Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Easter - Yesterday and Today

I miss the Easter's I remember as a kid. My Mom would buy each of us kids a new outfit to wear to church and we would all wear a flower (carnation corsages for me and my brother and an orchid for my sister and Mom). My Dad was at work at the wholesale house on Easter morning because in those days customers needed last minute flowers to fill all their holiday orders. We were not the only ones who celebrated Easter with a flower and dressed in our "Sunday best". Churches and afterwards restaurants and homes were filled with people just like us and for some reason I remember the weather was always sunny and warm (that part has to be selective memory!) We would go visit and celebrate (including a great Easter dinner) at Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles with other family members. We would make a day of it.

This Easter we will still go to church in the morning but few there will dress much differently than the previous Sunday. I'll be able to count on one hand the people with a flower on their dress or lapel. We will have a "nice dinner" at home and maybe all of my kids (2 are grown up and 3 are still at home) will stop by for part of the day. 

What happened? Why did we let this great tradition slip away? I miss it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Buy Flowers at a Local Florist

As I travel around the country and meet with our customers, I am hearing more and more that traditional retail florists are getting the word out to consumers to "buy flowers from a local florist". With Internet searches, it is very easy to find a local florist yourself if you want to send flowers to someone outside of your own local area. The reason to buy flowers from a local florist in the town where you want them delivered, is that you will get the best value this way. You will not be paying all the "middle men" a cut of your purchase price to take the order and send the order (to possibly the same local florist you might have chosen if you looked yourself) who then has to produce and deliver your purchase for considerably less money than you actually spent. Obviously, now knowing this everyone can understand why the delivering florist can not give you as big and full an arrangement as you would expect to get when you paid for the order. As a wholesaler, we support our customers efforts to get the word out. We need our customers to be financially fit and watching many of them try to survive on orders where they are not paid full mark up is a formula for disaster. Tell your friends to BUY FLOWERS FROM A LOCAL FLORIST! They will be glad they did.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More on the "In Lieu Of Flowers" issue

This morning I received the SAF E Brief and included in it was this timely article. I have copied the article into my blog:

Three Steps to Nix 'In Lieu of Flowers,' Build Sympathy Business 

Several members have contacted SAF recently, needing advice and materials to eliminate the “in lieu of flowers” phrase from obituaries and increase sympathy sales. We've created three practical, detailed steps to help make sympathy a profitable segment at your shop and remind you how SAF can help you do just that. 

1.    Examine

There’s no better time than now to reassess your sympathy program, spot your strengths and identify areas that could use a bit of professional polish. Click here for SAF’s Sympathy Business Checklist.

2.    Reach Out 

SAF has contacted newspaper editors about the “in lieu of flowers” phrase, and has found that the phrase originates from the funeral directors who write the obituaries, not the newspapers. Newspapers see obituaries as paid advertising that is published verbatim. 
Some funeral directors regard the "in lieu of flowers" phrase as a convenient, polite way to meet requests for memorial contributions. But others use it because they don't want to deal with flowers. They consider handling and transporting flowers an inconvenience, hassle and expense. (See SAF’s Sympathy Business Checklist above).  
It is important for florists to establish and maintain a positive working relationship with local funeral directors. An open dialogue tends to help make funeral directors feel comfortable voicing concerns and working with florists. Click here for SAF’s tips to Establish Relationships with Funeral Directors.

And, be sure to thank funeral directors who are not using the phrase. It will help solidify your relationship. Use SAF materials available atwww.safnow.org/sympathy to send them:

  • A note using Funeral Director Thank You Cards (Member price: $1 for a pack of six); or
  • A Thank-You Brochure.

Here are two examples of floral industry members reaching out to the funeral industry:

  • Dana Adkinson, owner of Keepsake Floral, Inc., in Orlando, advertised in the March 2009 edition of Funeral Home & Cemetery News, and the trade publication featured an article, “The ‘Keeping’ of Memorial Flowers,” about her business on the same page.

3.   Promote 

Knowing how to express sympathy can be difficult. Remind customers that flowers add warmth to the service and provide the visible emotional support the bereaved need. SAF provides promotional materials that relay this in a tasteful manner:

  • Statement Stuffers: “Nature’s Sympathy Card” sold in packs of 100; SAF member price: $4.95 for the first four packs. “Commonly Asked Questions — Sympathy” sold in packs of 50. SAF member price: $6.95 per pack.
  • Advertise in local newspapers and community and business newsletters with the 13 black-and-white print ads.
  • Advertise on the radio or your on-hold message with four radio commercial scripts.

