By Shelly Urban
Strategically planned in-shop specials
for Valentine's Day and other hectic holidays ease the workload, boost
profits and save your sanity.
cases, some planning ahead can have a tremendous impact on revenues,
costs of goods, labor and much more. So for 2008, to make the most
of this money-making opportunity, consider creating a menu of
in-shop specials that are preplanned to ensure good pricing from
suppliers and are mass produced to lower labor costs, ultimately
easing some of the frantic feelings typically associated with this
annual celebration of love.
harnessing the holidays
Obviously, many florists offer the holiday designs promoted by wire
services, for both local and nationwide delivery. In addition,
though, many consumers will seek floral expressions that reflect the
unique style of their favorite florists. This, alone, is one great
reason to create your own lineup of arrangements.
service specials are not always typical of the design style that a
store works year-round
promote,” points out Tim Huckabee, aifse, president of
FloralStrategies, a company based in New York, N.Y., offering
training for retail florists. In addition to expressing your own
style and appealing to your customers’ preferences, in-shop specials
offer countless other benefits as well. “Designs can be mass
produced, which equals less labor and more profits,” notes Mr.
Fiannaca, vice president of Sparks Florist, which has
retail locations in Sparks and Reno, Nev., concurs. “Doing
everything custom will kill productivity,” he assures.
Brian McCarthy, president of Florida Retail Flowers
and The McCarthy Group of Florists, based in Tampa, Fla.,
which together total 13 stores in six states, supports these
assertions. “On average, our custom designs take 20 minutes each to
complete, but our [mass-produced] in-house specials take only eight
labor can be a huge drain on profits, but inefficiencies and
diminished productivity will affect your bottom line in other ways
as well. “Too many custom orders will severely hamper your ability
to take all possible orders,” says Mr. Fiannaca.
“Florists are reactive when it comes to design, making it impossible
to manage the workload,” says Tina Stoecker, aifd, pfci,
president of Designs of the Times Florist, in Melbourne, Fla.
“By being proactive, offering a menu of items and consolidating
production, florists can eliminate overtime.”
Therefore, with a menu of specials, you can take more orders and
make more money on each sale. You also can make the ordering process
easier for your customers.
don’t know what they want,” reports Mr. Fiannaca, “so a menu of
specials offers choices.”
Dudley, owner of The Bloomery, in Butler, Pa., agrees, “A
menu of specifically defined items in the sales area really
helps—for phone, in person and online sales.” Mr. McCarthy notes,
“Fifty to 60 percent of our customers take what’s offered.”
planning what to sell
Customized menus are exactly as they sound—tailored to each shop—so
there are no strict guidelines appropriate to everyone. Instead,
there are several considerations, such as availability, salability,
flower longevity, simplicity of construction and profitability, to
keep in mind.
Availability. Among the most important
of these considerations is availability because it affects pricing
and certainty of supplies. “One mistake florists make is using
flowers that are featured in wire service specials,” says Mr.
Fiannaca, of the process of designing holiday specials. “Suppliers
may have a hard time providing enough of these items or, if you can
get them, they’re likely to cost an arm and a leg.”
Salability. According to Ms. Stoecker,
florists should incorporate flowers that their customers love.
“Track what you sell, and create recipes that include popular
flowers. For example,” she reports, “Gerberas and Hydrangeas have
been especially interesting to our clients, so this year, our
recipes will feature them.”
Longevity. Longevity is
important because vase life affects value perceptions. “Recipients
are not always familiar with typical lifespans of various flowers,”
Ms. Dudley points out. “And they’re more likely to be unsatisfied
with a gift if it lasts only a few days.”
Simplicity of construction.
Regardless of the products you choose, remember that, for menu
designs, ease of construction will affect your profitability. As Mr.
