Tips for an organized, efficient and supremely profitable holiday.
By Nita Robertson, AIFD, CFD
It will soon be time to start (or continue, hopefully) planning for Valentine’s Day, the first big holiday of a brand-new year. In fact, Valentine’s Day is the No. 1 holiday for florists in terms of the number of transactions, according to the Society of American Florists (SAF), and it is second only to Christmas/Hanukkah in dollars spent. To maximize profits during such a busy time, florists must be uber-organized and ultra-efficient.
In 2023, Valentine’s Day will occur on a Tuesday, which, historically, is a great day for the holiday to land on for florists. History reflects that, more often than not, when the holiday occurs on a weekday, sales are typically around 10 percent higher, on average, than when it falls on a weekend day. Ideally, you will already have all of your cut flowers and supplies ordered, but if not, start planning now (or the minute Christmas is over), and get ready for what could be one of your best Valentine’s Day ever (pent-up demand and all that!).
The outlook for consumer spending for Valentine’s Day 2023 is good. The most recent “Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey,” commissioned by the National Retail Federation (NRF), shows that Valentine’s Day spending in 2022 reached $23.9 billion, an increase of $2.1 billion (9.6 percent) over 2021. The NRF also reports that individual spending in 2022 was $175.41 per person, up 6.5 percent from $164.76 in 2021.
Although the consumer spending numbers for Valentine’s Day in 2022 are higher than those in 2021, they are, understandably, down from the all-time pre-COVID highs in 2020 of $27.4 billion in total spending and $196.31 per individual. The good news is that those numbers rebounded in 2022, and the 2022 numbers are the second highest since NRF began conducting the annual survey in 2004.
What are consumers buying for Valentine’s Day? According to the survey, candy remains the most popular Valentine’s Day gift, with 56 percent of the people surveyed choosing this gift category in 2022. Greeting cards took second place, with 40 percent of survey respondents buying them, and flowers came in third, with 37 percent. An evening out and jewelry took the fourth and fifth spots, respectively. These gift category rankings have remained relatively consistent since 2010 except for 2016 and 2017, when spending on an evening out surpassed spending on flowers. NOTE: Spending on flowers for Valentine’s Day has never reached higher than 38 percent of consumers making these purchases.
Compiling complete and accurate records of everything about every holiday in imperative to helping you make wise decisions when planning for the next holiday. Refer to your data from previous years, and consider any anomalies, abnormalities and irregularities such as unusual weather, day of the week, the pandemic, the economy, consumer spending, etc., to gauge what and how much to order this year, staffing requirements, store hours and so on.
“Write everything out, jotting notes all throughout the weeks leading up to the holiday,” advises Lori Himes, AIFD, CFD, owner of Abloom Ltd. Flowers & Events in Walkersville, Md. “Then, immediately following every holiday, I inventory what is left and note feedback from customers and employees. I have notes in spiral notebooks from my last 30 years in business: arrangement recipes, flower lists, quantities, costs, who I bought from, quality issues, weather factors and so on. My notes make planning for each subsequent year so much easier and accurate.”
After reviewing notes from previous Valentine’s Days, do the following:
• Create your collection of signature holiday designs that are both modern, relevant and exciting to your customer base, each in a range of price points and with a “recipe” for each;
• Set sales goals or estimates for each of your holiday designs;
• Order the required supplies (containers, ribbon, decorative accessories, flower food, etc.), cut flowers and foliage, and plants based on your planned designs and sales projections;
• Arrange for extra staffing and delivery drivers and/or vehicles;
• Schedule product delivery dates with suppliers;
• Develop design and work schedules and sales training sessions for all staffers, both permanent and temporary.
While consumers still visit stores to order and purchase gifts, many prefer to order online—and this trend is only increasing every year. This makes updating your website early, to showcase your holiday offerings, vitally important. Start showcasing your Valentine’s Day offerings in early to mid-January (some consumers start researching gift options early!).
“Offer a limited collection of creative, distinctive designs, each in a variety of price points, to help you control inventory, maximize your purchasing power, and design more efficiently and profitably,” suggests Teresa (Terry) Godfrey, AIFD, CFD, EMC, a floral design educator and a freelance designer in the Washington, D.C. area. “Also, promote a “designer’s choice” option to help avoid product availability and supply-chain issues.”
Patience Pickner, AIFD, CFD, PFCI, owner of The Picket Fence in Chamberlain, S.D., offers this suggestion for creating some of your holiday specials: “Choose containers carefully. Vases with a smaller choke (the narrowest part of the vase) make designing much easier and faster, they cut down on the need for mechanics to hold the flowers in place and they make delivery much easier,” she shares. “Also, choose distinctive but well-priced vases and other containers that could have multiple “after” uses and a “keepsake” appeal.”
Once you’ve created your holiday arrangement lineup, make samples and take high-quality photos of each of them, for promoting them on your website and social media platforms. Make sure all designers in your production line have access to the recipe for each design and price point.
For many consumers, the most challenging part of buying flowers for Valentine’s Day is knowing what to choose. Overcome this obstacle by creating a “Valentine’s Day Gift Guide. Feature the guide on your website and social media platforms, and consider creating print copies to have available in your store for shoppers in January. Another option is to set up a “gift guide” display in your store. The point is to provide your customers with visuals of your holiday offerings.
Place a concise information sheet by each order station so employees will have all the information they need to effectively make sales. Include both descriptions and prices for all of your holiday specials—maybe even short sales scripts for each item—as well as for your rose options and add-on gifts. Also, list single-stem prices for a selection of premium and/or specialty flowers, such as roses, lilies and Anthurium, to make it easy to calculate prices for customers who might want to have a few roses, a couple of stems of fragrant Oriental lilies or a red heart-shaped Anthurium added to any arrangement.
