Shop staff pick up litter three times a year. Although it took some effort to get this particular roadway, near the shop in Commerce Township, it was worth it. Mr. Berry estimates that 100,000 drivers pass by this sign daily, which is paid for by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

strategic services

Wesley Berry Flowers, in the Detroit metro area, relies on well-planned community involvement to serve and become known to potential customers.
  by Shelley Urban

    “If you can help others, you should,” says Wesley Berry, president of Wesley Berry Flowers, a five-store chain in Detroit and the surrounding region. “But there’s nothing wrong with being smart about it and coordinating your community service so there’s some benefit to your business,” he points out. Judges for our “Retail Florist of the Year” competition, co-sponsored by the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA), couldn’t agree more and chose Wesley Berry Flowers, founded in 1946 by Mr. Berry’s parents, Wesley and Florence Berry, as our 2009 winner for Outstanding Community Involvement. Wesley Berry Flowers, which Mr. Berry co-owns with his wife, Mi Lee Berry, was nominated by Nordlie, Inc. in Warren, Mich.

promoting racial harmony
    When it comes to community service, Wesley Berry Flowers is known to be a giving shop. But, in order to sustain the giving, Mr. and Mrs. Berry, along with John Keeler, director of community relations, plan and schedule every opportunity to the company’s benefit. “Otherwise,” notes Mr. Berry, “we won’t be able to afford to keep doing it.”

    One terrific example of the shop’s well-planned, perfectly timed service is its rose giveaway in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day (the third Monday in January). Approaching its eighth year, this event is like FTD® Good Neighbor Day® in that Wesley Berry Flowers gives away roses by the dozen with the stipulation that recipients keep one and give away the rest in a gesture of unity.

    “Originally,” explains Mr. Berry, “we started this in support of the United We Walk march held on that day. We wanted to do something; we just had to figure out what,” he explains.

    Roses proved to be the perfect vehicle to drive the shop’s message of unity and to increase shop awareness just a few short weeks before Valentine’s Day. “Typically, January is a rather slow time in the flower business. It’s also a time when there’s a glut of roses on the market because growers are timing production for Valentine’s Day. And,” he adds, “it’s great to have us associated with roses three-and-a-half weeks before Valentine’s Day.”

    Community leaders, ministers and local celebrities are invited to assist with the rose distribution, and the events always garner tremendous media coverage. According to Mr. Berry, folks line up early, and the line stretches down the sidewalk and around the corner. And, he notes, “It’s cold in January.”

    “But the energy is tremendous,” describes Mr. Keeler. “As they’re standing in line, they’re talking about where they’re going and who they’ll share the roses with. We’re creating a strong emotional connection with our customers.”

    For the 2009 holiday, Wesley Berry Flowers gave away 10,000 roses, or about 830 dozens. In addition to getting customers thinking of the shop and its roses just before the biggest rose holiday of the year, people who visit also see the merchandise on display, much of which, according to Mrs. Berry, starts at about $10.

    Products are displayed in mass quantities for impact. Plush, which Mrs. Berry says is among the shop’s best-sellers, covers an entire wall and ranges in price from $5 to $500. But fresh-cut flowers attract attention as well. “We have a 1,000-square-foot walk-in cooler that is filled with 10,000 stems on an average day,” Mr. Berry shares.

well-planned donations
    As Rotarians, Mr. Berry and Mr. Keeler are always looking for opportunities to support the community through Rotary Club activities. So three years ago, when the club discussed a fundraiser for cancer research, the month of October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, was a great fit.

    To raise money, the Rotary Club sells pink carnations for $3 each. Wesley Berry Flowers donates the pastel blossoms—some 400 each year—to help the club meet its goal of donating $1,000. While the sale is publicized, the florist’s involvement is not heavily promoted, except among the Rotarians, who appreciate the service and repay the shop by being loyal customers.

    With its reputation for giving well established in the community, Wesley Berry Flowers receives donation requests regularly. Gift certificates are common for fundraisers, but designers also create centerpieces and other décor, usually at a retail cost of $3,000 to $5,000, for charitable events as they can. “We limit that to once per month,” Mr. Berry confides.

    But when it comes to deciding which events to do, he adds, it’s important to choose those that make sense and that drive awareness of the shops and their services. “Our first requirement is that the organization be nonprofit. The second requirement is that it must be in close proximity to us,” Mr. Berry describes. “After that, we give priority to things for children and to real outreach organizations [that help people].”

    According to Mr. Berry, another important consideration is timing. “If we’re asked to donate product for two events, and one is three weeks before Mother’s Day and the other is one week after, we’ll pick the one before,” he explains. That way, the donation can help to increase the shop’s reach before a busy holiday.

    While the list of the shop’s charitable donations goes on for pages, including hospital fundraisers, youth sports teams, and more, the Optimist Club Christmas party stands out. “We provide gifts for 250 needy children—wrapped and handed out by Santa—and our staff volunteer for the event,” Mr. Berry shares.

cleaning up the streets
    On a busy stretch of highway between two Wesley Berry Flowers locations is a sign that tells of another of the shop’s community outreach efforts—participation in the Adopt-A-Highway program. This particular highway ends near the store in Commerce Township, so the aforementioned roadway—the minimum two-miles required to participate—is close to this shop.

    The sign, viewed by some 100,000 passers-by daily, is provided at no cost to Wesley Berry Flowers. The only cost is the time to pick up the trash, which is done three times annually, plus the incentives that Mr. Berry uses to encourage staff to sign up to participate. “We always have more people sign up than we need to do the job,” shares Mr. Berry, “but we want to make it a privilege, so everyone who signs up is entered to win something in a drawing—usually a gift card to local restaurants.”

    When they’re out working on the roadsides (they have to clean up both sides of the two-mile stretch), Mr. Keeler says, “Passers-by often stop to express appreciation for our work.” That alone is gratifying. Knowing that this valuable service also makes potential clients aware of Wesley Berry Flowers is a bonus.
 
  Wesley Berry Flowers
 

Owners: Wesley Berry and Mi Lee Berry
Number of locations: 5
Locations: Downtown Detroit, Northwest Detroit, Canton, Commerce Township, and West Bloomfield, Michigan
Opened: 1946
Shop size:
10,000 square feet at flagship store in Commerce Township, Mich.
Clientele:
all income levels
Average sale of all merchandise: $65
Average fresh flower sale: $50
Number of employees: 50
Web site:
www.800wesleys.com

Contact Shelley Urban at surban@floristsreview.com or (800) 367-4708.

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