McCarthy notes, mass-produced specials can be created in almost
one-third the time of custom designs. But if your mass-produced
arrangements are complicated to create, your time and labor savings
To avoid these
issues, Ms. Stoecker includes only arrangements that can be produced
in assembly-line fashion, and she calculates the construction time
down to the last detail. “I multiply the number of insertions in
each arrangement by the number of units to be produced, then
multiply that by five seconds per insertion,” she explains. “That
tells me how many hours of production time will be required.”
Another way Ms.
Stoecker maximizes dollars is to plan recipes to use flowers in
quantities of two or five. “Most specialty flowers come in bunches
of 10. So if you use two or five, you will use entire bunches and
selecting price points
florists, it all starts with gauging appropriate price points. “It’s
easiest to first determine your price points, then work around
them,” Mr. Huckabee suggests. “Often, price will drive design.”
sales figures will show you which price points sell best. In
addition, Mr. Fiannaca recommends keeping it simple. He says, “Have
one or two items at the lower end, two or three in the middle, and
one or two at the higher end.” He also suggests making the price
points noticeably different. “It’s hard to discern a difference
between the items if $5 increments are used,” he explains.
Mr. McCarthy’s various locations, 65 percent of sales fall into the
$35, $50 and $65 price points. But he recommends that florists avoid
limiting themselves to just these items: “They don’t have to be part
of the menu, but florists should definitely offer a few high-end
past, his shops have featured one or two “knock-out” arrangements in
their showrooms. “Last year, in one of our smaller stores, we had a
$415 rose arrangement that sold after just 15 minutes on display,”
he recalls. “But they won’t sell if we don’t offer them.”
selling what you make
is critical to holiday success, but all your efforts will be for
naught if you don’t pair your plans with effective marketing
strategies. “A multimedia attack is best,” suggests Mr. Huckabee. “I
recommend in-store and exterior signage, e-mail campaigns, statement
stuffers, direct mail and samples that are visible to customers.”
have a Web site, Ms. Dudley recommends utilizing it as well. “It’s
our best sales tool,” she assures, noting that customers can see the
designs online as they talk on the phone with salespeople. “We often
refer callers to it so they can choose what they want—rather than
trying to imagine from a verbal description.”
preholiday marketing is necessary, Mr. McCarthy is quick to point
out that sales staff members hold the keys to holiday success. “They
control our destiny,” he states. “What they do determines when
designers go home, so salespeople are the most critical piece of the
McCarthy says he used to believe that sales staff could be
educated to sell
what was made. “However,” he states candidly, “I now know that you
can only bribe them.”
means, he says, that sales incentives are necessary to keep the
right products moving out the door. “Salespeople sell what they like
and what they can afford themselves,” Mr. McCarthy explains. “But
that doesn’t give customers what they want, and it doesn’t help us,
Therefore, Mr. McCarthy relies on financial incentives—usually $1 or
$2 per sale—to encourage sales staff to move specific products. And
while it sounds like a huge cut out of an already tight margin, he
says that you choose the products on which incentives are paid. So
pick items that are the most profitable, the most abundant and/or
the most quickly produced.
addition, incentives can change as the holiday progresses. On Feb.
14, for example, Mr. McCarthy monitors sales throughout the day and
adds and removes incentives as needed.
cash incentives are far and away the most effective, Mr. McCarthy
often rewards top-sellers with pairs of round-trip airline tickets
to anywhere in the continental United States. By charging all of his
shop’s purchases to a corporate credit card that earns airline
miles, Mr. McCarthy receives the tickets at no cost, but they’re
powerful rewards for jobs well done.
when to get started
Developing a menu requires planning, and many florists recommend
starting at least three months in advance. But even in December,
it’s not too late, so check those Valentine’s Day 2007 sales
records, and get started now, before the winter holiday rush begins.
bottom line, according to Mr. Fiannaca, is that menus work. “If you
take an integrated approach, with respect to planning, production
and marketing, in-house holiday specials work very well,” he
Contributing Editor Shelley Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org.
February, florists have the opportunity to start the new year strong by
turning big bucks at Valentine’s Day. Yet for many, this holiday can
fall flat, making good money but failing to yield the promised profits.
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