Florabundance News

Tom Bowling 2010

Tom Bowling AIFD, PFCI ~ Tom entered the floral industry as part time help in 1979. While teaching elementary school and running a retail flower shop for 8 years simultaneously, Tom found the floral industry to have the stronger calling. Tom owned a floral retail operation for 20 years before moving into the wholesale market as a design center manager for a large mid-west wholesale chain. He has been involved with the California Cut Flower Commission since its inception in 1997 and is an industry leader representing Teleflora as an Education Specialist throughout the country for the past 14 years. Tom has designed for the Presidential Inauguration as well as Rose Parade. Tom currently serves as a the Floral Director for Charisma Floats and this marks Tom’s 13th year at the Academy Awards serving as assistant floral director. He also presents educational seminars for Continental Floral Greens and Ocean View Flowers. Tom is still active in the floral industry marking his 30th year and is still discovering opportunities to bring the floral industry forward in a positive way. Tom is a member of the American Institute of Floral Design and currently serves on their National Board of Directors as Vice-President. He has presented two programs for AIFD’s National Symposium and has presented design programs for regional AIFD chapters as well. As a member of the Professional Floral Communicators International, Tom has commentated numerous local, allied, and state programs.

While it may be a bit premature to extend the traditional Happy New Year Greetings, it does seem that everyone has their eye on the upcoming 2011 for many different reasons. Whether it is for a financial reason or trying to predict what personal decisions to look forward to set those goals for personal and professional growth, the New Year seems to imply a new beginning. One other reason that people are always curios what the future or New Year will bring. Believe it or not, Florabundance already knows what the New Year will bring as related to trends in color. Florabundance recently partnered with Flowers& magazine to present the 2011 collection of colors that our customers buying habits will be influences by.

The fashion industry is a very powerful group of designers who have a great deal of influence on not only what we wear, but more importantly on how we decorate our living environment. We tend to decorate our homes with colors that we wear. This is actually a two year cycle. This year’s interior colors are greatly influenced by last year’s fashion choices. Like anything else, we will see color harmonies that are embraced by all areas of the country such as citric green for example. You cannot travel anywhere in the country that bright green cannot be found. Other colors and color harmonies often have regional influences. This is where it is important to “know your customer” and their likes and dislikes. While you may think your customer base may not embrace a particular color trend, be aware of the mindset that”Mrs. Jones always buys red”.While it may be true she does indeed enjoy red, people do get tired of the some repetitive diet, whether it be food or flowers. She may not be aware that those flowers she enjoys also come in other colors because you only send her red. Another red flag to avoid is personal predijice. Just because you personally do like a certain color does not mean that your customers will not embrace the color harmony. When working with daring colors or trendy colors, it is often a good idea to ‘test the waters’ with your customer to measure their response. Set up a display in an area of your shop to get the temperature on customer reactions to different color harmonies. Remember on those colors that are not a part of nature’s natural color, vases, ribbons and accessories are a good way to introduce odd colors. Aquamarine is a good example of this.

So what are we going to be seeing for 2011 you ask? Here is a brief overview of the trend colors:

Flora and Fauna – field and forest influence this collection. Lots of wonderful earthy colors spiked with splashes of interest colors such as gold, rust and pumpkin. Tobacco browns and yellow greens are the driving colors. While very much analogous colors, it still maintains a deep level of interest.

Modern Luxury – rich royal colors and abundant use of materials are found in this look. Tassels, cording and touches of gold complete the look. While many consider this a look of ‘Old Word’, a modern twist can be added with playful wire spheres and vibrant cocoa sticks.

Garden Reverie – very much influenced with a romantic vision of soft garden colors and flowers. Cream, butter yellow, peach, cherry and warm pink all combine to give a softer side for interior enjoyment. While not as soft as ‘Victorian’ once was, Garden Reverie is a flowing combination of chiffon, gauze, and soft cotton combined with garden flowers in soft pallets of colors.

