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1-800-Flowers: Retail Is Detail

What Chris McCann learned from his <I>Undercover Boss </I> experience has now become a key focus of 1-800-Flowers' holiday gift selections.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When 1-800-Flowers (FLWS) - Get 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. Class A Report President and COO Chris McCann appeared on the season finale of Undercover Boss, his first job was to make a floral arrangement. Although his inner artist remained buried throughout the task, McCann learned an important lesson about the business from the woman who desperately tried to "train" him: They need to step it up a notch.

In that episode of the


(CBS) - Get CBS Corporation Class B Report

reality show, McCann found out from Pauline, his co-worker at a New Jersey store, that their floral designs have not changed for years. Pauline said she was bored doing the same floral arrangements over and over again, and frustrated that the company wasn't looking into new trends in floral art.

What McCann learned from his

Undercover Boss

experience has now become a key focus of 1-800-Flowers' holiday gift selections. This year, the company is rolling out unique holiday floral arrangements and centerpieces, and expanding its range of gift baskets. Pauline, who has since been brought to corporate headquarters to work on production and development strategies, has one of her new designs included in the upcoming collection.

"We are pleased with our customers' positive reactions to our focus on creating truly original gifts," McCann said in an interview with


. "All are designed to help our customers connect and express themselves with the important people in their lives."

This holiday season, as competition heats up among florists and gift shops, McCann said 1-800-Flowers' edge -- aside from a uniquely broad selection of thoughtful gifts -- is offering a multichannel shopping experience. The company's products are sold in retail stores, online, via mobile devices and through leading social networking sites.

Currently, 1-800-Flowers has 150 franchised and company-owned retail stores, 2,500 domestic affiliates and 1,300 overseas affiliates. While its key business is selling floral arrangements, the company has also acquired other brands to expand its gift offerings, such as

Fannie May

, which produces chocolates;

Cheryl & Co.

, which makes baked goods; the

Popcorn Factory

, which offers popcorn and other snacks in designer tins; and

, which offers wine gifts.

"During my

Undercover Boss

experience, I was reminded that retail is detail," McCann said. "We should build relationships first and then do business second." Realizing the importance of having a relationship with every employee working for its brands, 1-800-Flowers now has a company-wide magazine,


, providing employees with information on industry trends and training programs available to them.

McCann said CEOs and business leaders across all industries would benefit a great deal from going undercover at their organizations. Given the chance, he said, he'd do it again. "I would enjoy being a part of the floral retail shop again. It gives me the opportunity to engage with the customers and see the smiles first hand that we help deliver every day."

Since first appearing on the show, McCann has sent out a number of his managers to visit company shops. They all came back with all sorts of insights. "It is extremely important and undeniably valuable," McCann said, "to experience the front line and fully understand what it takes to get the job done."

As for the impact of actually being on the show, McCann said, seeing an improvement in the company's stock price was an added bonus. 1-800-Flowers' stock saw a jump of about 6% on April 12, the day after the episode aired. "We believe the increase to the stock price was due to the heightened visibility of the brand," McCann said. "Our shareholders were excited about our

Undercover Boss

segment and they shared in our enthusiasm to bring consumers behind the scenes."

Now on its second season,

Undercover Boss

has featured more publicly listed companies. New participants include executives of




Frontier Airlines




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Choice Hotels

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Aside from 1-800-Flowers, last season's episodes featured executives from

Waste Management

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Hooters of America




White Castle


GSI Commerce



Herschend Family Entertainment




Churchill Downs

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McCann, together with the executives from the first season of the show, are featured in a new book,

Undercover Boss: Inside the TV Phenomenon that is Changing Bosses and Employees Everywhere

(Jossey-Bass, November 2010). The book includes tips for going undercover at one's organization.

-- Written by Marilen Cawad in New York

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Marilen Cawad


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