florists with class
by Kelsey E. Smith
Four professionals share their strategies for teaching consumers -
and the lessons they've learned along the way.
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
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
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
or (800) 367-4708.
read more, look to the February 2011 issue of Florists' Review.