Actionable advice based on years of working for large-scale commercial flower companies.
Play to your strengths: don’t fight for the same business as supermarkets
Use the same strategies, but with unique designs to really stand out in the market. There are a lot of products that supermarkets can’t produce or deliver easily. It’s difficult for them to react quickly, and they can sell-out too quickly or find they’re over-stocked if something goes awry in the supply chain. Buy wisely, look after your designs, clean those vases, condition all flowers properly and make sure customers know about after care.
Prepare for the peaks ahead of time
Early planning makes everything easier and more profitable. Design your core Christmas range by the end of January, even if you can’t bear to look at anything else festive! Mother’s Day and Valentine’s both generate new potential customers. Start your marketing as early as possible; these days consumers are busy, so planning ahead will attract people before they’ve booked a table at a restaurant or bought alternative gifts. Not only will ‘early bird’ orders generate more profit, they’ll also greatly help with your pre-ordering and preparations. Consider promotions or competitions to place your business in the minds of customers ahead of time.
Analyse every sale
Hold a staff brainstorming session, preferably out of the shop, and note which were your winning and losing designs of the year. Then, continue with the best-sellers and generate more profit by switching varieties or type. If you increase the price, you’ll be able to discount elsewhere or pay for promotion without damaging your profit margin too heavily. Think about whether there is one colour or flower that’s always slow to sell. Pick the tried and tested top-sellers and give them a little twist, like adding an accessory or special ribbon trim.
Think about purpose
When designing to appeal to mass market, you must think about impact – your product must have a purpose. Is it a gift, or would you buy it for yourself? Does it fit the average spend for your shop? What sort of customer demographic are you targeting; are they traditional or modern?
We’re constantly reminded about how important it is to educate the consumer and create a story around products to boost promotion and create conversation. This means making flower-buying easy to understand; for inspiration, check out ‘Lizzie’s Bundles’ on YouTube – Elizabeth McKenna’s top tips.
Always ask for feedback
Survey for consumer opinions throughout the year; this will allow you to pre-order preferred varieties further in advance, at a better price. Why not take a trip to the local pub or gym and ask for feedback? Or do it even more easily with social media. Ask what they think about different flower varieties, whether they would buy certain designs, or whether they appear value for money. Provide an incentive to anyone who participates by handing out cards or collecting their details and offering a discount or free bouquet voucher. This is an opportunity to educate new customers and promote your business in itself; you might even attract some of those shy gents who would have been too afraid to come to the shop!
Peak packaging: think of the five P’s
Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance! Keep packaging simple, select quick and easy to assemble concepts, and make sure it can be prepared in advance and won’t get crushed in storage. Try to avoid buying heavily-themed sundries and packaging; you don’t want to be stuck storing loads of ‘World’s Best Mum’ cellophane for the whole year.
Flowers for peaks must be tried and tested
Flowers must be reliable and robust, and grown in enough volume for your estimated demand. Create your concepts, test every design in advance, discuss the availability of varieties with your wholesaler and always pre-order where possible.
Size does matter
Too much choice can make the buying process more challenging for customers, so it’s worth considering making a run of the same design in three different sizes, rather than creating new bespoke products every time. It’s also easier for staff to upsell a deluxe version if a customer has already selected a particular style; adding a glass vase is another method.
Scale-up this Valentine’s
It’s the easiest peak to maximise profits with the scale-up strategy – offering a larger version of the same design. The target consumer at Valentine’s is often very different to the everyday flower buyer; gents in particular are often dependent on an expert’s advice!
Ready-mades are crucial
Always have a good array of designs for walk-in customers to choose from, and use reports from the previous year to estimate the stock you’ll need. Keep them simple; a customer has to be wowed by a product in five seconds - complex ideas won’t work as a grab and go. And always make sure your ‘ready to go’ items are just that; easy to carry or transport, and already wrapped.
Educate all the way
Remember to share your knowledge and expertise with every sale, because your personality will keep your business front of mind when customers next think about flowers or plants. Give care advice, tell them where their flowers are grown and throw in lots of top tips.
Keep costing simple
Keep your range of price points rounded to pounds, for example £10, £20, £30, etc. Your prices should reflect your customer demographic so research the area; sometimes it pays to step outside the shop and take a look at what else is happening around you.
Position displays thoughtfully
Think about the way customers come into the shop and travel around it. Place higher-priced products at eye-level, with add-ons obviously highlighted. Make sure pricing is very clear, especially at Valentine’s as those new (often clueless) customers can be hesitant to ask. Make sure everything is accessible; if a customer can pick it up with ease it should sell, and don’t forget that window displays with ‘wow’ will showcase your skills and create a point of difference between you and the supermarkets. Put yourself in the customer’s position – would you be tempted to browse inside, or would you just walk past?