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Whew! The Valentine holiday is behind us and the Spring season is roaring in! Time flies when you’re havin’ fun! It’s funny in our business how we go from Winter to Spring… literally overnight!

coverhero In this issue, we start by wrapping up the Valentine holiday, giving accolades to the warriors behind the scenes who fight to get us the beautiful products we sell, and the customer-facing warriors who thrive on enticing potential customers with impeccable visual merchandising!

And speaking of warriors, we can all count on the Society of American Florists to mitigate negative floral ads on our behalf — you won’t believe the examples they share, and we want to thank those advertisers who re-think their marketing approach as a result of SAF’s intervention!

Prom season... it’s time to line up products and prepare our store teams. Scott Alexander; designer and owner of Scott A. Designs, LLC, based in Hewitt, NJ, stepped up to our “Design Bench” to share a great tutorial on creating two upscale corsage designs. Be sure to share these tips with your store teams!

We have not one, but TWO, new marketing initiatives to share inside: Brand NEW marketing videos from the American Floral Endowment and a free, one-hour Pantone webinar brought to us by the Produce Marketing Association.

And trouncing in with mop and bucket in-hand is our own HR guru, Glenna Hecht, giving us tips on “spring cleaning” our old, tired policies.

Oh, and there’s SO MUCH MORE! I can’t wait to see you inside!

Part mastery… part mystery. Most of the science behind good merchandising can be explained, but much of it cannot. We know it when we see it. We know it when we feel it.

With the proliferation of online, non-floral gift options and in-store purchases where 70 percent are unplanned, it is imperative to provide simple and clear merchandising guidelines to store teams. Although the theme and contents of each display should be different, there are five basic techniques of great displaymanship that are common to each display. These techniques will draw customers into the floral shoppe, and most importantly, keep them there long enough to buy!

wow1Wilai Sims, Floral Manager of Albertson’s Store 4279 in Burleson, TX, created this display. These important display techniques are:

Elements of Design: Line, shape, form, size, space, color, value and texture.

Principles of Design: Novelty, variety, harmony, unity, balance, proportion, emphasis, contrast, rhythm and pattern.

Focal Product: The focal product within each vignette is displayed at the highest, center-point of the display. If there is no center-point at the forefront of the display, the customer’s eye will not be affixed to the display long to enough to capture their interest, and they will walk quickly past it after a quick glance. Another term for this technique is “dynamic clustering” and almost every well-merchandised store follows this rule.  

Volume: Full displays sell product; empty displays are lonely and dull. Studies show that the fewer the products on display, the less likely a customer will make a purchase from it. Imaging how unattractive a banana display would be with only three bunches of bananas on display. Volume sells!

wow2Lisa Schuler, Floral Manager of Albertson’s Store 2561 in Garland, TX.

Sensory Component: Signs and other graphic material within the display communicate product specifics to the consumer such as the theme, product name, size/stem count and price. It’s extremely important that all signs are readable from a distance and create a barrier-free experience toward the final execution of the purchase. A general rule of thumb for indoor signage is that the text should be 1-inch tall for every 32 feet away that the sign needs to be read.

Honor thy visual merchants — they tell the story! But don’t forget the “locomotive” that pulls products through the supply chain: researchers, growers, manufacturers, educators, warehouse employees, corporate staff, store management, transportation teams and many more!  

Together, we’re an ocean.    

The world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands and a startup company in the custom framing industry apologized to the floral industry after the Society of American Florists pointed out that their email promotions disparaged flowers.

“We love flowers and chocolate, too, and our intention was to broaden the Valentine’s Day gift consideration set also to travel,” wrote Kristi Gole, senior director of customer strategy and insights at the Global Hotel Alliance, in an email to SAF. “We apologize to those we may have offended.”

negative1-1 GHA sent an email to its Discovery loyalty program members with the subject line “What’s better than flowers and chocolate?” to promote romantic getaways at Omni Hotels & Resorts.

That isn’t the only company response SAF has received this Valentine’s season.

“We LOVE flowers,” wrote Susan Tynan, founder and chief executive officer of Framebridge in an email to SAF. The company promoted custom framed artwork and photos in an email with the subject line: “Not too late to not send flowers.”

Tynan added, “We’ll be sure to promote them in the future. Our tongue-in-cheek advertising was not meant to offend — we thought it was clearly a joke because flowers are always a great gift. We know flowers win the day on Valentine’s and every day in between.”

As the voice of the floral industry, SAF responds to ads and others that disparage florists and flowers or cast floral gifts in a negative light.

“The main point of SAF’s response is to bring attention to the disparaging floral statements and ask advertisers to promote products on their own merits,” said Jenny Scala, SAF’s director of marketing and communications. “Success comes when the advertiser ceases running that particular promotion or at least takes note not to go that route in the future.”