With the holiday’s right around the corner, it is sometimes easy to fall away from the customer service commitment that started off so strong at the beginning of the season. Retailers get tired and worn and rightfully so as the holiday season continues to go on and on. As the stress of the holiday’s are felt by the customers, tensions and pressures are sometimes misdirected to the person who is trying to help them the most. But remember, as a local business owner, you have the ability to connect to your customer in ways that many big box stores cannot. Through your high level of personal service and a commitment to extend the best possible quality of product, you build and relationship that will continue far beyond the holiday season. We have heard the old adage that if a customer has a good experience, they will share it with a few. If they have had a bad experience, they will share it with many. In these times of so many social networks, the possibility of your customers reactions have the capability of reaching far more than a few friends both with a positive message and unfortunately the negative as well.
Look for ways to exceed your customer’s level of expected service. One of the easiest ways is a simple thank you. While a short hand written message of thanks is sometimes difficult, it truly lets your customer know how important they are and how much you appreciate their business. When was the las time you can remember getting such? I am sure it made a lasting impression. In a time when businesses are looking for ways to grow and prosper, look at ways of getting your present customer base to spend more often. It is far less expensive than try to attract new customers.
Second way of connecting with your present customers is to put your business in the palm of their hand; literally. It is easier than ever to connect with your customers through social media. We are a society all about convenience and time. By putting your products at their fingertips, you make it very easy for your customers to shop and send flowers via their mobile device. Mobile marketing is one of the newest ways of keeping in touch with your clients and servicing their needs.
You already have a distinct advantage over the big box store in the fact that you know most of your customers. You help them express their feelings through the beauty of flowers on a regular basis. Use this to your advantage when it comes to direct marketing. Personal reminders of flowers sent last year and for what specific occasion can help increase this year’s business as well. Also, don’t hesitate to see if there are any more people they would like to send to this year. While some might see it as aggressive, others view it as helpful. You being in the florist that has provided exceptional service for years past make building a strong future even easier for future growth. That is a great reason to remember that just because we are busy, and stressed, we want to keep those present customers spreading the word about how good the product and service are at your shop. Keep up the good work all through the holidays. Remember, even as busy as Santa is, he is always in a jolly mood!

As the song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. While children young and old wait for a visit from Old Santa, we florists wait for the coming of holiday clients ready to place their orders for friends and families both near and far. ‘Tis the season for many special celebrations and we can help make those occasions extra special with floral arrangements featuring the seasons best.
Starting with what most people have come to embrace, “Christmas Greens”, evergreens provide the base for many holiday arrangements. They add a wonderful fragrance and provide hope for a quick winter’s passing. There are many more foliages that work well in combination with the evergreens.
Supplementing contrasting leaf forms provides added interest in holiday stylings. They also provide a nice subtle change of color as well as texture. Silver Dollar and Seeded Eucalyptus, Salal, Huckleberry, Boxwood, Oregonia, Lily grass, Bear Grass, Magnolia, and Pittosporum are just a few “everyday” greens that can be added to the traditional ones to create a new look.
Remember that most evergreens are very thirsty and will need to be styled in a container that has an ample water source for these thirsty foliages. Keep in mind the needles will need to be shaved off about an inch or two to allow for easy insertion into the floral foam. Removing the needles to decrease the bulk of the stem lessens the chance that the floral foam will break apart.
Your foliage bases can be prepared well in advance provided they are kept in a cooler and watered often. Keeping them stored under a plastic covering will help retard the transpiration process. Many florists have found success in preparing 4-5 bases to accommodate the more popular arrangements. A round single candle, round double candle, oblong triple candle, novelty containers, wicker baskets, and glass cubes are all ideas that might work for you. Visit last year’s sales history to help guide your decision. Remember to make these available for purchase for those DIY’ers who want to make their own holiday stylings. Pre bundled bouquets of fresh Florabundance flowers ensure a successful addition for the DIY customer.
So, as you prepare your arrangements for this holiday season, remember to add the magic of color, texture and contrast to your holiday stylings with mixed foliages from Florabundance

