2012 Retail Florist of the Year

DR DELPHINIUM
DESIGNS & EVENTS


Unparalleled service and a strong focus on its core business lead this shop to succeed.
Co-owners Charles and Dayna Ingrum have offices in the design facility, which is located in an industrial area just a few minutes from the main shop. 

Photo by Jason Janik.

by Shelley Urban

“When customers walk into Dr Delphinium Designs & Events, the displays really invite them to buy. I don’t think you could walk into the store and not want to buy,” shares wholesale florist Jim Parks, president of J.B. Parks Wholesale Florist in Dallas, Texas. So it’s no coincidence that this shop, also in Dallas, won the award for “Outstanding Merchandising and Display” in last year’s “Retail Florist of the Year” contest. (Read more about that in our August 2011 issue.) But this year, co-owners Charles and Dayna Ingrum and their staff took home the top prize as this year’s Retail Florist of the Year.

J.B. Parks Wholesale Florist, as well as Botanica Wholesale Florist in Irving, Texas, nominated the florist for the contest, which is co-sponsored by Florists’ Review and the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA).

from software to floral wares
The original store, called Dr Delphinium Designs, was founded in 1988 and was highly regarded in its affluent neighborhood. A decade later, the business was purchased by an investment group, which was targeting topnotch flower shops in the hopes of creating a premiere national chain under the name Gerald Stevens. Unfortunately, that endeavor failed.

Wonderful mixes of fresh-cut flowers, displayed in color blocks on the showroom floor, invite walk-in customers to experience them. 

Photo by Jason Janik.

Later, the longtime landlord of the plum location purchased the floral business out of bankruptcy. And, despite that Mr. Ingrum, a software developer, had no floral experience whatsoever, the new owner hired him to serve as general manager. During that time, which lasted about six months, Mr. Ingrum “fell in love with the business and decided to buy it” in 2003.

However, under Gerald Stevens ownership, the respected shop’s reputation took a hit. “We had some ground to make up and some things to fix,” Mr. Ingrum concedes.

So he made it his business to learn everything he could. “Back in those days, FTD had fantastic training for those new to the industry, and I also participated in Teleflora’s RTI conferences and SAF [Society of American Florists] and Texas State Florists’ Association meetings,” recalls Mr. Ingrum.

Through these experiences and nine years of on-the-job training, Mr. Ingrum has moved way beyond the missteps of past owners. The company even has expanded to a second satellite location, in Dallas’ Medical City hospital, and added a 10,000-square-foot design facility, which is in an industrial area about 10 minutes from the flagship store.

Mr. Ingrum has also put in place processes for efficiency, cost control, services and more. “Our processes are fantastic, and I’m really proud of them along with our brand and reputation that we’ve worked hard to build,” he shares. In addition, he says everything’s open to modification: “We have created an organizational culture that continues to grow and adapt. We are not shy about making changes to processes or people.”

outstanding customer care
While processes are critical to running a tight ship, perhaps one of the shop’s most noteworthy processes is something that involves little process at all. “There are absolutely no rules for this,” Mr. Ingrum says, describing Dr Delphinium’s customer satisfaction policies.

Meridith McCaslin, part of the “special services” team, replaces flowers in a display of green and white blossoms. Every stem in the shops is evaluated twice daily and discarded if they do not appear fresh. 

Photo by Jason Janik.

Customer care starts with a “no questions asked” return policy, which means customers can return items for any reason. For example, Mr. Ingrum says, a woman once called about flowers that her husband had purchased for her. She said she liked them, but they didn’t match the drapes. “So our reaction,” Mr. Ingrum relates, “is to say, ‘We’re so sorry. We will be happy to deliver another arrangement to you today.’ Our policy,” he adds, “is 100% customer satisfaction, and we stand behind that.”

The shop also allows its sales staff, who account for about 30 of the 48 full-time employees, to utilize $250 in “customer satisfaction cash” per customer that can be used to regain the trust of dissatisfied customers or to cement relationships with good customers. The program was implemented in 2006.

For example, Mr. Ingrum shares, “If we made a mistake, the money could be used to give a gift to say that we are sorry.” But, he explains, it’s also useful for demonstrating the shop’s exceptional level of personal service.

