Tips for marketing, selling, buying and designing with faux flowers and plants—plus a few of the latest trends in this resurging category.
By Nita Robertson, AIFD, CFD
Today’s highest quality—and, often, most expensive—permanent botanicals are so lifelike that most people have to stop and touch them to see if they are real. The advancements in permanent botanicals—both flowers and plants—have been astonishing: The leaves and stems are more realistic, and the colors are much more natural. Today’s permanent botanicals are great not only for home, office and commercial spaces but also for event décor as well as commercial spaces. And they can last for years with minimal maintenance.
By educating consumers, we can offer the best quality at respectable prices, with the understanding that permanent botanical arrangements will likely cost more than a similar design of fresh flowers. The reason for customers to choose permanent flower and plant designs is because of longevity and reuse, not for cost savings.
There is currently a high demand for high quality permanent flowers and plants, so be sure to showcase these products in your shop and on your website. It is important to feature a permanent botanicals section on your website; you have to show it to sell it. Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, said it best: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Patience Pickner, AIFD, CFD, PFCI, SDCF, owner of The Picket Fence in Chamberlain, S.D., loves using permanent botanicals. She sells lots of home décor items in her shop, including faux flowers and plants. She also has been known to incorporate permanent botanicals into her wedding, event and art installations—as she did in her “Garden Rose Nuptial Arch” design tutorial in the July issue of Florists’ Review (floristsreview.com/garden-rose-nuptial-arch).
Pickner notes that when permanent botanicals are incorporated well into large fresh-flower installations, guests at the events won’t be able to tell that some of the botanical materials are permanent. “It becomes a timesaver and a reusable resource,” she says. “Permanents can also be used as substitutes for fresh flowers when specific flowers are too delicate or unavailable.”
“Fall-ing” for Permanent Botanicals
“Not all fall designs are created equal,” Pickner espouses. “Some are loud and boisterous while others are soft and muted. This design, for example, is neutral enough to fit into any home or office. I started with a great container, then I arranged permanent foliage to establish the basic shape. Next, I arranged permanent flowers, followed by faux pumpkins, as focal items. Finally, I incorporated stems of muted brown and cream dried Canella winterana (wild cinnamon) berries and brown and taupe permanent Eucalyptus.
PERMANENT BOTANICALS—TIPS AND TRENDS
Victoria Tai, internet sales manager at Winward International, a leading manufacturer of the finest quality high-end handcrafted permanent botanicals based in Fremont, Calif., offers the following information, tips and advice.
• Purchase the high-quality permanent botanicals that your market will afford, in order to provide the longest-lasting products for your customers. They will look more realistic due to the high quality of the materials used and the level of craftsmanship employed, and longer-lasting permanents are better for the environment because they generate less waste. An arrangement of high-quality permanent botanicals can last for years rather than months due to natural degradation.
• Look for thick, hand-painted stems that look realistic. Most manufacturers in the market use thinner, cheaper variations.
• To create designs “that capture the spirit of nature,” choose colors that create a well-planned color harmony, as well as flower and plant types that are regionally and seasonally compatible.
• Shape the petals, leaves and stems of permanent botanicals to best resemble their live counterparts.
Advise customers to:
• Dust them regularly using a soft brush or compressed-gas air.
• Keep them out of direct sunlight and harsh outdoor weather conditions.
Neutral hues of beige; cream; white; and varying tints, tones and shades of “nude,” which blend well together, is a huge trend right now and is seen across the fashion and cosmetics industries, as well as in home decorating.
Winward’s “Café au Lait” collection is the company’s hottest selling collection, using “NaturalTouch” materials that feature an incredible amount of detail, the finest craftsmanship and thoughtfully curated items. The colorations in the collection have an undertone of café au lait (coffee with milk), with creamy hues and subtle layerings. All items start with a soft base of warm beige, which is then enhanced with dusty peach, light mauve, sunset coral and French burgundy.
In addition, the botanicals in Winward’s “NaturalTouch Collection” are botanically correct in style and realism. They also are handcrafted with soft-to-the-touch fabrics and can be enhanced with four fragrances, providing appeal to three of the five senses: sight, touch and smell. Tai says they “bring the true spirit of fresh flowers that look real, feel real and smell real.
I also interviewed Sarah Botchick, project and general manager at Pioneer Imports & Wholesale, an importer and wholesaler of permanent botanicals and baskets for florists, event planners, garden centers, interior designers and more in Berea (Cleveland), Ohio, who offers the following trend information, sales and marketing advice.
FR: What is hot on social media?
SB: Our new fall shades of Orchid Wash and Watercolor Sunset have gotten the most ‘likes’ on social media. Floral designers are embracing the ombre and natural blending we work to have in our permanent flowers to make them more lifelike.
Flower installations are also hugely popular on social media because they have great visual impact. Using permanent flowers in large-scale installations captures everyone’s attention and has so many benefits for small and midsize shops. This is not for just New York City and Paris. First impressions have a significant impact on your bottom line. Visual merchandising intrigues consumers by telling a story of who you are. It transforms you from a retailer to an exciting destination to pursue.
FR: What is in high demand now with permanent botanicals?
SB: Ruscus is the go-to foliage right now. Floral designers and customers like the symmetry of the leaves and the gracefulness. The clean lines and verdant green make flowers pop and provide the essential element of movement in a floral design.
Also, beautiful lifelike blended colorings and high-quality products are now available at lower price points, making permanents appealing to more consumers and still profitable for florists.
FR: What other trends are important to be aware of?
SB: We are seeing a trend in renting permanent floral designs and plants for weddings. Our customers tell us that this is a trend now more than ever, with the varieties and lifelike quality of silks that are available today. Renting permanent arrangements and plants gives clients peace of mind by knowing what they are going to get and that what they want will be available.
FR: What tips can you offer for maximizing sales of permanent botanicals?
SB: First, feature a permanent botanicals section on your website. You can’t sell it if you don’t show it!
Second, talk the talk. Use recognizable terms like faux flowers, fabric flowers or even silk flowers (although that term is, technically, a misnomer) because most of your customers don’t know what “permanent botanicals” are. Avoid using the term “artificial flowers”; it can have a negative connotation among millennial and Gen Z consumers, many of who place a high value on “authenticity” and “realness.” Check the websites of major home décor and furnishings retailers to check out what they call their permanent botanicals.
Third, watch the trends, and design for them. For example, with more individuals working from home, home office décor is skyrocketing. Advertise permanent flower arrangements, plants, trees, greenery shelves, even flower and greenery walls to appeal to these consumers.
Fourth, use contextual photos to help customers visualize: Show permanent arrangements in home, office and restaurant settings. Set up a photoshoot in your home or shop or a nearby restaurant.
Finally, don’t market on just one channel. Set up a home vignette in your shop, post it on your website, show it on social media and in direct mail. Consistency and repetition are key!
• Learn more about renting permanent designs and plants for weddings at pioneerwholesaleco.com/blog/products/low-stress-profitable-process-beautiful-wedding.html.
• Discover trends in permanent bridal bouquets at pioneerwholesaleco.com/blog/products/bridal-bouquet-trends-today.html.
Top Sources for High-quality Permanent Botanicals
• Floral Supply Syndicate
• Melrose International
• Pioneer Imports & Wholesale
• Winward International