Dancing for Dollars

10 tips for a profitable prom season
  by Teresa P. Lanker

     It’s almost prom time — when giddy girls and awkward boys fret and fantasize over fashions, flowers and formal finery and when florists fret and sweat over stacks of overly detailed bouquet, corsage and boutonniere orders.

     Now is a good time to enhance your prom procedures and marketing methods. Here are 10 tips to start you on your way.

  1. Sell your shop all year long. Create shop visibility among the high-school crowd throughout the year. Get involved with school clubs and activities. Sponsor a team or student organization. Place ads in school newspapers and yearbooks. Present in-school floral demonstrations, or participate in a school style show or theatrical production. Distribute timely discount coupons prior to all flower-related functions.

    Then, two or three weeks before the proms take place, arrange with school officials to set up booths at the schools for an hour or so a day to show examples of your prom creations (maybe using permanent flowers) as well as the latest varieties of fresh roses, orchids and other popular prom flowers. Perhaps you can contract with one of the schools’ student organizations to man the booths and take orders for you, with a portion of the sales donated to the organizations.

  2. Get on the prom committee. Volunteer your time and services as a member of, or advisor to, the prom committee. Offer free consulting services or prop use as well as low-cost enhancements to the prom décor. Use your influence to suggest that prom dates be scheduled at nonholiday times. You may have to beg your way on board, but once the committee sees all you have to offer, they’ll be begging to have you back for years to come.

  3. Keep up with prom fashions. Pick up copies of teen/prom fashions magazines, visit prom-related Web sites or pass through the evening-wear sections of department stores. Pay attention to style trends for not only gowns but tuxedos, too. Prepare some trendy bouquet, corsage and boutonniere design concepts based on the latest looks.

    For instance, with the current domination of strapless and embellished single-strap gowns, be ready to offer plenty of ideas for bouquets to carry and for flowers worn in places other than the shoulder such as on wrists and arms, at the waist, in the hair, around the neck or ankle, and more.

  4. Organize at the point of sale. Prepare samples using permanent flowers. Establish specific flower counts and combinations for bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres at various price points.

  5. Hand tie and glue. Whether the prom flower trend in your area is currently focused on corsages or bouquets, aim to reduce design time by gluing corsages and boutonnieres (using liquid floral adhesive, not hot-melt, low-temp or pot-melt glue) and hand-tying bouquets or assembling them in bouquet holders. Most designers can create glued corsages, hand-tied bouquets and bouquets in holders in one-half to one-third the time it takes to wire, tape and assemble the same designs.

  6. Require payment in advance. By collecting payment at the time of sale, you won’t get caught on prom night with a cooler full of orders that were never picked up. Be sure to clearly communicate cancellation policies, though, or you may have prom drop-outs looking for refunds the week after.

  7. Get in line. If a team of designers is available for prom work, put a simple assembly line in place. Choose the flowers and accessories for every order, and pass them to a staff member who wires and tapes each and then passes them to the designer who assembles the blooms, adding foliage, ribbon and embellishments as needed. Packaging is the final step on the assembly line.

  8. Stand up as long as you can stand it! Corsage and boutonniere construction often inspires designers to take a seat. A sitting position, however, is not conducive to efficient production. When seated, designers tend to rest their arms or elbows on the table, or they partially recline into a comfortable position. The result is a significant reduction in design speed.

    In order to accomplish more work in less time, stay standing (on rubber floor mats or other fatigue-fighting surfaces) for as long as is reasonably comfortable. Occasionally, when necessary, make some big physical movements (hop, jump or dance about) to keep alert and reduce fatigue.

  9. Organize for speedy pick up. Alphabetize order forms, group designs into categories (corsages, boutonnieres, bouquets) in the cooler and establish a marking system for any orders requiring special instructions or handling.

  10. Offer delivery. Eliminate some of the prom-day stress by offering delivery service. Many prom designs meet or exceed the typical minimum delivery price requirement set by florists, so why not cater to your service-oriented clients by offering to deliver their prom flowers directly to their doors? Prom-goers who are shelling out big bucks for flashy fashions, fancy meals, dance tickets and the like probably won’t bat an eye at your delivery fee, no matter how high.

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

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