“If we had an assistant who always ordered flowers on behalf of her boss but then, on her birthday, no one sent her anything, we could use the money to deliver her a small cake or flowers or both.” Another example he gives is that of a customer who calls in to order flowers and mentions, several times, that her son loves a particular balloon. “We don’t sell balloons,” Mr. Ingrum describes, “so we would have to go ‘above and beyond’ to make that happen. And we can do that. That’s what the money is really there for,” he assures.

Potted orchids, placed in stylish containers and often accessorized for gift giving, are a shop speciality. The selection typically includes Oncidium, Mokara and other hard-to-find specimens.

Sales staff don’t need approval to take these “above and beyond” measures although, as Mr. Ingrum points out, “someone else has to hand them the money [to cover the expenses], so we keep everyone honest.” He says that the key to truly exceeding customer expectations is to “hire smart people and make sure they understand that they will not get in trouble for doing something [to serve] customers, but they may get in trouble for not doing something.”

Approximately 80 percent to 85 percent of Dr Delphinium’s sales are phone orders, so exceptional phone and listening skills are critical to successful service. The two-week training period for all sales staff helps fine-tune those skills. “New sales staff have to learn the point-of-sale system; our customer service policies; current menu items; flower care; and they also do stints with delivery, design, buyers, and corporate and event sales. It’s a busy two weeks,” Mr. Ingrum confides.

focused sales staff
In addition to traditional “in-store” sales staff, Dr Delphinium employs two “outside” sales staff, who are dedicated to serving corporate clients, and two additional salespeople, plus a support staff member, who are dedicated to building special event business. Approximately 35 percent of the shop’s sales are corporate, and designers complete about 125 weddings each year. The latter typically range in price from $2,500 to $3,000.

While these salespeople have desks and come to work at the “headquarters” in the design center, they set their own hours and make their own appointments, and they’re compensated on a commission basis. “Having a staff [whose sole function] is to grow this business is what makes it so successful,” Mr. Ingrum assures.

But, it’s more than that, says Burak Sarigollu, managing partner of Botanica Wholesale Florist. “What impresses me most is their ability to produce massive quantities of creative work with ease, which says a lot about not only their continuous eagerness to think outside the box but also how successful they have been in applying practical solutions to unconventional problems.” Now that’s what brides and event organizers want to hear!

An incredible selection of green plants, displayed in a sunny window on rustic shelving, is hard for walk-in customers to resist.

fresh “giftware”
Dr Delphinium is perhaps best known for its spectacular array of fresh flowers and enticing arrangements that are available on a “menu” that changes fives times each year. Fresh flowers and arrangements account for 85 percent of in-store sales.

Also in the stores is an incredible selection of green and blooming plants, which account for about 13 percent of everyday sales. The remaining 2 percent of in-store sales is gifts although the shop doesn’t focus much on traditional giftware.

However, notes Mr. Ingrum, “Our large variety of green and blooming plants are typically purchased as gifts.” Plants are always “dressed” for the occasion in stylish ceramics or quality baskets, so they are ready for gifting. Orchids of all types are a Dr Delphinium specialty, but a wealth of other planted wares are always on hand as well. Generally, prices range from $35 to $250.

During the holiday season, the shop’s specialty shifts a bit to potted amaryllises, which are grown in the greenhouse that sits behind the main location. According to Mr. Ingrum, the homegrown plants are part of the company’s core business and a source of Dr Delphinium pride. “We plant around 700 bulbs each year, and we believe that we can produce a better product than we can purchase,” he states.

He notes that the bulbs are imported from Holland and, over the years, have been pared down to varieties that work especially well. “We plant them in October, and it’s exciting to watch them sprout and grow,” Mr. Ingrum shares. Although a few are “harvested” for use in the shops when needed, most are packaged and sold as gifts; a 6-inch plant starts at $35—in its “undressed” state—and goes up from there depending on the container and other upgrades.

Regardless of the season, the shop’s average sale runs around $106, not including tax and delivery. And, in keeping with its customer care mentality, no minimum order is required for delivery.

Members of the design team, along with co-owners Charles and Dayna Ingrum (center, front), celebrate Dr Delphinium’s “Retail Florist of the Year” award at the company’s design facility.

multiple marketing messages
Sprouting bulbs and well-dressed plants are great fodder for social media marketing, which is just one of the tools employed by Dr Delphinium. According to Mr. Ingrum, email marketing is the most effective tool, but “targeting direct mail to existing customers is also very effective,” he adds.