Tom Bowling 2010 > OLD MEETS NEW

November 28th, 2010

While many customers still enjoy the look of a traditional centerpiece that features taper candles and evergreen, other customers are always on the prowl for something new and innovative. Here is a great idea that blends both traditional and contemporary together in a winning combination.
Not only are the evergreens traditional foliage for the Christmas season, so are the round ornaments that hang from the tree. Round shapes are always pleasing as they have no top or bottom, front or back, they are symmetrical, and come in multiple sizes. They are called spheres, globes, balls, or orbs. Some are shiny while others might have a matt surface. Some may be embellished while others are plain. So, take the cue from tradition and use the past to create the future.
Start with floral foam in a sphere shape. These are manufactured in multiple sizes from several manufacturers. Choose high quality floral foam as it absorbs water and retains water better. If you need a larger orb, choose a sphere that is covered in net to help hold the foam in place without breaking apart. Soak the sphere in water that has floral preservative mixed into the water for prolonged shelf life for the customer. Slice a small amount off of one side of the sphere to create at bottom so the sphere does not roll. Now comes the fun part! Look around the cooler and the design room for materials that can be used to cover the orbs. Flowers such as Carnations and Roses work great and give a lot of additional volume. They will increase the size of the floral foam orb by 4 to 6 inches. Flatter flowers such as Kermit Chrysanthemums add interest and color without adding a large amount of volume. Mosses can be used and held in place with colored bullion wire for additional color and great texture contrast. Heather is another option of materials that also work by being held in place with bullion. It is fun to experiment with different kinds of flowers and foliages to see which materials work best to produce the desired effect. When designing the orbs, keep in mind that the smaller the orb, the more challenging it becomes to mix multiple materials together to achieve a clean look. With larger orbs, you have more surface area to change materials and can create a smoother transition. Think like a painter and use large brush strokes of color or texture to enhance the surface.
Now that you have created multiple long lasting orbs, you can display them in your cooler. Each sphere should be priced individually so customers can pick and choose which ones work best for them. Keep them in shallow trays with a minimal amount of water to keep the floral foam saturated. Merchandise them in multiple ways to give your customers ideas and price options. A single orb on a shallow tray with some stones or polished gems and a candle looks great for small spaces. Multiple orbs resting on a bed of evergreen in a shallow decorative bowl enhanced with traditional millimeter ornaments showcase both traditional and contemporary looks. Be sure and display these ideas on your website to share your ‘old meets new’ holiday ideas with everyone!

Tom Bowling 2010 > Give it a name

November 19th, 2010

During the holiday season, many shoppers do lots of comparison shopping. Whether it be in person, on the phone, by paper or by Internet, everyone is looking to get the most value for their money spent. Often the phone rings and the first question is how much do you charge for….. This should send a signal that you have a comparison shopper on the phone. Usually they are looking for a bargain or are playing one shop against another. Another question is ABC shop is selling that same item for less; will you match the price? At this point, you have a decision to make; risk losing the sale or lose the profit that you work hard to get. It is a painful decision for sure. While some would say I would rather lose the sale than the profit, others would argue that part of the sale is better than none and you retain a customer. This is one of those games that either way you lose. But, there is a way to help avoid that situation. Give your arrangements names.
There are several advantages to naming your designs. First, when you give something a name, you make it personal. That is why wire services name their promotions. Second, it helps customers identify a design versus say things like, “I’d like to order that candle arrangement I saw on your website. ‘Winters Glow’ sounds much more inviting than ‘that arrangement with the candles in it’. Also, by naming it something unique, it prevents customers from calling you competition and asking for the same arrangement and beginning a price war as to who can under bid the other the most. Since buying flowers is often a gift at the holidays, keep in mind that not one size fits all people. It is important to suggest other price points to accommodate both the low end bargain shopper and the high end – ready to impress customer.
By offering a ‘reasonable’ low end price point, you can and should make your regular profit margin. Having a lower end tier, it shows price sensitivity to your customers and it allows customers who may have thought it was going to be cost prohibitive to order multiple arrangements to do so. Encourage multiple orders by offering such promotions as; buy 5 and get the 6th one free or free one stop delivery for orders of six or more. These type of promotions puts you toe to toe with the big companies who offer free shipping on $$ spent. Targeting larger businesses with this kind of promotions helps ensure more success. Keep these promotions for a limited time to force the action of making a purchase.
One way to get creative names for your holiday promotions is to gather your staff in the morning while everyone is fresh and set an example out in front of them and give a one word hint such as Winter’s….or Holiday…… It is often easier to start a picture with a line on the page than a blank canvas. Same holds true for name games. Another way is to ask your customers to name them and give an arrangement to the person whose name gets chosen. Be sure to give them credit on your website to encourage others to do so in the future.
With a little creative juice flowing, names such as: Cranberry Delight, Winter’s Wonderland, Home for the Holidays, A Very Merry Christmas, Nature’s Original Table Dressing, and Santa’s Helper might just prove to be the key to a more profitable holiday!

