Floristry Business Update by Gregory Milner
Profitable Trade in non-peak times
Mother’s day was traditionally seen as the peak trading time in floristry. Over the last thirty-five years, it has arguably been surpassed by Valentine’s Day, although some country traders will disagree. These periods of trade are a boost if the business has strategised how to maximise these peak days for maximum profit. However, once these two periods have passed, we are into the lull time of winter, when flower prices rise and profits fall. What can be done through this period?
Some florists who have experienced a profitable trading period up until May feel they can ‘ride through’ the winter months and recoup trading profits when the season starts again in September. But good organisational skills for peak periods are vital to maximise their benefit; otherwise, a florist can over-buy and actually lose money. This year, Valentine’s Day was on the weekend, which can halve the amount of trade compared to a weekday. Mother’s Day this year was successful for most, but those profits will not sustain three to four months of continuing trade.
Ideas for mid-year trade
In the mid-year period, look at associated ancillary or add-on items that the buying public will want to buy with flowers. I know some florists with a wide range of quality chocolates and a good percentage of their daily takings is drawn from these sales. These products are not as perishable as flowers, so stock can remain on the shelves for a longer period. Many customers would find it easier to call into a florist than queue up at a supermarket to purchase these products. The trick is to stock a wide range of good quality. Would you say no to a client who wanted to buy chocolates and not flowers? I think not. Also remember the opportunities to sell a combination of both. Your website should reflect these options.
One florist told me of their reluctance when a chocolate company needed a minimum order of eight hundred dollars. I responded with: how much do you spend on flowers each week? Investment is necessary to return profit. Some florists find that stocking a range of gift lines is very profitable. Look at competition around you to see if this is viable. Attend gift fares to see the wide range of goods you could incorporate into your stock lines. There can be so many add-on suggestions for flowers, such as birth of a baby, birthdays or even impulse buying for the purchaser themself.
Containers and gifts
Promote a wide range of containers. A vase is a delightful gift in itself. Show how it can be gift presented. By all means, promote flowers as well, but you wouldn’t say no to selling a vase as a gift, would you? Show me a florist who promotes vase and container purchases on their website; it is a rarity among Australian florists. Why is this? Often florists have a vase selection that is unpriced and looks like turnover is infrequent. If, however, you make the offer to sell or combine a vase with flowers as a part of your marketing strategy, you will have a higher turnover. You must have a wide range available and you may need to source outside of floral industry suppliers.
Monitor your website
In researching for this article, I reviewed fifteen florist websites from around the country, and seven of them were advertising Valentine’s Day in May! I would strongly suggest you take the time to surf the web at look at various florists’ sites. You will learn such a lot about possible competitors and how the industry is marketing itself. Some sites are great, and clearly, some are not. Some are almost impossible to navigate. Make sure yours is a great one. Be wise and use your site as you would want to promote in store.
Check your running procedures
It is also a good time to check your costs across the year and look at your systems to make sure the margin your business is working on is sufficient. Check your policy and procedural direction for all staff. These will need to be updated to ensure everyone knows what the business expects of them. Make sure you have clear costings in your database. If a client asks how much for a bouquet of forty roses and lisianthus would be, you should have this pre-calculated. It is easy to update to fifty roses or down to thirty. Have matching bouquets made up to show the size and look to match your costings; your clients will be impressed with your professionalism.
Finally, the down period during the year should be seen as a time to promote your business. You want people to need your product. It is a very competitive world. Make sure your product and possible accessories are unique. Clients like to see the product. Plan your profit margin. Put all your heads together in your workplace and share ideas. Sometimes it will be trial and error, but you will find a market share if you are smart.
Gregory Milner M.Ed is an award-winning third generation florist. He is the principal of Marjorie Milner College, a national judge, floristry author, international demonstrator and President of the Australian Association of Floral Designers. Greg teaches apprentices at Marjorie Milner College full time. This article was also published by the Australian Flower Industry Magazine in June 2016. Issue 52.