Dr Delphinium’s social media “voice,” which is upbeat and supplemented with wonderful photos, typically of flowers, plants and arrangements, is actually a composite of seven staff members who contribute Facebook and Twitter posts several times daily. “We didn’t want to add too much to anyone’s plate,” Mr. Ingrum shares, “and if someone is not able to contribute during a particular week, we can still be up and running.”

Although he admits the shop is still “experimenting with the best topics” for social media, Mr. Ingrum notes, “We generally post behind-the-scenes information, event installations, flower facts, holiday information and anything else we think would be interesting to our customers.”

The main shop, in the tony Highland Park neighborhood, is in a premium location to serve its affluent clientele. 

Photos by Jason Janik.

true professionals
Of course, seeing it on the screen is nothing like actually experiencing it in person. As Mr. Parks points out, Dr Delphinium is a feast for the senses. “They really do it right. They know how to display flowers, and they display the right ones all together, so they look great,” he gushes. “And they do a tremendous job with plants, too,” he adds.

They’re the consummate professionals as well, relates Mr. Sarigollu. “Working with Dr Delphinium Designs & Events is a joy because of their level of professionalism, which, I am sure, translates into the tremendous success they’ve had capturing the hearts and minds of their clients,” he assures.

And both wholesalers agree that the florist’s care for its customers, which is evident in all interactions, both in the stores and on the phone, is critical to its long-term success. Mr. Parks sums it up best: “They always say ‘we can’ instead of ‘we can’t,’ and that’s what customers are looking for.” ■

Contact Shelley Urban at surban@floristsreview.com or (800) 367-4708.

wholesale florist partners
With the contest now in its 10th year, this is only the second time that the winning retailer, Dr Delphinium Designs & Events in Dallas, Texas, was nominated by two members of the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA), which co-sponsors the “Retail Florist of the Year” contest with Florists’ Review. Both wholesale suppliers cited the florist’s professionalism and service to its customers as reasons for their nominations for this prestigious award.

J.B. Parks Wholesale Florist, in Dallas, specializes in sourcing unusual, high-end cut flowers for weddings and special events and has been supplying Dr Delphinium since 2003, when co-owners Charles and Dayna Ingrum purchased the business.

J.B. Parks Wholesale Florist was founded in 1935 by J.B. Parks and is now operated by his son, Jim Parks, who serves as the company president. Mr. Parks shares that his company is proud to serve the Dr Delphinium floral shops in any way possible. “Like we do with many of our good customers, we’ll deliver six times a day, and we’ll source hard-to-find items and help them in whatever ways we can,” he confirms.

The other nominating supplier, Botanica Wholesale Florist in Irving, Texas, was founded in 1999 and prides itself on serving “an elite group of florists and special-event designers in the United States,” according to the company’s website. Botanica Wholesale has been serving Dr Delphinium for a number of years but, since the wholesale florist moved closer to the retailer’s bustling location in 2008, is now able to supply products on a moment’s notice.

According to Botanica Wholesale’s Managing Partner Burak Sarigollu, the relationship is an important alliance. “We have always had a healthy and joyful business relationship with Dr Delphinium, and we are very comfortable knowing that we are dealing with a company that possesses a deep knowledge of flowers and the market in general,” he shares.

Likewise, Mr. Ingrum values the relationships with his local suppliers. “Our wholesalers are vital to our service to our customers. Having product available locally enables us to deliver fantastic product quickly. For events,” he adds, “they work with unique orders and are able to get specific flowers that we would not be able to get [otherwise]. Also, in everyday and event business, orders are becoming more last minute, and our wholesalers enable us to sell and produce these events.”

For more information about J.B. Parks Wholesale Florist, call (800) JB-PARKS (527-2757), or visit www.jbparks.com. For more information about Botanica Wholesale Florist, call (972) 313-9445, or visit www.botanicawf.com.

To learn more about the “Retail Florist of the Year” contest, visit www.floristsreview.com, or contact us at (800) 367-4708. Visit the website of our co-sponsor, WF&FSA, at www.wffsa.org, or call (888) 289-3372.

 

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