well as marketing itself as a provider of "content about celebrations" such as birthdays and anniversaries. Now the service is returning to its origins, after a fashion: Its next move is to reach customers over the wireless Internet, founder and CEO Jim McCann told reporters and analysts on Friday.

At a press event, McCann announced that 1-800-Flowers.com soon will expand an existing communications services relationship with Verizon Business to include another unit of Verizon Communications, Verizon Wireless. "Customers are accessing us with the wireless device," but they are often is in the 30-and-over age group, he said.

According to McCann, to reach potential customers aged 15 to 30 -- a group that more commonly uses mobile services -- 1-800-Flowers.com's wares have to sell at a lower price, and the purchases have to be made more immediate. But that's doable. "We can change our business radically," he said.

1-800-Flowers.com already spends about US$25 million a year on IT, one-fourth which goes to Verizon Business for communications products and services. In light of the company's interest in working with Verizon Wireless, McCann said he has talked to Verizon officials about making its services to his company "more cohesive" than in the past, bringing together divisions between the wireless units and wire-line and business units.

And it isn't just the online floral service that is encouraging Verizon to pool its resources. Several Verizon officials said they see the need to have their various products and services marketed in a combined way, and the company is making efforts to accomplish that.

For example, John Stratton holds a corporate chief marketing officer position overseeing Verizon's business, wireless and wire-line operations. Also, Nancy Gofus, the chief marketing officer for the business division, said Verizon is exploring ways to offer services for companies that have home-based workers needing help desk support for consumer Digital Subscriber Line and other services.

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