Buoyed by strong springtime sales and a summer that was busy for many retailers, even without weddings and events, florists are gearing up for December holidays — and feeling optimistic about what they’ll be able to accomplish despite the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic.
One holiday challenge with which retailers are wrestling? How to stay connected with customers and high on their radars when it comes to holiday décor and gift spending. In years past, retail florists might have kicked off the holiday season with a packed open house. This year, that kind of in-person event is largely off the table, so florists have two choices: Scale back or go virtual.
In Asheboro, North Carolina, Michael Trogdon, AAF, of Burge Flower Shop plans to move forward with his open house in mid-November, but he’s extending the event by two days to limit crowds and he’ll be serving prepackaged food items, curated from popular lines the shop already carries (e.g., Mississippi Cheese Straws and Oh Sugar! cookies). “We plan to make bags for customers to take with them,” Trogdon said.
Justin DeGonia, AIFD, PFCI, said the team at New Leaf Flower & Plant Shop Inc. in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, will take a similar tack when updating its long-standing “Holiday Housewarming” party for current safety regulations. This year’s open house will feature extended hours along with packaged refreshments (in lieu of their homemade buffet areas) and hand-sanitizing stations at the front door, staffed by an employee greeter who will keep tabs on crowd size. “Masks will be required, of course,” DeGonia added. (SAF has tips and best practices on how to sanitize your shop.)
Meanwhile, Kitty Eickhoff of Albany Country Floral & Gifts in Albany, Minnesota, said she’ll do an invitation-only, in-person open house during evening hours this year for her top customers. (She plans to post holiday specials to her social media during the day for the general public.) “This year we have made a point of product locally made and ‘Made in America,’ which is going to be our running theme for the holiday season,” said Eickhoff.
However, she added, she’s also hedging her bets by adding holiday merchandise to her website and making plans to promote holiday specials throughout the season online and via social media. “If we are closed [for COVID reasons] and can’t have our open house, we will have Plan B,” she said.
Instead of mourning what they can’t do — their annual three- to four-day affair with DIY ornament bars, hot chocolate stations and visits from Santa — the team at Eastern Floral in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area is moving its event to the digital space. (They aren’t alone in that decision: Eight in 10 florists surveyed by SAF said they will not host an in-person holiday open house this year.) They’ve loaded their site with more holiday gift merchandise (more on that strategy soon) and at press time were planning a series of Facebook Live events to encourage engagement and excitement among customers.
“We’re talking about making it [interactive], where the first two people to buy something on our Facebook Live feed will receive that item at 75 percent off, the next 10 at 50 percent off, the next 10 at 40 percent off. We’ll keep that going until we sell the number of each item we want to for this event,” said Brenda Sterk, the production, delivery and inventory control manager. “It’s a fun way for customers to stick with us for the live event. Hopefully, it keeps them interacting with us as well.”
Ready to take your own holiday planning to the next level?
Mark your calendar for “Countdown to Christmas,” an SAF virtual event on Oct. 23 at 3 p.m. ET that will include panel discussion with industry members from across segments, breakout rooms and roundtable discussions, and a Holly Jolly Happy Hour and Design Demonstration with Deborah De La Flor, AIFD, PFCI.
Sponsored by FTD and free to SAF members, SAF’s Countdown to Christmas will help you maximize sales and profits during peak buying periods by focusing on topics like website optimization, staffing, sourcing and logistics. Get full details and register today.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management.