Sometimes, companies don’t agree with us, Scala said.

SAF reached out to retailer Leaf & Clay to point out the negativity in the subject line of its recent email promotion: “?? Succulents are better than roses :)?? ”

Nick Sandford, president of Leaf & Clay, wrote back: “We appreciate your comments, but Leaf & Clay will continue to market to its customer base in the manner and tone it sees fit. The statement ‘succulents are better than roses :)’ was used in the context of promoting our products against the largest direct competitor in the market for Valentine’s Day business — flowers, namely roses. I’m sorry, but it’s a bit silly that someone could possibly be offended by what was obviously a very tongue in cheek subject line. Leaf & Clay proudly wholesales to 100’s of talented florists who use our products to create beautiful arrangements of all kinds. Again, thank you for your feedback, but we stand by our choice of language. “

SAF also reached out to these companies:

Chick-fil-A posted a blog that reads: “Anyone can give a dozen red roses for Valentine’s Day. Candy hearts? So last year. If you’re looking for something unique for that special someone in your life, swing by a participating Chick-fil-A …” WUSA 9, a CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., promoted the Chick-fil-A offering with a Facebook post that reads: “Candy hearts and flowers are out, chicken is in.”

Cooking Light and My Recipes posted the article: “Who Needs Flowers When You Can Have a PICKLE BOUQUET?!

Articles on, and promoting the Harry & David Donut Bouquet include headlines and stories with the following verbiage: “You Can Buy a Donut Bouquet for Valentine’s Day, So It’s Officially Time to Ditch Flowers Forever”; and “Flowers on Valentine’s Day are… kinda lame. Disagree with me all you want, but the V-Day bouquet is just kind of overdone, OK!?”

Elements Massage radio commercials say flowers are cliché and unoriginal.

Flaviar, a craft and premium spirits spirits enthusiasts club, emailed: “Screw flowers — give ‘em membership.”

Hudson Jewelers in Edwardsville, IL, posted a video on Facebook showing wilted roses alongside content that read, “The gift that never fades.”

Jared The Galleria of Jewelry radio commercials say flowers don’t last.

Lane Bryant emailed: “Keep the roses. We want BOGO 50 percent off ALL bras.”

Mesa Garage Doors, America’s largest garage door installation company, airs radio commercials that say buy garage doors instead of flowers that only last a week.

Miami Herald ran an article headlined, “Roses are for suckers. Here’s how to send croquetas for a truly Miami Valentine’s Day.” The story goes on to read: “Roses are boring.”

Microsoft emailed: “These gifts last longer than flowers.”

Perfectly Posh, a seller of skin-care products, posted the following on Facebook: “Flowers Die / Chocolates Melt” and “Why buy Posh for Valentine’s Day? Roses look and smell great for four days and ‘decent’ for about a week before being thrown away.”

Seat Geek emailed: “Roses Out: Tickets: In.”

Southwest Vacations emailed: “Vacations are better than roses.”

USA Today ran “From bacon and beef jerky to breadsticks and pickles: Valentine’s Day bouquets go wacky.” It begins with: “Forget traditional flowers.”

Whole Foods Market in-store sign reads: “You can say it with flowers, but cake just tastes better.”

Florists convince companies to rethink negative flower ads

Some florists took matters into their own hands when they saw negative flower ads — and responded directly to companies themselves. “Your feedback as a customer really does mean something to advertisers,” Scala said. 

When Robert Bryant, AAF, AIFD, of Flowers By Robert Taylor in West Covina, CA, saw a Facebook post that read, “Get Tickets instead of Last Minute Flowers for Valentine’s Day,” he acted fast. He reached out to the owner of the independent ticket broker — who happens to be a customer. “’I know you didn’t create the ad’,” Bryant said to the ticket broker, “I’m just asking that you promote your services on their own merits.”

Soon after, TicketGiant posted not one, but two flower-friendly messages on Facebook. The first read: “After buying her Roses don’t forget to add the Concert tickets for Valentine’s Day.” In the second post, TicketGiant shared a Flowers by Robert Taylor Valentine’s Day post with the message: “My florist since 1983.”

Kate Delaney, AAF, of Matlack Florist Inc. in West Chester, PA, reached out to Panda Planner, a company that produces a series of planners to improve productivity. She received an email promotion from the company with the subject line “Flowers are overrated — Give a V-Day gift that has meaning.”

“I sent an email letting them know I was a customer, a florist, and a member of SAF,” Delaney said. “I used the guidelines SAF has online, and also pointed them to the studies on flowers’ effect on stress, happiness and productivity.  I got a response that evening from the customer care team that my feedback would be shared with marketing.”

