Mark your calendars! Wednesday, October 20 is the date of this year’s Petal It Forward, the Society of American Florist’s international goodwill initiative. Event veterans say now is the perfect time to set your shop’s strategy for Petal It Forward 2021.
Once a year, floral industry businesses organize their teams to surprise unsuspecting strangers with bouquets of flowers. Those strangers are then encouraged to keep one bouquet and share the other, spreading good cheer and brightening people’s days throughout the country. In 2020, florists in 44 states, Washington, DC, and Canada adapted the event to the COVID environment. With restrictions lifting, there will be even more opportunities to be creative with your shop’s approach this year. Here’s what several of last year’s participants say you should be thinking about now to create an engaging and successful event.
Right Time, Right Place
Plan ahead of time where and when you will be passing out flowers, says Nicole Palazzo, of City Line Florist in Trumbull, Connecticut. “For us, we wanted a high-traffic area in a market where we wanted to penetrate new clients,” she says, adding that they made sure to receive permission from the town prior to the event.
Eastern Floral in Grand Rapids, Michigan also targeted high-traffic areas such as college campuses and the city’s vibrant downtown area, says Megen Kassuba, operations manager. They also had permission to give away flowers outside of nursing homes and hospitals.
Some shops have had success giving away flowers right outside their doors. Bob Fancher’s shop, Riverwalk Floral, is located in San Antonio’s busy downtown, so he and his son set up right outside his business. He said the event has brought him several new customers who conveniently know where he is located the next time they need flowers.
In Rome, Georgia, at Blooms Floral Studio, Janice Winterboer times her giveaway before her shop opens and after it closes because she operates the shop solo.
Ask for Flower Discounts or Donations
Palazzo suggests seeking donations of flowers from wholesalers and growers for the event, and if possible, buying premade bouquets. “The first year we made the mistake of wrapping all the bouquets,” she says, which was a lot of labor and extra cost. “It’s been much easier to buy premade bouquets and slap a sticker on them. DVF and Holland America worked together in the past and made wrapped bouquets at a great price.”
Kassuba also encourages shops wanting to participate to reach out not just to wholesalers, but also growers, who she says may have a lot of extra product due to transportation issues. “All you can do is ask,” she says. In 2020, Eastern Floral had enough flowers donated that they were able to give away 1,500 bouquets.
If you can’t get the flowers donated, ask for a discount, Fancher says. He has been able to reduce the cost to his shop by explaining to his wholesaler that the flowers are for Petal It Forward.
Partner with Community Organizations
One of the biggest challenges is getting enough manpower to make, sticker and distribute bouquets, Kassuba says. Her shop has turned to community partners, such as a mental health foundation in Grand Rapids, not only to help – but also to raise awareness for their cause as well. News stations have even helped pass out flowers as part of their coverage of the event, Kassuba says.
Market to Maximize Exposure
Make sure people know it’s happening. Market the event, Palazzo says, from hyping it up on social media, to having shirts made for the team so you stand out when passing out bouquets. Have all of your bouquets marked with your shop’s name on them and include the Petal It Forward marketing materials from SAF.
And don’t forget the press! “Get the press involved,” Palazzo says. “Send press releases to news, radio — anyone who can blow it up!” And the final piece? Take pictures the day of the event. Those photos can be used for other marketing purposes throughout the year, or to hype subsequent Petal It Forward events.
Most importantly, says Palazzo, plan early! Think through the details, order supplies appropriately, and make sure the team is on board and ready to go. To find out more about the event or learn more tips on how to make it successful for your shop, go to safnow.org.
Molly Olson is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.