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On the Level with Neville

On the Level with Neville

A retail gift experience in a modern florist shop

“Love is in the air!” is such an odd expression, isn’t it? I looked it up online and got a good lesson on sexuality in nature, but screw that! We must talk about flowers. Every Valentine’s Day, we all worry about how many roses to order and whether we can sell them, and many of us face the additional fear of a nasty snowstorm that would kill business altogether! (Apparently, there’s no love on Feb. 15!) Yet, still, we annually do what we do to provide beauty for all.

I get asked many questions at this time of year. “Do I have to get roses?” is a common one, and the simple answer is, of course, no. Look, roses are lovely and are popular for a reason—they are the classic expression of love—but there are alternatives. I’ve had people say they hate roses (I can only assume they were frightened by a rose as children) and this is when we can offer some of the endless combinations and options we have available.

A few years ago, I was asked what the big new “thing” was for V Day (and although I didn’t consult my crystal ball, I did have a fast answer). I said, “Tulips! Lots of tulips! They’re a sign of a fresh new start and are a wonderful way to celebrate love!” We sell lots of tulips at Valentine’s Day now, as well as orchids, lilies, Freesia and all sorts of other blooms that are good on their own yet also play well with the beauty and sentiment of classic roses. Many younger floral consumers are looking to make unique statements, so be sure to offer these options to them.

Plants were a revelation in 2020, and methinks this will continue. Think of, as I do now, offering folks, as an option to roses, lovely orchid plants, easy-care Tillandsias and almost no-care succulent planters as Valentine gift ideas, all wrapped up with a box of chocolates, a teddy bear, a few roses, a big ol’ card, etc. (Keep upselling until they say no!) These not only are different but will last for ages, and people will think of your shop more (I mean of the sender!). Oh, and the time saved is worth getting them in, too—less processing and not as big a worry about keeping them fresh, etc.

Do you advertise? I sorta do. I’m fortunate that I’m on television anyway, but I will say that social media is a biggie for all of us today —or it should be! And if you need to polish your website (or create one), get going. Now! After this masterclass of learning how to sell online (thanks, pandemic), people have become lazy—I mean comfortable—using online services or just picking up the phone (or doing both) at the same time. I had a lady who had me on the phone while she was also placing an online order somewhere, and I finally said that I’m not one of those “Operators are standing by” people! We shared a laugh (mine was more of a sneer) and got on with things.

Patience is a virtue, but it’s a rare virtue of late, isn’t it? People seemingly have no time to wait, which is why we need to be on the ready, now more than ever. I know I have more nerve than a sore tooth at times, so when people babble on like a spring brook and don’t stop for air on the telephone, I remind them that my name is Neville, not Siri, and that I can’t possibly write as fast as they talk. I think it’s probably better (but not as fun) to request they slow down so you can get all 17 names and their odd spellings on the little card that will go with the whooping $40 worth of “They’d better be good!” flowers.

Aww, young love; isn’t it wonderful? I had a fella once ask me what he had to buy to get laid. Yes, he did! And I calmly said, “A toothbrush and soap would be a good start.” I didn’t get a sale from him, for some reason. Mostly, though, the young and first- timers need guidance because they have no idea, and this is where we can develop a relationship and get potential customers for life. I have many regular customers today who started out as V Day clients because they listened to and trusted my sage advice.

Well, after all we’ve been through in 2020, I wonder if love really is in the air or if it’s just the remnant noxious fumes from past events that have clouded our brains. Nevertheless, we are going to celebrate and joyously send flowers to the countless deserving souls—as well as the countless less-than-deserving souls out there. So, plaster a smile on your face, take a little fortification (and, by that, I mean the wine in the back fridge) and face Valentine’s Week 2021 with excitement! Oh, and be thankful that we still have the ability to share love through the beauty of flowers!

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