Got plants? You’d better. As retail florists around the country will tell you, Americans are crazy for houseplants. “Plant love is here to stay — people are obsessed,” Nicole Palazzo, executive vice president at City Line Florist in Trumbull, Connecticut, recently shared in Floral Management. “There’s a whole generation of plant-loving consumers who are filling their homes with plants. It’s just part of the culture now.” Starting in March 2021, the Society of American Florists has a host of new tools available through its first ever Great Big Plant Event to help florists who want to improve their plant business learn, feel inspired and connect with industry partners.
This week, SAF Now editors talked with CEO Kate Penn about this new event — why it matters to the industry, how the association has adapted the programming to the industry’s needs and the big questions some of the sessions will tackle.
SAF Now: First, why houseplants?
Kate Penn: Houseplants and indoor plants have become so popular with Americans — and that was true before the pandemic. Now, with so many people working from home, home-schooling or monitoring virtual school — the value of plants in interior spaces has really heightened for consumers. As an industry, we’ve always understood that bringing nature inside can have tremendous health benefits — from helping to increase productivity to creating moments of calm — so it’s great news for the floral industry that consumers are becoming more aware of this too, and that an entire constellation of “plantfluencer” stars is out there on social media generating enthusiasm and demand for our products!
SAF also understands that getting in on this craze isn’t as easy as putting some plants on your website. Our retailer members told us they need practical tools and guidance, preferably directly from their peers, on everything from care and handling to merchandising to customer service and leveraging social media and online platforms. They want their teams to feel empowered to provide the best possible service and information to customers and they want to have guidance on how to “micro target” to their own local communities of enthusiastic plant lovers.
We also know that supply is an issue: Retailers and wholesalers with longstanding plant businesses are struggling to get product; the challenge is even steeper for someone who is just starting out. We want to bring smart, experienced voices from every segment together to talk about that and so much more.
SAF: The formatting of this event is different from anything SAF has done before. What can people expect?
KP: It IS different — and again, the formatting is a result of dozens of member conversations with our team. Retail florists are incredibly busy. No one has time to sit in front of a laptop for several hours to watch even the most engaging content. That’s why we created this program around bite-sized demos and talks. Think tapas, not main courses!
Through close to two dozen all-new, on-demand recorded sessions, participants will hear directly from SAF retailer members with strong plant businesses on specific topics — like merchandising, creating innovative services such as plant swaps, working with interior designers and designing with plants — and you’ll actually see our presenter’s retail spaces. In addition, we’ll have on-demand videos that shine a light on how experienced retailers and industry members think through different aspects of plant sales, and expert advice on training your team and your customers on best practices in care for popular plants.
These on-demand demos will be available through SAF’s new Career Connections hub starting March 1, meaning you can watch on your own schedule, when it’s convenient for you. Then, throughout March, SAF will also have live meet-up periods and social media takeovers from some of our most exciting speakers.
We’ve purposefully structured these events around the issues that benefit most from live interaction — a cross-segment sourcing panel that includes time for Q&A, a conversation with Eliza Blank of The Sill, which has been a major disruptor of plant sales in the online space, and a presentation by plantfluencer Marcus Bridgewater, also known as Garden Marcus (and recently featured in Vogue!).
SAF: What can attendees expect to take from this event?
KP: This houseplant craze is a chance for our industry to shine. The potential ROI for your business is huge: Plants are every day, versatile purchases: People buy them as gifts and self-purchases. Yes, there are challenges: Lots of competition, a fair amount of intimidation and, as I mentioned earlier, supply chain limitations. But, our goal at SAF is to help our members create outstanding flower- and plant-buying experiences — because when that happens, customers come back and they buy more flowers and they buy more plants. We see The Great Big Plant Event as part of SAF’s mission to bring the best and brightest industry minds together to talk more about the opportunities in this space and the challenges, so that we can work together to make connections and share best practices. The programming we’ve developed is practical, applicable and it’s fun to watch! No matter your goal, to learn something new, to feel re-energized, to stay connected with industry peers, there’s something for you in this event.
SAF: What other events are coming down the pike? Will SAF be doing only virtual events in 2021?
KP: Everyone on the SAF team is SO ready to resume in-person programming. We miss seeing our members and having those important connections. We have to make sure we’re handling in-person interactions safely and making smart investments. Our annual Congressional Action Days will be an all virtual event this year – on April 13-14. With a new administration and new Congress, our advocacy for the industry has never been more important. And, while nothing quite compares to the excitement of walking into the Capitol, the virtual format has real advantages! It makes the event more accessible to members who aren’t able to leave their businesses or travel, without compromising our ability to get in front of key decision makers here in Washington. More information on this year’s event is coming soon to safnow.org.
We’re getting a lot of questions about whether we’re going to hold SAF’s annual convention, as well as any 1-Day Profit Blasts. And the short answer is, we sure hope so! As of now, we’re slated to have the convention in September. We’re planning for a shorter event — two days instead of four —to make it more accessible for businesses that are still short-staffed and/or really swamped with fall weddings. We also hope to have two Profit Blasts, one in October and another in November.
Stay tuned to safnow.org for more details on when and where those will be. Like our members, we’re also creating Plan B’s — and C’s and D’s. Regardless of what the pandemic delivers, SAF will be here for our members, helping you grow and connect.
SAF’s Great Big Plant Event launches March 2021. Member Price: $99.00; non-member price: $139.00. A full list of presenters, demo names and a schedule of live events will be added to the Great Big Plant Event page in the coming weeks.
Interested in partnering with SAF for the Great Big Plant Event or other programming this year? Contact Sheila Santiago, email@example.com.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.