florists with class
by Kelsey E. Smith

Four professionals share their strategies for teaching consumers - and the lessons they've learned along the way.

 

Ovando Floral & Event Design began offering classes for consumers in June 2010. Each class costs $200 per person, and most are filled to the 15-person capacity. Arrangements students have made include, from left, Textural Expressions, Orchids & Succulents (students at work last July) and Window Box.

     The do-it-yourself (DIY) movement has become a mainstay in today’s society. Though the retail floral industry was built on professional service, a host of florists are embracing the concept by offering classes and demonstrations geared to teaching consumers how to create floral designs themselves. We spoke with several of them to learn how these fun and educational events have benefitted their businesses.

addressing the “trade secrets” concern
     One of the concerns many florists have about offering classes is that consumers will no longer need florists’ services and/or will buy loose stems elsewhere for arranging themselves. The florists with whom we spoke, however, all agree that just the opposite is true, with customers often becoming more loyal and having a deeper appreciation for the floral profession.

     “They realize that it’s not just about choosing the prettiest flowers and arranging them,” relates Holly Milburn, who, along with her mother, Jill Hansen, owns The Finishing Touch Florist in Crete, Ill., a small town approximately 30 miles south of Chicago. “One woman said, ‘I have a new appreciation for what you do. I had no idea there was so much to know.’”

     Karine Bailly, marketing, PR and new business manager for Ovando Floral & Event Design, which just opened its second New York City boutique, says the classes Ovando offers are about connecting with clients and having them engage with the business’s brand. “The people who love Ovando’s products are always going to order for themselves and their friends,” Ms. Bailly says. “The DIY movement has been huge, and we love that our customers are passionate about dabbling in floral design, but I think, like many hobbies, it remains a hobby, so customers will continue to come back and buy our products.”

     Another concern some florists have is that sharing information will increase competition down the road. But Courtney Vallery, owner of All Occasion Florals in Pinetop, Ariz., says sharing bits of information—such as daffodils needing to be processed separately from other flowers, for example—is not enough to pose a threat to her business.

     “There’s way too much in the trade to learn in a two-hour class,” she says. “[Consumers are] never going to be able to take what you teach them and start their own business, but they do learn how to take care of the flowers, which makes the flowers last longer and increases satisfaction.”

     To ensure participants use All Occasion Florals as their source for future loose flower purchases, Ms. Vallery’s classes feature flowers that the local grocery store does not carry regularly. “Except for kids’ parties, I don’t use flowers that Safeway always has, which are lilies, Alstroemerias, sunflowers and roses. That way, the class participants have a reason to come back to me.”

Reach Kelsey E. Smith at ksmith@floristsreview.com or (800) 367-4708.

.. To read more, look to the February 2011 issue of Florists' Review.


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