Before competition in the retail floral industry became so broad and
intense, many florists considered marketing to be optional. If it ever
was, it’s not today, and florists are going to have to be aggressive and
creative to survive.
by Kenneth R. Royer, AAF
The days when a florist
could put an ad in the Yellow Pages and wait for the phone to ring are
gone. There are so many retailers vying for attention now that florists
must become more aggressive and creative with their marketing in order
to survive. That becomes especially challenging because the average
flower shop has a very limited advertising budget.
Marketing 101 teaches that when prices go down, demand
goes up, and when prices go up, demand goes down. If you believe that
lower prices will not change the number of units sold, you believe, as
many florists do, in an inflexible demand.
I was conducting a seminar some years ago at an FTD
Young Owners/Managers meeting, and during a discussion group, I asked
the question, “If you were offered a special buy on roses that was 50
percent of your regular cost, what would you do?” No one in that group
of 40 or more participants saw it as an opportunity to have a special
sale. They all believed in inflexible demand and felt their best option
was to obtain a higher profit from their usual small number of sales.
Those who, like me, believe in flexible demand would have launched a
special low-price sale, expecting to sell many more units with an
overall greater profit.
The potential flower market in the U.S. has not been
fully tapped. And for the market to expand, it needs only better
industry marketing, more availability and more affordability. It is
flexible. Florists who want to grow their businesses must create some
excitement, attract some attention and offer flower-lovers deals they
more than advertising
Advertising is a part of marketing, but there is
another important component. When a consumer sees or hears the name of a
business, an image or impression will appear in that person’s mind, if
he or she is at all familiar with the business. That image is an
important undergirding of any advertising effort.
Florists who have developed positive brand images in
their market areas provide added value to the flowers they sell. It is a
dynamic much like Nordstrom has as a department store and like Hallmark
has as a greeting-card company. That image has much to do with the
effectiveness of any advertising that is undertaken.
creating a brand
Florists can create positive brand identification in
various ways. They can do it by offering artistic, creative arrangements
that will appeal to a small, select group of consumers, which is the
image many florists desire, or they can offer appealing, well-crafted
arrangements at value prices that have longer vase life than those of
other florists. In either case, a reputation for quality, dependability
and style must be built. Style can apply to the packaging, the store’s
appearance and the truck’s and driver’s appearances. Last, but not
least, is the attitude and appearance of all the employees.
During my early years in the flower business, florists’
ads extolled the virtues of their businesses and services but rarely
showed products or prices. I thought consumers wanted product
information, so I began showing specific arrangements with prices.
Customers responded, and the company grew.
Many florists are at a disadvantage because they feel
that advertising prices or offering specials will tarnish their image.
If either is done by a florist with a good brand image, that will not
happen. Some of the highest-priced, upscale jewelry and clothing stores
advertise prices, and it does not damage their brand images. On the
contrary, their positive images add value to any special sale
merchandise they may offer.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of an
Internet presence. At Royer’s Flowers & Gifts, a recent report revealed
that Internet sales are now 20 percent of total sales, and they’re
The Internet has made it easy to present pictures and
prices of many arrangements and other products. There is, however, a
temptation to provide too many options, and many florist and
wire-service Web sites show hundreds of choices. I am not aware of any
research that indicates that more choices mean more sales.
What I am absolutely sure of is that offering a vast
number of options means lower profits for florists, in terms of cost of
goods and cost of labor. Based on this theorem, a florist would reach
maximum profitability if all arrangements were exactly the same and were
composed of flowers with the highest possible margin.
As a principle, it would be stated: “The cost-of-goods
percentage for a florist fulfilling requests for arrangements pictured
on a Web site will rise in direct proportion to the quantity and
diversity of the illustrations and number of flower types shown.”
A corollary to that principle would be: “Labor costs
for arrangement production will rise or fall in direct proportion to the
diversity of that production.”
In other words, if each arrangement is an individual
creation, labor costs will be at their highest, and if all arrangements
are exactly the same, the labor costs will be at their lowest.
The goal, then, is to achieve a high volume of orders
on a small number of designs. Therefore, it is advantageous for a
florist to show a limited group of arrangements that are carefully
selected for price, flower composition and styling. In addition, a
florist should highlight a few special arrangements on a regular basis
that will be especially appealing in terms of price and seasonality,
that are likely to gain high customer acceptance and that will be highly
A Web site should be a living, breathing connection
with potential customers, and it needs to be updated regularly. Success
will depend on regular florist input to utilize this effective marketing
Unless a florist is large enough to hire a Web
technician, it is probably not possible to manage a Web site effectively
in house. Utilizing services provided by wire services, IT companies or
local Web designers may be better options for smaller shops.
Talk to your Web designer about how you can position
yourself on search engines to show up first when consumers search for a
florist in your community. Techs know a lot of tricks to accomplish
this. Someday soon, a florist’s Web address will be more important than
the shop telephone number.
One reason a Web site will gradually become a florist’s
most important medium is that webcasts can be sent nearly free of charge
to a growing list of customers who have used the Web site. It is easy to
send news and pictures regarding special offers to an entire group of
former buyers. However, do not alienate them by overdoing it.
Direct mail and cable TV are my traditional media of
choice. Both of them allow advertisers to show arrangements with prices
and to select distribution areas. For direct mail, advertisers can
obtain mailing lists that encompass a few blocks or a few square miles,
and they can purchase cable TV to reach for specific areas. Promoting
your Web site must be an important message in all of that advertising.
Every florist should conduct his or her own market
research on a continuous basis to learn about consumer preferences for
products and services. Do not query consumers about standard
wire-service arrangements, and do not depend on the advice of a
design-school commentator or even your own beliefs about customer
preferences when developing your marketing plan.
Study consumers’ responses to various price points and
arrangements shown on your Web site or in your refrigerator, and keep a
record of those responses. For market research to be really helpful,
however, you must experiment beyond your own tastes or preconceptions of
what consumers will like.
An average advertising budget for a flower shop is
usually 3 percent to 5 percent of sales, but a new business or one
wishing to accelerate its growth should invest much more. When Royer’s
opened a new store and initial sales were low, the ad budget usually was
10 percent to 15 percent of those sales, which is what we felt was
needed to be effective. Gradually, as sales increased and advertising
spending stayed the same, the percentage of sales that those advertising
expenditures represented shrank, until the percentage reached the
in a nutshell
The entire marketing program I’ve just presented can be
summed up as follows.
Create an image. A
positive brand image for your business can add value to your product
offerings in consumers’ eyes.
Buy it right. Purchase flowers in quantity and at special
Produce it right. Create standardized arrangements on which
you can reduce labor and cost of goods.
Price it right. Create arrangements at price points that will
generate a volume of profitable sales. Find those price points
first, then find a way to create the arrangements profitably.
Sell something. Advertise specific products and their prices.
Market it right. Sell what you make; don’t make what you
sell. Create it, then sell it.
To read the four previous
articles in this series, click here.
Kenneth R. Royer, AAF, is
a lifetime florist who expanded the business started by his mother in
1937 into what is now, arguably, the largest traditional florist
business in the United States—U.S. Retail Flowers, Inc.—which is
operated today by his three sons.
Throughout his career, Mr. Royer has served the industry in numerous
ways—holding positions with the Society of American Florists (SAF), the
American Floral Marketing Council (AFMC) and the American Floral
Endowment (AFE); conducting seminars; writing articles; and authoring a
book, Retailing Flowers Profitably.
Mr. Royer also is the recipient of many awards, including SAF’s Golden
Bouquet Award (now named the Paul Ecke Jr. Award) and lifetime
achievement awards from FTD and Teleflora.