“Plan and prepare,” advises Ursula Gunther, CFD, EMC, owner and creative director of fleursDC in Washington, D.C. “Be realistic about your limitations regarding the number of orders that you can accept and fulfill. Never overpromise and under deliver!”
Increase Your Average Order with Add-on Gifts
Curate an exciting collection of irresistible add-on gifts in a range of price points (Tim Huckabee, president of FloralStrategies, calls them “finishing touches”; see our article, “Finishing Touches,” in our November issue), to incentivize customers to further personalize their gifts of flowers (while increasing your average ticket!). These can include traditional items like chocolates and greeting cards (the No. 1 and No. 2 choices, respectively, of Valentine’s Day gift shoppers); plush toys; balloons; candles; et al., but be sure to offer two or three creative, unusual and unexpected items, as well—perhaps spa/pampering products or handcrafted or artisan goods. Also, remember to offer gifts for both romantic and non-romantic relationships.
First & Main designs and manufactures a large assortment of “gift quality” plush toys for Valentine’s Day and all occasions. “Gift quality” means that they’re well-made and created to enhance the gifting experience that astute florists strive to offer their valued customers.
Brad and Nancy Holes started First & Main in 1993, almost 30 years ago, and retail florists represent the greatest share of their company’s customers. Many of their products are ideal as affordable add-ons to flower arrangements, including “vase huggers,” small sitting animals, and those with seasonal and special-occasion embroidered messages. They also offer large items, for those who wish to make grand statements of love, affection or friendship.
It is crucial that you prominently feature your add-on gifts on your website and present them to every customer—on the phone and in store. Train your staff, both permanent and temporary holiday helpers, how to offer these items in a friendly, gentle way, near the end of each sales conversation. Huckabee advises introducing these items to the sales conversation as a suggestion rather than a question. For example, avoid asking customers questions that elicit a “yes” or “no” response, such as “Would you like to add on a … .”
WORKING EFFICIENTLY MEANS WORKING PROFITABLY
Production-line designing, where designers and even lower-cost novice arrangers create multiple units of a singular arrangement at one time, is the most labor-efficient and, therefore, profitable, method of producing a large volume of arrangements during busy holidays. Having several of each design you offer made in advance enables you to quickly fill orders as they come in. It is helpful to produce “designer’s choice” arrangements last, to ensure you have the product you need to fulfill specific orders.
Don’t throw money away. Create one or two designs—possibly as “designer’s choice” options—in which you can use short- or broken-stemmed flowers. Also, package petals from broken-off rose heads to present as a “romantic” add-on sale item, or offer dainty corsages, boutonnières or hairpieces fashioned from broken blooms as add-ons.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT GALANTINE’S DAY!
Galantines’ Day is all about women celebrating women. It is celebrated on Feb. 13, in the name of friendship. This holiday was originated from a 2010 episode of Parks and Recreation during which some of the show’s female characters (“gals”) gathered to celebrate each other on the day before Valentine’s Day. The “made-up” holiday took on a life of its own because the message resonated with women, and since then, it has gained momentum and become a real holiday in some areas and among some groups of people. Galantine’s Day is all the fun of celebrating Valentine’s Day with friends while leaving Valentine’s Day open to enjoy with one’s significant other. Take advantage of this opportunity by adding one or two Galantine’s Day arrangements to your Valentine’s Day offerings—and be sure to promote them! It may inspire several of your customers to make purchases they hadn’t planned on. Give it a try, and let us know how it turn out.
Social Media: Prepare your content, and have it scheduled and ready to go before you get too busy.
Early Ordering/Early Delivery: Encourage your regular customers to order early! Maybe offer free delivery or a free add-on as an incentive for orders placed for delivery on or before the 12th, for example.
Email Marketing: Email your customers to present your Valentine’s Day offerings and to remind them to order early. Get them to think about your shop before they start searching for other gift ideas online.
Google Ads: Boost your budget for February to increase exposure for your shop in internet search results (ads.google.com).
Multicolored Roses: Red roses are a Valentine’s Day staple because they symbolize romance and love, but promote other colors of roses—perhaps as one of your shop’s holiday specials—which are often cheaper than red, leaving you a bigger profit margin.
“Designer’s Choice”: Create and promote “Designer’s Choice” arrangements that feature beautiful but nontraditional Valentine’s Day flowers and color combinations, to help you navigate your fresh floral supply and avoid substitutions.
• Long before it become a commercial celebration of romance and love, Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, was as a religious celebration—a Christian feast day established by the Catholic Church to honor one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine. One of the martyrdom stories is an account of the imprisonment of a Roman priest named Valentinus, known today as St. Valentine, for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire in the third century.
• February 14 was officially recognized as a secular holiday, Saint Valentine’s Day, by England’s love-struck King Henry VIII in 1537, and the composing and sending of rhyming love letters and amorous verses on that date became customary as a result.
• The tradition of giving flowers on Valentine’s Day dates back to the 17th century, when Sweden’s King Charles XI introduced the “Persian language of flowers” tradition to Europe by sending the first Valentine’s Day bouquet, with each flower conveying a specific meaning.
• The first heart-shaped box of chocolates was introduced in 1861 by English chocolatier Richard Cadbury.
• Nearly 6 million couples worldwide get engaged on Valentine’s Day.
• Americans send 145 million Valentine’s Day cards each year.
• Furry friends need love, too! In fact, around 27.6 million American households purchased Valentine’s Day gifts for their pet dogs in 2020, and more than 17.1 million picked up gifts for their pet cats.