CEO's Corner: Valentine's Day chat with 1-800-FLOWERS' McCann

Psst! It's Valentine's Day again. Time to go shopping for that yummy box of chocolates or perfect bouquet of flowers, make a dinner reservation, or plan whatever else your heart desires.

This year, however, those struck by Cupid's arrow are planning more economical ways to say "I love you" to that special someone. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend $20 less on Valentine's Day this year than they did a year ago. In a press release, NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin said, "A bad economy won't stop Cupid this Valentine's Day, but it might slow him down."

Even so, retailers are hoping to cash in on the big day.

In DailyFinance's first edition of CEO's Corner, I talked with 1-800-FLOWERS (FLWS) CEO Jim McCann about Valentine's Day, the faltering economy and entrepreneurship.

Q: Your company recently reported fiscal second-quarter earnings that came in $5.1 million lighter than the same period a year ago. How is 1-800-FLOWERS faring during this economy?
A: It was a more challenging quarter than we're used to with the Christmas holiday quarter. But being able to be as profitable as it was, was a good victory for us. . . in fact we finished the quarter with over $50 million in cash.

Jim McCannQ: Has the recession forced you to reconsider pricing in time for Valentine's Day?
A: Not only do we work with a much sharper pencil in terms of our pricing, but we've introduced a whole line of new value-priced products [including the Happy Hour and Everything Cupcake collections] so that people who don't have a lot of disposable income at the moment, can still express themselves in a very special, very meaningful, very personal and emotional way to the people that they care about in their lives.

Q: You recently announced a number of cost-cutting measures including job cuts. As an entrepreneur yourself, what advice would you offer to unemployed workers who may be considering entrepreneurship?
A: I'd highly encourage people who are displaced from corporate employment to consider an entrepreneurial venture. What I'd encourage them to do is always assume the worst in terms of the economic future, always be prepared to overestimate how much they need in terms of cash reserves and to be very frugal about how they get into business.

Q: What would you say are the key items that need to be addressed to get our economy back on track?
A: I think the stimulus package should be all about stimulating job creation and lowering the barriers to people hiring in terms of the tax rates, bureaucracy and the back-end difficulties of hiring people.

Q: What is your philosophy on business?
A: I'm more of a florist than a businessman. As a florist, it's pretty magical what our product can do for people -- for their life -- for their emotions -- for the environment . . . It's not about the debits and credits. It's about the emotions -- the impact we have on people's lives. If you do that really well, the debits and credits will take care of themselves.

Stay tuned for more CEO's Corner interviews with executives from some of the world's leading brands.

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