Off and Running

Eight tips to make it through the May marathon.
  by Teresa P. Lanker


Spring has sprung, and you are on the verge of a highly hectic season. Increased sales spurred by Mother’s Day are practically a given. Factor in May proms, graduations and weddings, along with a Memorial Day finale, and the month is something of a marathon. Follow these tips to get off and running.

  1. Make over the staff. Provide refresher training for staff, emphasizing your shop’s goals and priorities. Consider cross-training employees who usually assume singular roles so they are able to fill in where needed during rush periods.

  2. Label everything. Reduce the need for sales assistance by using well-placed signs that deliver clear messages about products and prices. Start with the display cooler, making sure customers can decipher flower names as well as prices for stems, bouquets and bunches. Use signs to suggest popular choices, such as “Mom will love a mixed spring bunch.” Add signs nearby that explain delivery options and fees. Consider signs also to direct customers through the shop and into lines designated for order placement, pickup and payment.

  3. Encourage early birds. Offer customers incentives to order early or pick up their orders. Incentives can include discount coupons, gifts with purchase or future flower freebies that encourage preplanning and flexibility.

  4. Bring in the troops. Support a local Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts troop by involving them on high-traffic days to direct parking-lot traffic, carry customer packages, greet guests, be delivery runners or help with outdoor sales.

  5. Take a number. Keep the sales area organized and promote a first-come, first-served sales process by using a traditional take-a-number system. Get creative with the numbering format; for instance, distribute numbered chocolates, lemonade cups, or other simple take home trinkets (like individual spray chrysanthemum blooms) that make the wait more fun.

  6. Let customers help. Make it possible for customers to help themselves as much as possible. Keep the flower cooler accessible with signs that encourage shoppers to open the doors. Provide order forms with starred blanks for delivery customers to fill in while waiting in line. Make it clear what forms of payment you accept and what type of identification you require so customers can be ready for you when you’re ready for them.

  7. Map your course. Prepare weekly and daily plans for what needs to be accomplished. Assign tasks to individuals or teams, and hold the staff responsible for completing the tasks in a timely manner. Regroup every couple of days to make sure things are on track. Modify your plans as circumstances change so that the highest priorities are always at the top of the “to do” list.

  8. Dangle a carrot. Offer incentives to motivate employees through each stage of the race. Use your knowledge of employee dynamics to determine whether competitive or independent motivators would be most effective. Plan special rewards the entire staff can look forward to when the month is over, like a paid day off, a personal massage or a celebration lunch. For the ultimate race-end reward, provide medals for all of your successful marathoners.

Teresa P. Lanker is chair of the horticultural technologies division and coordinator of floral design and marketing technology at The Ohio State University ATI.

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