The next morning, the company sent a promo with a new subject line: “Love Equals a Panda Planner in your Hand.”

Delaney said, “I’m unsure if this was a pre-planned email or if the marketing department ever did receive my feedback, but I was happy to see a positive subject line.”

Longtime floral designer and educator J Schwanke, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, reached out to Bombas, a popular sock company. It had emailed: “Forget Flowers. Give Socks. Flowers are out… Comfy socks are in.”

Schwanke received a heartfelt and fast apology from the company.

“I want to apologize profusely and let you know it was not our intent to disparage your job or work, which we recognize as something truly important and necessary to people’s well-being and vital to society at large,” wrote Sam Grittner, a member of the “Happiness Team” at Bombas. “The ad was supposed to be light-hearted, but we clearly dropped the ball. As incredible as our socks are, we know that they never could replace flowers in any capacity.”

“We have looped in our creative and marketing teams and will be doing our absolute best to ensure that this type of advertisement is something we steer clear of going forward,” he said. “The biggest lesson we can learn from this is that we don’t have to put anyone or anything else down in order to push ourselves up. The irony of a florist helping us learn how to grow isn’t lost on us. It is in fact, deeply appreciated.”

For his part, Schwanke was more than satisfied with the response, which also included some humor. (“As much as we love our products, no one has ever said, ‘Make sure to take time and smell the rose-colored socks,’” Grittner teased.)

“It’s a win-win,” Schwanke said of the “kind and heartfelt” response. “I love their socks, and now I love them more.”

Spot a harmful ad or article about flowers? Forward them to


Mary Westbrook is editor in chief of Floral Management.

There’s no single dichotomy in the industry more misunderstood and complex to explain than the term, “shrink.”

On one hand, an overage of products indicates that customer demand was completely optimized with no one turned away.

On the other hand, a plummeting P&L at the end of the quarter resonates all the way up to the C-level with indications that we “gave away the farm” — and someone’s got some ‘splainin’ to do!

Here are five easy steps to educate employees on shrink:

faq Step 1: Where should I start when educating employees about shrink? SALES, of course!

Always above everything else, there’s nothing more important than sales dollars. The foundation of all financials is based off of sales dollars, and a weak sales trajectory will make it very difficult for the rest of the financial lines to thrive. As a result, 90 percent of the actions around the management of financials should be centered on driving sales. As daily decisions are being made, be sure to always ask, “How will this drive additional sales above and beyond the sales we already have?” While there’s a time to worry about two cents less cost on a sleeve, and five cents less cost on a bouquet… top-line sales will likely suffer if those decisions, alone, become the first line of defense. Think of sales as the trunk of the tree. Your financials can’t live without it!

Step 2:  So, what is shrink?

Shrink simply means a loss of inventory and is calculated as a percent of sales. Here’s how to calculate shrink: Lost inventory dollars for the period divided by sales dollars for the same period = Shrink Percent.

Step 3:  Don’t compare floral shrink with other departments.

Floral shrink percent should never be compared to shrink in other departments. The business model in floral is quite different from the non-perishable, higher-volume departments. However, shrink averages and other financial components in the floral department are normally very similar to other specialty department such as deli, bakery and seafood. Generally speaking, floral shrink averages 10 percent when calculated as cost of goods.

Step 4:  Not ALL shrink is bad — say WHAT?

There are actually two kinds of shrink:

• Necessary shrink: Losses which are required to rotate product and keep it fresh for the customer. When a floral or plant product is dead, it should be thrown away. When a product is outdated, it should be thrown away. This type of shrink is ‘necessary’ in order to provide customers with the best experience and the freshest product.  

• Unnecessary shrink: Losses caused by over-ordering, poor product maintenance, poor pricing disciplines, theft and even incorrect inventory counts. This is the shrink that must be trained, monitored and reduced and should not be confused with the ‘necessary shrink’ needed to maintain fresh floral departments and satisfied customers. Necessary shrink and unnecessary shrink are polar opposites even though they both share the terminology of the word, “shrink.”

Step 5:  Sales and shrink work in tandem...

Think of it as rowing a boat forward, where rowing the left oar represents sales and the rowing the right oar represents shrink. What happens to the trajectory of the boat if we row stronger on the ‘shrink oar’ than we row on the ‘sales oar?’ That’s right! The boat will go around in circles! Even and steady rowing on both sides will get the boat to its final destination!    

Shrink is one factor of a successful financial operation, but it never replaces the importance of sales growth. In fact, an over-emphasis on shrink alone can cause inexperienced floral managers to “quit ordering so much,” instead of looking at the many other unnecessary shrink factors that could be happening in their shop. Using the tree analogy, think of shrink as insects on a tree. There are good insects and there are bad insects. The key is first defining them, and then taking proper actions to eliminate the bad ones!