For more advice and materials, visit www.safnow.org/sympathy

— Jenny Scala

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"In Lieu Of Flowers"

All segments of the flower industry and in many ways the public are negatively effected by this little phrase. In recent years it appears more and more often in obituaries across the country. I contacted Jenny Scala at The Society Of American Florists for some information that we can all use to educate both Funeral Directors and Newspaper Editors about the phrase. She provided me with the following. If we all work together we can reduce or in some cases eliminate its use. Please feel free to copy and use it.

Here is some information that may be helpful.
 When talking with your newspaper about the "in lieu of flowers" phrase, avoid the topic of profits. Focus on the benefits of flowers in the grieving process. Otherwise, it could look like the floral industry is trying to profit from people's grief.
 Talking Points about Sympathy Flowers
    * It is never easy comforting a relative, friend or associate who has lost a loved one.
     * Many people want to express their sympathy and show respect for the deceased in a variety of ways, including charitable contributions, food donations, a helping hand, and cards and flowers sent to the family's home or to the funeral service.
     * Sympathy flowers have been a part of funeral and memorial traditions in nearly every culture throughout history. In ancient cultures, floral and herb essences were used to anoint the bodies of the deceased and aromatic flowers and greens were displayed.
     * Flowers add warmth to the service and provide the visible emotional support the bereaved need during this time.
     * If you've ever been to a funeral that is void of flowers, it is a cold and somber environment. A funeral without flowers is a sad, lonely, cold place.
     * Flowers honor the deceased person's life, express sympathy in a heartfelt way (providing a way to be there even if you physically can't be), and provide a warm, pleasant diversion -- something to talk about during the visitation and the service.
     * Flowers are something that can be there when you can't be, and we all know how they can express our feelings in so many ways.
     * Flowers can be a great source of comfort to those grieving the loss of a loved one, and should be regarded as an important gesture.
     * Recent research indicates that sympathy flowers may not only brighten and warm a funeral or memorial service setting, but also have a positive impact on the emotional well-being of the bereaved.
     * A 2006 behavioral research study conducted at Harvard by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., reveals some of the calming, fortifying feelings flowers create. The study reveals that flowers feed compassion and chase away anxiety and worries. Research participants lived with fresh flowers for just a few days and reported increases in feelings of compassion and kindness for others. Overall, people simply felt less negative after being around flowers.
     * Previous behavioral research by Rutgers University also found that flowers improve our emotional health, according to The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology. Research participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers, and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.
     * The bereavement process is a pivotal time when worry, anxiety and many sad emotions are present. With such compelling research that shows how flowers impact emotional well-being, flowers should be regarded as an essential part of the bereavement process.
     * In light of the emotional benefits of flowers, it is hard to imagine a funeral or memorial service without them.
     * For information on the behavioral research and flowers in general, please visit www.aboutflowers.com <http://www.aboutflowers.com>  .
     * In most instances, we have found that the "in lieu of flowers" phrase is used as a convenient, polite way to meet requests for memorial contributions and that many people just don't understand how important flowers are too the bereavement process.
     * Eliminating the "in lieu of" phrase when designating a charitable donation in an obituary or death notice leaves the expression of sympathy to the giver, rather than dictating what they should or shouldn't do.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Retail Round Table"

A few months ago our company began to hold "retail round table meetings". We invited our customers to come to our wholesale houses, share a simple meal and sit down in an informal atmosphere and participate in an open discussion to share ideas, success stories and anything that they felt like talking about. We start with a topic (like weddings, holidays, etc...) and just let the ideas and comments flow. So far everyone seems to enjoy and benefit from the meetings. We get many positive comments and many of our customers ask when the next meeting will be. 

What I really like about our customers is that they are not afraid to share good ideas or tips that make them successful. It is tough out there and they may be sitting with competitors but still they are open and willing to help each other. They also help us with ideas that we can do to be a better supplier and partner to their businesses. 

The flower business is special. We deal in emotions... happiness, celebration, memories and even grief. The people in it are special too.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Groundswell

I have been listening to an audio book "The Groundswell" about social media networks (face book, my space, blogs, etc...) and how to understand and harness their power. I am intrigued by the potential to improve and grow customer relationships. I see a huge opourtunity to share ideas, success stories, and the like. I hope this blog becomes a place to exchange ideas and share our collective experiance. Stay tuned.