send sales soaring
Seven ideas for inflating balloon sales.
By Teresa P. Lanker
Do customers come to your shop specifically to buy balloons, or are balloons usually add-ons to flower sales? In many shops, balloons are either overlooked or underappreciated, and little thought is given to their marketability. That’s a shame, considering balloons’ tremendous profit potential.
I’m a great believer that flower shops should focus first and foremost on selling flowers. But balloons are such a natural extension of the floral gift line, and, as a florist, you should find it relatively easy to gain a competitive edge over other balloon retailers. The key is to combine your artistic skills with a focused marketing effort. Consider these ideas.
1. Expand your horizons. Strive to offer the best selection of balloon types, sizes and colors in town. Consider expanding your mix to include oversized and undersized variations, novelty foil shapes, multidimensional foil balloons, clear “plastic” (Bubble) balloons, imprinted latex and even pencil balloons. Since uninflated balloons are relatively small and have a reasonably long shelf life, it’s easy to keep a vast array on hand. Just be sure to arrange your balloon inventory in an organized manner so you can always find what you need.
2. Show your stuff. Keep your balloon inventory where customers can see your choices. Specially designed balloon display units are useful, but they won’t likely hold all the choices in an expanded line. Balloon portfolios or binders make good countertop sales tools and allow individual binders to be used to display balloons for specific occasions. Your best bet to attract attention to a vast balloon line, though, is a wall display of air-inflated samples. If a display of this kind seems out of place with your shop décor, consider confining the balloons to a separate room or area.
3. Tell the world. Make sure potential customers recognize your shop as the balloon specialist in town. List your business under “Balloons” in the Yellow Pages and/or online directories. Mention balloons or balloon artistry as one of your services in all advertising. Display a balloon bouquet every day inside or outside the shop, and use balloons frequently in window displays. Have latex balloons printed with the shop name and a catchy phrase (such as “Bloomington’s Best Balloons”), and give them away to children who visit the store.
4. Pump up the latex. Most balloon businesses focus on foil balloons. But for just pennies apiece, latex balloons afford a significantly higher profit margin. For that reason, push latex balloon sales alone or in combination with foils and other novelties. A simple way to sell more latex balloons is to include them in balloon bouquet “packages”, such as a $19.95 “party” bouquet containing two or three foil balloons and several latex balloons. Another sales generator is to include a surprise store coupon inside at least one latex balloon in every order.
5. Do tricks. Set your shop apart from other balloon retailers by adding balloons inside balloons, confetti or “gumball”-filled balloons, poodle-shaped pencil balloons and the like. Add floral elements to balloons such as rose petals dropped inside or daisies glued to the outside. Create air-inflated balloon “characters” using similar techniques to those used for “smiley mums” and other floral novelties. Be sure to post a menu of your balloon “tricks.” Attend a balloon design class occasionally in order to expand your balloon trick repertoire.
6. Anchor the sale. Provide options for basic sand weights and other more deluxe balloon anchors to add style and personality to your balloon creations. Commercially available balloon anchors are a good start, but using shop giftware and packaging materials can expand your choices. Include items such as bags of potpourri, miniature bags of candy, small vases of marbles, clear boutonniere boxes with decorative soaps, and even small plush toys and figurines. For an inexpensive option, keep a bowl of apples on the sales counter to use as weights (pierce the balloon ribbon into the apple with a greening pin).
7. Provide service with speed. Standardize balloon inflation procedures in order to maximize efficiency. Keep all supplies organized in an area near the helium tank(s). Invest in one or more quality inflators or balloon sizers so that inflation can be done quickly. Keep precut lengths of balloon ribbon at hand. Locate the balloon production area where customers can view and participate in the process. Make the selection and assembly process quick and easy for the customer and the salesperson so that balloon sales become a desirable experience for everyone.
Teresa P. Lanker is assistant professor and chair for the Horticultural Technologies Division and coordinator of Floral Design and Marketing at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.