Fall holidays? What fall holidays?
That seems to be the response of many florists when it comes to Halloween and Thanksgiving 2016 — along with the associated spending events (Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday).
According to a recent survey by the Society of American Florists:
- 72 percent of retailers said Halloween sales remained about the same, compared to last year. Almost 19 percent said they saw a drop.
- Forty-three percent of respondents said Thanksgiving sales were flat; 29 percent said they dropped.
- Only 20 percent of respondents promoted special sales for Black Friday and just 12 percent promoted deals for Cyber Monday. (About 44 promoted Small Business Saturday specials — but many questioned the value of that day once sales and foot traffic were tallied.)
“Halloween is not a flower holiday,” wrote one florist in North Carolina in response to a recent Society of American Florists’ member survey.
A florist in Michigan said the shop doesn’t even bother with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday promos because the team’s time is better spent regrouping and getting ready for Christmas.
Judging from respondents’ Christmas sales expectations, that prep work was likely going on throughout the country, as florists gear up for what could be a strong holiday season:
Almost half of respondents are predicting an increase in Christmas sales; 33 percent expect sales will be flat and nearly 15 percent are planning for a drop.
Christmas Predictions: Consumers Looking for Tradition — and Some Cheering Up?
A number of respondents pointed to the presidential election, but they often drew different conclusions from the result and how it might affect spending.
“[The] Trump election has spooked buyers,” suggested a New Hampshire florist.
“Flower buying is an emotional experience [and] we feel that any pre- or post-election drag on November sales will be made up in December,” wrote a florist in Connecticut. “This seems to happen in election years.”
At least one florist noted the day of the week could hurt sales, since more consumers could be traveling the weekend leading up to the holiday. (Christmas Day fell on a Friday in 2015. It will be on a Sunday this year.)
Among the popular promotions already in play among respondents for Christmas: Email blasts, mass mailings, regular posts on social media, open houses and targeted customer events (ladies’ night, etc.), special sales and coupons.
Respondents also shared some of the holiday trends they’re already seeing take hold among customers. A number of respondents noted that their customers seem to be especially keen on traditional designs and colors this year. “Traditional seems to be what people want,” a florist in New Jersey wrote.
Meanwhile a florist in Ohio noted that, in her area, “the natural look is still hot.”
The word of the holiday for a florist in Illinois is “custom, custom, custom,” he wrote. “Hot items [are] exterior urns beefed up with ornaments, ribbon, birch poles, white branches, berries, etc. Remote flameless candles [are] expensive but worth it.”
Thanksgiving and Aftermath: Ho-Hum Results
Forty-three percent of respondents said Thanksgiving sales were flat, 29 percent said they dropped and 26 percent saw sales increase.
In write-in responses, a number of respondents expressed concern that the floral industry is “losing” Thanksgiving. “Nothing seems to push [Thanksgiving] sales,” lamented a respondent in Ohio. Some promotions that did work for others include:
- Add a little bling. A florist in Illinois saw good returns from customized large table arrangements. “[We] even worked some battery-operated lights into a few and they all sold ($150 each),” the florist wrote.
- Plan ahead. A florist in Michigan took pre-orders for Thanksgiving during a “ladies’ night out” event in-store, the week before the holiday.
- Cash and carry. In Pennsylvania, one florist used Facebook to plug a candle arrangement successfully. “[We] had one in the cooler [throughout] the two weeks prior to the holiday.”
Only 20 percent of respondents promoted special sales for Black Friday. About 12 percent promoted deals for Cyber Monday — 44 promoted Small Business Saturday specials.
The majority of respondents called these special days a bust for the industry.
- Black Friday. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said sales were on par with 2015 returns but 24 percent said they dropped. About 12 percent saw an increase. About 27 percent said they were unsure of results.
- Small Business Saturday. Forty-one percent of respondents said sales were flat compared to 2015. About 19 percent said they decreased and 17 percent saw an uptick. The rest, 23 percent, were unsure of results.
- Cyber Monday. Thirty-four percent of respondents said online sales for Cyber Monday were flat compared to 2015. Eight percent said they increased and 15 percent said they dropped. The rest of respondents (44 percent) were unsure of results.
“[Black Friday] is a dead day,” a California florist wrote. “We were busy with decorating jobs but in-store was quiet.”
“People are after other things on Cyber Monday, not flowers,” one florist in New Mexico speculated.
Respondents also expressed disappointment with Small Business Saturday, although several florists reported some success partnering with local civic groups and area businesses.
“Our Chamber of Commerce has helped the small business community for several years now to promote small business,” explained a florist in California. “Events are done throughout the year and includes also small home businesses. This has been instrumental in communicating to the public the necessity to support us throughout the year.”
Halloween Returns: Mostly Blah. Some Boos
Seventy-three percent of respondents did not promote Halloween; about 9 percent hosted a Halloween themed event in-store.
About 72 percent said Halloween sales remained about the same, compared to last year. Almost 19 percent said they saw a drop. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said Halloween-themed or colored fresh flowers were their bestselling item.
Florists who did experience successful Halloweens often credited social media for helping to push sales and events. Other ideas that panned out:
- Working with others. “Promotion during the city’s ‘Trunk or Treat’ night, which draws huge crowds of families from our area,” helped a florist in Alabama increase sales.
- VIP events. A florist in Rhode Island saw good results after “hosting holiday — Halloween and Christmas — ‘Wine and Design Nights’ for VIP customers.”
- Pushing the personal. Acknowledging that “it’s hard to compete with larger box stores and Halloween specialty shops on price,” a florist in Illinois customized giftware by incorporating floral designs into the merchandise. “Anyone can find a ghost or goblin anywhere,” the florist wrote, “but [customers] won’t be able to find one creatively designed in a wreath or table piece.”