Thanksgiving is the time when families and friends gather together to celebrate the many blessings that they have enjoyed throughout the year. While originally a celebration of the Pilgrims surviving their first year in America, the tradition has continued and grown. This holiday also officially starts the extended holiday season and the month of madness that follows. With this said, lets prepare a recipe for the Thanksgiving table that we can share with all our friends and family.
With the influence of the harvest in mind, components such as kale, artichokes, rosemary, persimmons, and pomegranates work to convey the harvest feel. Combining these with other more earthy elements create a harmonious presentation. Wheat, broom corn, and pepper berry are all excellent choices. Field grasses add interest as an accent. Green millet, Italian millet, Red garnet bead, and oats are additions that give a more subtle but impactful contribution.
Focal flowers are very important to a floral composition. These are the strong flowers that say ‘look at me first’. Protea, kale, and red rovers are excellent choices. Secondary interest materials such as jester or safari sunset Leucadendron, Yarrow, Matusumoto Asters and Safflower give additional strength and support to the focal interest. Here again is a place to consider adding seasonal interest such as apples, pomegranates, mini pumpkins or gourds. Secure these into the floral foam by inserting 2 wood picks in a V configuration. Slightly squeeze the wide By using two picks, the fruit will not swivel or rotate.
Texture is a major consideration in any floral styling, but during the fall season, it becomes a dramatic addition. Rosemary, feather acacia, and seeded eucalyptus contribute a gray-green addition. Gray is a melding or blending color that helps unite strong colors together. Aussie pine with its feathery foliage has a subtle contribution of color with its orange tips.
While the table presentation is very important, remember the most important part of the table is the family and friends who surround it and share this special day!

This time of year is filled with constant reminders about the harvest season. With the fields of produce being harvested prior to a cold winter’s onslaught, it reminds us that there are also opportunities for retail florists to harvest as well. No, you do not have to get out in the fields of soil to do your work, but you may have to get out in the fields of potential new corporate accounts to reap the benefits.
The best way to harvest these customers is to keep your costs as low as possible per contact and to give them a reason to patronize your shop. It might be easier to target smaller businesses at the beginning as it is often easier to make personal contact with the owner or general manager than it is in larger corporations. To be able to reap the harvest of a sales call, you must first plant the seed. Let your potential customers know who and where you are and what services you can provide for them.
While services may include wiring flowers for them and local deliveries, try to be creative and think of reasons why you would shift your business from a current supplier to a new one if you were talking to a new business. Remember, business owners like to do with businesses that are similar to their own. Also, small town businesses like to conduct their business in their home town. Often smaller can be better especially if you can offer services such as billing, same day delivery, and customized orders that are often not found in larger big box stores. More often than not, price is not the first consideration when switching to a new vendor. Quality product at a fair price is what most business owners are looking for.
Be sure and give them a reason to place an order with your shop. A set amount off a minimum order is usually more successful than a percentage off. You want their future holiday business, so make it an offer that they have to take advantage of within 30 days. When the sales staff hears that this is a first time buyer, make sure that service is at a top notch level. You can never overly impress a new customer too much! Remember to capture any E-mails to advise when the order has been delivered in addition to alerting them to future promotions.
Corporate designs and gifts are often a reflection of the business that is sending it. Be sure you are selling in the right price category to be able to produce the desired results. It is not uncommon for business gifts and floral expressions to be high ticket items. Be sure and up sell your best. Once you set a price, it is difficult to move up especially if you have told the customer that if they are spending at a medium price and you have told them it will be nice. Let them come down in price versus you trying to move up the pricing ladder.
While corporate orders can be especially high maintenance, their benefits can be richly rewarding. Just like a garden, they require constant tending but the results of you labors can be fruitfully rewarding. Once your new corporate account takes root, they will bloom with revenue for your business!

November marks the time when the holiday busy season begins. It seems that for the next 6 months, the days turn into weeks and months go by in a flurry of activity. You look up and it is back to summer again! While that can be a good thing because of business being strong and meeting or exceeding sales goals, the potential is also there to lose a great deal by not watching the bottom line and controlling costs.
It is easy to assume that being busy equates to making money when in fact the opposite is more often true. During the lean season, many florists reduce costs by combining jobs or eliminating extra staffing. Then when the orders start coming back, the first reaction is to hire additional staffing and make it a little easier on everyone. While it is important to have adequate staffing to ensure excellent customer service, just one additional staff person means that you will need to have an additional 20,000.00 in business to cover the expenses. WOW! That equates to a lot of additional sales just for one full time staff person. Look to see how close you are running to your sales goals to determine just how many hours you can afford to add to payroll before saying yes, we need more staff. Perhaps you might consider adding several part time staff that could work during the busy part of the day or for special events and holidays. Many older people like to have a little pocket cash and an opportunity to make a positive contribution to a cause, but do not want to work every day or 8 hour shifts. Ask your friends and family if they know of any such persons and bring them on board now before the busy season begins. It is very frustrating trying to teach and learn during the busy times. Imagine trying to jump on a moving train and hold on. Make the experience a positive one for everyone involved.
Another potential challenge for lost profits is in the buying process. Check last year’s sales history to find when the most sales happened. Will there be repeat business such a s commercial installations, wedding and parties again this year or where there increases due to onetime events or spikes in sympathy work. Working closely with your Florabundance Account Manager will help on this road to profit. Remember the earlier you can make the commitment to your product, the more time they will have to find the best product at the best price. Also by combining longer lasting products such as carnations, chrysanthemums, and alstroemeria, you can potentially save on packing and shipping charges. Hydrate some of the product and keep additional product in cold storage. Fresh product rotation is essential especially during the busy holidays.
Having your seasonal in house feature bouquets will help you control the buying process as well. It is important to know what you are going to sell and at what price in order for everyone to perform to their best ability. Sales staff can sell what is available, designers can make up what the sales staff is going to sell and the buyer can buy the product that is needed to make the process happen much more smoothly.
During the summer, the cries of “I wish we had more business” can be heard around the country. Be ready for the holidays because they are coming! Be prepared for a successful holiday season with a little pre-planning now.

