With the 2019 Petal It Forward date set for Wednesday, Oct. 23, now is the time for industry members to start laying the groundwork for their local events.
Asking for donations or discounts from your suppliers for Petal It Forward may seem daunting; however, think about who you have an excellent relationship with and start there, advised Justin Sheffield, president of Ashland Addison Florist in Chicago.
“We have had great partners with both farms and wholesalers who have offered us product for free or at a substantial discount,” said Sheffield, who suggested contacting suppliers at least 4-5 weeks early to allow for ordering lead time and planning.
“If it’s your first time approaching this supplier, ask your salesperson for the company contact for promotions and marketing; usually that person has the best voice to get a request like this approved,” he added.
Since 2015, the Society of American Florists has led the industry in Petal It Forward. 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.
Sheffield said to determine what and how much product to order will depend on what discounts your wholesaler extends and your budget.
“We’ve found consumers are pretty much happy to get any type of flower; that flexibility will help your supplier give you product at a great price or even completely free,” he said.
When Stacey Cofka, owner of A Blossom Shop in Bayville, New Jersey, contacted her wholesaler about Petal It Forward, she was pleasantly surprised that they were already on board to sponsor it, offering discounted bouquets.
“My salesperson actually came to my store to help me hand out bouquets the first year we did it. They even brought us pre-printed T-shirts promoting Petal It Forward,” said Cofka, who ordered 30 bouquets her first year and doubled it last year.
Some suppliers, such as the Bill Doran Company, reached out to retailers. When the wholesaler contacted Melissa Maas, owner of Bank of Flowers in Menomonee Falls and Pewaukee, Wisconsin, to ask if she wanted to participate, she quickly agreed.
“They [Bill Doran] are amazing. They wanted to support us and the florist community and we took advantage of it,” said Maas. “We were very lucky. They had pre-made bouquets that were actually quite lovely for a steal.”
Like Sheffield, Maas recommended working with your go-to wholesaler. “If you have a great relationship with them, they understand your vision and culture and they will support that,” said Maas, who has ordered 400 bouquets the past two years and will again this year.
“I feel that Petal It Forward is a really important thing to do because you have the whole nation behind you,” she added. “It’s a big movement. It’s not just your little shop trying to do this one thing.”
Last year, floral teams in 410 cities in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., took to the streets in 457 local Petal It Forward events. Public relations and social media efforts for the 2018 Petal It Forward garnered nearly 90 million consumer impressions, reaching people far beyond the direct flower recipients with the flower message.
SAF provides resources to help members Petal It Forward, including planning timelines, T-shirt and flower card templates and more at safnow.org/petalitforward. Be sure to notify SAF of your event by completing the Petal It Forward Participation Form at safnow.org/PIFform.
Renee Houston Zemanski is a contributing writer for Floral Management.