As Jenny Behlings, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, SDCF, listened to the Kick-Off address at SAF Palm Springs 2018, one phrase piqued her interest: “workplace culture.” Like many floral industry members, Behlings wanted to find new ways to attract young talent. The morning’s presentation by HR expert Jamie Notter created a lightbulb moment for the retailer, along with clear takeaways.
“I wasn’t really familiar with that term [workplace culture] as a concept,” said Behlings, the owner of Jenny’s Floral in Custer, South Dakota. “But when I got back home, I asked my one employee, who happens to be a Millennial, what she thought the culture was in our shop. What struck me was she knew exactly what I was talking about right away. That let me know that ‘workplace culture’ is a buzzword that we need to be more aware of if we want to hire and keep younger workers.”
Behlings is far from alone. Practical tips and guidance on how to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing retail florists and the floral industry at large were plentiful at SAF Palm Springs 2018, the Society of American Florists’ 134th annual convention, held September 12-15 in Rancho Mirage, California.
The convention featured more than 50 educational sessions and programs and attracted 450-plus industry members, including 107 first-time attendees. Participants hailed from 45 states, six countries, and from every segment of the industry.
One thing they all had in common: a willingness to share and learn — and a desire to put new advice into practice back home fast.
News Ideas and New Connections
For Lynne Tischler, CPFD, PFCI, AAF, of Your Enchanted Florist in Saint Paul, Minnesota, educational sessions during SAF Palm Springs 2018 provided an opportunity to reflect on her processes and procedures and find practical ways to improve.
She had her own lightbulb moment during “HR Hacks that Win Loyalty,” a session led by Glenna Hecht, founder of of Humanistic Consulting and a regular contributor to Floral Management magazine.
“Like what to do when an employee shows up with blue hair that’s leaking dye,” she said with a laugh. “I’m in an expressive business, so I don’t want to be the hair police, but I may need to have a policy in place to make sure I don’t get blue dye on a $4,000 wedding gown.”
During the many informal networking opportunities throughout SAF Palm Springs 2018, Tischler also had the chance to talk to participants with very different businesses — conversations that underlined for her how similar many of the challenges are for industry members, regardless of segment, location or size.
“I only have two full-time employees and three part-time, but I found out that much bigger shops are struggling with the same challenges,” including finding and keeping the best employees, she explained.
As someone who works in sales, first-time attendee Farai Madziva of Kitayama Brothers, a grower in Watsonville, California, talks with floral industry members throughout the supply chain every day; yet SAF Palm Springs 2018 provided him with the chance to see some big picture trends and gain new perspective on issues his customers must work through in their daily lives.
Among the standout sessions for Madziva: “Down and Dirty: Nitty Gritty Hacks to Extend Vaselife,” with Steve Daum of Floralife and Jim Kaplan of Chrysal USA and “The Amazing Race to Get Flowers to Your Shop,” a panel presentation on transportation logistics with insight from five industry members representing grower, supplier, wholesaler and transportation companies.
“Those sessions gave me a new understanding of what customers require, and also of what they know and don’t know about what takes place at the grower level, which is where quality begins,” Madziva said. “This will help me to communicate better with them in the future.”
Kathy Jones, AIFD, PFCI, SDCF, of Spring Creek Designs in Gillette, Wyoming, enjoyed getting to know growers from California and Alaska at the Field to Vase Dinner — a first event of its kind at an SAF convention and the largest Certified American Grown dinner to take place in the series’ three-year history.
The jaw-dropping floral designs and gourmet food served family-style, may have been picture-perfect and Instagram-ready, but Jones said the memorable meal also gave her actionable information to take home to her business.
“It’s great to be able to tell customers, ‘Hey, I met the guy that grew these flowers, and here’s his story,’” said Jones. “They’re interested and excited to make the connection with where the flowers come from. And it gives me that much more confidence as a buyer to know more about where my flowers come from.”
Social Media Savvy
Tricia Smith of Twinbrook Floral Design in Chantilly, Virginia, has been an SAF member for 25 years but SAF Palm Springs 2018 represented her first time at convention.
A session she found especially enlightening: “The Future of the Retail Florist,” with Renato Sogueco, AAF, PFCI, BloomNet’s vice president of digital strategy and education, and a group of expert panelists. The session looked at emerging trends to help businesses plan for what’s next, especially in the tech arena. Smith said she appreciated that forward-thinking look.
“I might not take care of everything relating to social media or marketing myself [at my business],” said Smith, “but I always want to be in the know.”
Likewise, Elizabeth Seiji, AIFD, said she hires outside people to take care of social media at Edelweiss Flower Boutique in Santa Monica, California — but she knows she needs to direct and monitor them. To do that effectively, she needs to be on top of the latest tools and trends.
“I’m definitely going to use more video,” said Seiji, after she attended “Using Video to Boost Engagement” with Crystal Vilkaitis of Social Edge. “She gave great advice about how to get good quality, like simple things you can buy to keep your camera steady.”
Seiji also plans to leverage what she learned about “The Impact of Flowers on Perceived Stress Among Women, ”a new study that shows flowers can relieve stress. The study results were revealed at the convention’s annual Marketing Breakfast along with SAF’s dynamic new consumer marketing program, designed to leverage the findings.
“I will definitely use that information,” she said. Seiji has made use of similar studies in the past to create social media posts and engage more effectively with customers.
Pointers on how to take effective photographs were at the heart of “Sales Jolt! Photos that Sell,” with speaker Reece Farinas of Beretania Florist in Honolulu, Hawaii. Farinas gave advice on low-cost equipment and how to incorporate taking photos into your shop’s behind-the-scenes routine.
That message resonated with Brian Kusuda of Jimmy’s Flower Shop in Ogden, Utah.
“We often feel like we don’t have the time for that,” he said, “but he made it sound so simple to do,” with an outsize impact on website sales. “That’s why I invest the money to go to an event like this, to come away inspired and rejuvenated.”
Two sessions that impressed Tim Farrell, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, of Farrell’s Florist in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania were “Between the Petals: What Research Tells Us About Floral Consumers,” with Charlie Hall, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University, and “Rock the Holiday – Your Holiday Playbook!” With Vonda LaFever, AIFD, PFCI, of TeamFloral.
“The first one gave me insight that I would never have had on my own about where the economy is going and how it could affect retail florists, which is essential for big-picture planning, like when is going to be the right time to invest more in your business or maybe pull back,” said Farrell. Meanwhile, “Vonda showed how much more efficient you can be if you look at figures from last year and plan ahead, not just with purchasing but with staffing and a timeline for getting things done. If you keep records, really the business is more predictable than most of us think.”
Look for more coverage of SAF Palm Springs 2018 — including an extensive wrap-up of this year’s Outstanding Varieties Competition — in the Nov/Dec issue of Floral Management. Plus, you’ll find convention stories about our 2018 award winners and Sylvica Cup Design Competition in the Sept. 12, 19 and 26 issues of SAF’s Wednesday EBrief.
Looking to follow up on all that you learned at SAF Palm Springs 2018? SAF has handouts posted for all educational sessions and a list of convention attendees posted at safnow.org.
Check out additional photos from SAF Palm Springs 2018 at SAF’s Flickr stream.
Bruce Wright is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.