Who wouldn’t want to participate in a nationwide giveaway that promotes the benefits of flowers, positions their business as a trusted and big-hearted local partner and generates loads of great press? The Society of American Florists’ annual Petal It Forward event, held this year on Oct. 24, offers ROI a plenty, but some floral industry members might worry about the expense and time it can take to coordinate. The really good news? Putting together a successful Petal It Forward event is easier and cheaper than you think.
K. Mike Whittle Designs in Marietta, Georgia, gave away 300 bouquets in 28 minutes on 2017’s Petal It Forward day, and is aiming to triple that number this year. “We had all the bouquets ready with stickers on the bouquets and cards tied to the ribbon,” said Mike Whittle.
“You have to have this done [ahead of time] as fast as it goes,” he added, explaining that the business set up their giveaway at lunch time on Marietta Square in front of the Strand Theatre.
“If you are putting the bouquets together yourself, involve some of the local garden clubs to help” and save time, Whittle suggested. “They love it and it is great publicity.”
Whittle said that a full year after last year’s event, people still stop him in the grocery store or elsewhere to thank him for the flowers. “Folks love to get flowers,” he said. “We can give whatever, and never get the response we get for fresh flowers.”
For the fourth year in a row, SAF is leading the industry in the Petal It Forward concept. During this “random acts of kindness” flower giveaway, consumers receive two bouquets (or flowers) — one to keep and one to share — to demonstrate the Rutgers University research that shows flowers make people happy and are encouraged to post on social media about their experience using the hashtag #petalitforward.
Raven Sykes of Atrium Design Works, a wholesaler and distributor in Wailuku, Hawaii, set up outside the shopping mall entrance at 4 p.m., and distributed 250 bouquets in 15 to 20 minutes. She had pre-arranged authorization from the mall.
Sykes has tried both approaches to Petal It Forward — her first year, they partnered with their rose distributor who provided pre-made bouquets, and the second year, they had an assembly line of product and made their own. In both cases, they attached pre-printed labels to the sleeves.
“I think keeping it simple would help with time,” Sykes said. When making their own bouquets, they were able to get a bit more creative. Purchasing pre-made can be costly, but if you ask, vendors usually will work with you on supplying extra product, or at a discounted rate.
“We really enjoyed explaining to each person why we were giving them out,” Sykes said. “It really is such a great experience giving flowers to people and watching them turn around and give them to someone else.”
Lisa Duitsman of Abbott’s Florist in Champaign, Illinois, said she likely will buy pre-made bouquets again this year. She bought pre-made bouquets in 2017 from wholesaler Bill Doran Company, which gave a special price.
“We had stickers made in advance using suggestions from SAF,” Duitsman said. She recommends receiving bouquets a day or more before Petal It Forward, if possible. Her bouquets arrived the day of the event, and she felt rushed to get them ready in time — re-cutting stems and putting them in holding solution, plus adding stickers with the shop name and an explanation of Petal It Forward.
Several Abbott’s drivers handed out assorted bouquets, some including roses or sunflowers, in many different locations between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. “We had a group of Champaign police handing out flowers, too, at a food kitchen during lunch,” Duitsman said. “We participated because I thought it would be fun to do random acts of kindness all over Champaign Urbana. We saw a lot of happy people.”
“Have fun with it, it’s so worthwhile,” Duitsman encouraged. “There were so many people who said that we made their day and that they had never received flowers before.”
As of early September, florists in 40 states and the District of Columbia had notified the Society of American Florists of plans to hold Petal It Forward events in their communities on Oct. 24. That leaves 10 states to go — Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming — for industry participation in all 50 states.
Support in every state, and as many cities as possible within each state, is critical to the success of Petal It Forward from a public relations standpoint, said the Society of American Florists Vice President of Marketing Jennifer Sparks.
“The more florists we have participating on October 24, the better chance of national news coverage and social media posts promoting flower power,” she explained. “We need to know where local events are happening so we can tell the media, and so you can tell your local media that you are part of an effort happening nationwide.”
To notify SAF of your event, complete the Petal It Forward Participation Form at safnow.org/PIFform.
SAF provides resources to help member florists Petal It Forward, including planning timelines, tips on where and when to stage a giveaway, talking points, T-shirt and flower card templates and more at safnow.org/petalitforward.
Christy O’Farrell is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.