2006 retail florist of the year: First Runner-up

CAAN FLORAL & GREENHOUSES:
the crown jewel
 

The first runner-up in our 2006 “Retail Florist of the Year” contest is a local treasure within a Wisconsin gem of a community.

by Shelley Urban

On the western shore of scenic Lake Michigan lies Sheboygan, Wis., a picturesque burg of approximately 52,000 residents that was selected as one of four Wisconsin “Quality of Life Precious Gems.” While this peaceful community boasts a wealth of lakeside jewels, including coastal vistas, sandy beaches and historic lighthouses, another of its treasures resides a bit inland—the 22-year-old Caan Floral & Greenhouses. This inspirational business was selected as the first runner-up in our 2006 “Retail Florist of the Year” competition, which is co-sponsored by the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA).

When shoppers arrive at Caan Floral & Greenhouses, whether neophyte or seasoned veteran, they’re instantly captivated by waves of colorful bedding plants and lush displays of trees and shrubs that surround each of the three outdoor centers positioned across the expansive 7.5-acre complex. Near its center is a massive 10,000-square-foot greenhouse overflowing with the riches of the seasons as well as adjoining floral and gift shops that together total 6,500 square feet.

Although the business makes a dramatic statement today, its beginnings, in 1984, were far more humble by comparison, with revenues that first year of just $250,000. In 2005, revenues exceeded $4 million. While owner Tom Caan credits his employees’ hard work and exemplary customer service for much of the company’s impressive growth over the years, recently an emphasis on wedding and party work, as well as value-priced cut flower bunches, have broadened the shop’s appeal and contributed to the increased revenues.

 
Caan Floral & Greenhouses: At a Glance
 
 
 
Owner: Tom Caan
Number of shops: 1
Location: Sheboygan, Wis.
Year established: 1984
Clientele: all income levels
Average flower shop sale: $50 to $55
Annual revenues: $4 million, about 40 percent of which is from the flower shop
Shop size: flower shop and gift gallery together span 6,500 square feet; entire complex is 7.5 acres
Number of employees: 35

 
 

marquise plan
When Dave Hein, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, manager of Caan Floral & Greenhouses’ retail flower shop, joined the crew in 2003, the shop was providing floral services for only about 20 weddings per year, and event services were limited. Mr. Caan realized that his floral division, one of six that compose the company, needed to tap new markets to continue to grow, so he hired Mr. Hein with the primary objective of developing new wedding and party business.

In just three short years, Mr. Hein has proven worth his weight in gold, doubling the shop’s weddings each year and working with local resorts and event planners to garner referrals. “We’re now doing around 90 weddings per year, at an average price of around $1,000 each, and our party business is growing as well,” shares Mr. Hein. Floral sales now account for about 40 percent of the company’s total revenues, with weddings generating in excess of $100,000, more than 6 percent of total floral sales.

gold-key service
Mr. Hein attributes the increase in wedding work primarily to a philosophy of customer service that guides him in his contact with brides. “We have one chance to make a wedding sale—the first time we meet brides,” says Mr. Hein. “So when a bride comes in, I make sure she receives my undivided attention.”

If a potential bridal customer arrives without a scheduled consultation, Mr. Hein makes it clear that she is valued, even if he can’t meet with her right away. “If my schedule allows, I’ll meet with her immediately and do a full consultation,” he explains. “But if I don’t have the time to devote my full attention to her, I’ll set an appointment, so I know she’s coming back. No matter how busy I am, I will never let a bride leave the shop without taking a few minutes to talk to her personally.”

Adjacent to the cut flower display cooler, Caan Floral’s consultation room allows quick access to the shop’s trove of florals, so Mr. Hein can easily provide a visual display of specific blossoms, colors and design styles. “I try to get a feel for each bride’s personality and style, and I pull flowers from the cooler based on what I see and what they tell me,” he relates. “I put their desires into words and use the flowers to help paint a picture.”

Before the consultation ends, Mr. Hein also provides a detailed list of the selected flowers and designs, which is complete with a price estimate. And the end result is that 95 percent of brides who consult with Mr. Hein end up booking their weddings with Caan Floral.

Mr. Hein says that most of the shop’s weddings are scheduled during May and June and August through October, primarily due to cold temperatures throughout most of the rest of the year, except July, which must be too hot for this typically chilly locale. This limited wedding season means that Mr. Hein and his small wedding design staff—usually just one or two employees—are booked solid during the busy months.

“We often have five to seven weddings each weekend,” he reports. Despite the busy schedule, Mr. Hein says that the Caan Floral crew is always “on top of all the details,” and every event is delivered as promised.

“That’s part of building our reputation, and brides are now coming to us based on it,” he notes. “They’re also hearing and seeing that, from the time they enter our shop until they walk down the aisle, we go the extra mile to serve them and meet their needs.”

competing with the mass market
Another reputation-building tool comes in the form of budget-friendly consumer bunches. Offered under Caan Floral’s “Casual Living Flowers” brand name, these bunches are intended to recapture cut flower sales from discount and mass-market competitors. They range in stem count from two to 10, depending on the product. However, the price always remains the same: one bunch for $5.99 and three bunches for $12.99.

Year-round, the selection includes Alstroemerias, Gerberas, lilies and chrysanthemums, and seasonal offerings, such as bulb flowers in spring, complement the traditional staples when available.

While the shop keeps the margins slim, with a 2.2-time markup on three-bunch sales and a 2.8-time markup on the single bunches, the growing sales volume is promising. “In addition to the other cut flower bouquets and bunches we sell, we are now moving some 200 ‘Casual Living Flowers’ bunches each week,” Mr. Hein reports.

Even with the modest markup, Caan Floral relies on its local wholesaler, Green Bay’s Bill Doran Company, to keep product flowing at this low price point. “Since we wanted to compete with mass marketers, who typically offer value-priced bouquets in five-stem bunches, we had to ask if we could get products packaged that way, and if they could meet our price point,” notes Mr. Hein.

It took some effort on their part, but the folks at Bill Doran found a way, with products assembled by growers in the varying stem counts and at prices that worked for Mr. Hein. “When Dave asked about consumer bunches,” explains Jenifer Denis, manager of Bill Doran’s Green Bay location, “we did some research to find ways to make it happen, and we worked with growers on packaging to get products and stem counts to meet his needs.”

Of course, as Mr. Hein points out, suppliers are willing to go to great lengths for good customers. “We buy nothing direct,” he confides, “so I know that if I want something, all I have to do is ask, and they’ll do everything possible to get the job done.”

the Caan difference
Undoubtedly, the value price and recognized quality of the Caan product entices buyers, but, as Mr. Hein points out, Caan Floral’s customers select the shop for other reasons as well. One may be the company’s extensive advertising and marketing campaign, with which customers seem to connect. “We spend only about 2 percent to 2.5 percent of our gross revenues on advertising, but our regular tagline—‘Experience the Caan Difference’—is building the brand,” confirms Mr. Hein.

But perhaps the greatest difference, which is visible and effective across all Caan Floral divisions, is what Mr. Hein simply describes as their “smiles.” Following Mr. Caan’s lead, staff members create a welcoming and customer-oriented atmosphere for everyone who enters the facility through any of its four access points.

“We’re 100 percent customer focused, and customers come here for that. They want excellent care and service, and we provide it,” assures Mr. Hein.

And that definitely makes a difference for brides as well as for the flower shop’s other customers, whose business continues to contribute to a strong and growing company that has made itself a priceless treasure in the midst of this gem of a community.


You may contact Contributing Editor Shelley Urban at surban@floristsreview.com.

     


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