Q: Are we able to deliver flowers?
A: On the federal side we’ve seen no announcement that would prohibit floral or similar product deliveries yet, and there have been no restrictions put on FedEx, UPS or USPS. These are state-by-state and municipality-driven, however, so be sure to keep an eye out for announcements at that level. In the meantime, be sure to emphasize your ability to provide “touch-free” deliveries, and let your customers know about your sanitation practices.
Q: Can the virus spread through flowers?
A: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. Information will be provided on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website as it becomes available.” Find out more. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#spreads.
Q: What are some creative solutions for work hours for employees?
A: Chris Drummond: Don’t forget to ask your employees if they want to reduce hours. Communicate with them. They should know the situation you’ll be in with cash flow. Go to employees who volunteer to take a day off first. Have that conversation. You might be surprised how many people volunteer to reduce their hours.
Michelle Castellano Keeler: That’s going to be a business-to-business decision and a state-to-state decision. In California, for example, if you reduce employee hours, they can tap into unemployment. I think everyone will be looking into reducing hours and reducing employees. There are a lot of opportunities and different messaging. Remember that the messaging to your employees has to be as positive as it is to your customers.
Q: How do we approach summer brides? Are those events a lost cause?
A: Chris Drummond: “We are actually very aggressively marketing to brides. They’re home. They have a lot of time to research. They are sending us Pinterest boards. But watch your contracts. Look at your cancellation policies. You don’t want to be stuck with hard goods or fresh flowers. [SAF] has resources that you can look at (sample contracts). Continue talking to those brides. You have the time now and they’re home.”
Q: Should we offer free delivery?
A: Chris Drummond: You can consider it! [I suggest that you start by] looking at your analytics on the past emails you’ve sent. You can see which of your coupons or promo orders in the past have generated a good response. If you do offer free delivery, just recognize that if your delivery is $12.95, that’s a $12,95 discount you’re giving. Most email programs also allow you to test different subject lines—I recommend trying that to see how response changes.
Q: What should I say when consumers ask why my retail store is still open?
A: In times like this, when people are isolated, our industry’s product can play an important role in connecting people who are otherwise physically disconnected due to the virus. We are remaining open with great caution, strictly following all recommendations for social distancing, offering touch-free deliveries. Also, as a small business owner with limited cash reserves, we want to do what we can to ensure our employees get a paycheck for as long as possible. So, while we’re not forcing anyone to come in, we are trying to maintain shifts for healthy employees who still want to work.
Q: Should I offer some sort of incentive to nursing homes?
A: Chris Drummond: It’s OK to ask them, but some nursing homes will be sensitive to the idea that they are perceived as giving kickbacks. You can start the conversation as, “I want to be your go-to florist, what would it take?” Maybe there’s some way you can get your foot in the door. I have gotten push back in the past on offering straight commission, but maybe you can offer flowers for the front desk.
Q: How do we keep morale up?
A: Michelle Castellano Keeler: [Business leaders] set the tone. If we’re coming in talking about how terrible things are, that’s the message employees hear. Ask what’s going on in their lives. How can you help? Some people are fine taking a break. There’s a lot going on. You don’t know what they’re thinking if you don’t ask.