Tom Bowling 2010 > Market Mix

October 24th, 2010

Autumn brings many changes in the weather, festivals and entertaining. Home decor once again becomes an important part for consideration whether in fresh floral or permanent botanicals. Lots of parties, tailgate celebrations, and events are given before the weather turns to uncooperative. When we think of the autumn season, color and textures should be making a strong presence in floral designs. Celebrating the season with vibrant colors of orange, red, gold, and violet invoke a feeling of celebration of crisp evenings spent by a warm fire. Adding textures like Montbretia pods, seeded Eucalyptus, Cone Flower pods, Pumpkin Tree and Salignum cones add visual interest for further visual exploration. This season add some major impact by incorporating fruits and vegetables to your floral stylings for additional impact of color and form.
Limequats and lemonquats add a total unexpected area of interest and heighten the overall appearance. Artichokes in green and purple provide both unusual color and form and are very long lasting. Artichokes can also have the center section removed and drop a votive candle down into them for great accessory lighting. Be sure and remove the stem so the Artichoke rests only on the outside edge of its base. Pomegranates on the vine can cascade over the edge of the container and look great for fall giving a very harvest type of feel. Don’t worry if they are not all picture perfect as this too adds character and charm. Any pomegranates that fall off while you are working with them can be impaled on a wooded pick and inserted into the arrangement.
Don’t forget the possibilities of filling clear vase with impact by choosing Cranberries, decorative Gourds and miniature Pumpkins. Another creative idea is to take cylinder vases and line the outside perimeter with carrots or asparagus spears and then add your fresh flowers to the center. Since the vegetables are placed inside the cylinder, it only takes a few dramatic stems of fall flowers and foliage’s to make an impact. Try using several sizes of cylinders and cubes displayed together for strong impact and additional sales. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Tom Bowling 2010 > ECC!

October 16th, 2010

One of the characters we hear from often at this time of year is Count Dracula. His voice is used in many advertising campaigns, his image promotes scary movies, and he teaches counting skills to many pre-school children on Sesame Street. The Count also reminds us just how important numbers are to help ensure a successful business operation.
If you ask a designer which part of their job is their least favorite task, many would say doing the math or counting. While creating beautiful floral stylings probably is their favorite, counting components is equally important as being able to design well. Why is so much emphasis being placed on counting you ask? Quite simple; if a floral design contains too much product for the monies invested, the business will suffer a loss. Most business models are not set up to lose money. With a loss, owners cannot afford to maintain the business, pay a respectable salary, purchase new equipment, or stock proper inventory.
Here is a quick example of the effects of adding extra product to an arrangement. Let’s say you add .50 extra to 10 arrangements each day. That could equate to an extra flower, foliage or accessory. It doesn’t sound like much, but let’s follow the damage trail. .50 x 10 =5.00 per day. 5.00 x 6 days of operation equals 30.00 a week in lost revenue. 30.00 times 4 weeks a month equals 120.00 a month which now turns into 1,440.00 a year! Multiply that times the number of designers on staff and you can see just how important it is to get a handle on that problem! If you have 2 designers on staff, you could be losing almost 3,000.00 a year in revenue. Just think what you could do with an extra 3,000.00 a year! How many times do we hear from designers or are guilty ourselves of adding just one more flower of piece of foliage to make the styling “just right”. That “just right” can have a major negative impact on a company’s bottom line.
There are several solutions to the problem. One is to recipe designs that are used most often. For instance, how much foliage or filler goes into a dozen roses in a vase? Everyone on staff should be able to find this information to ensure accuracy and profitability. Or how many carnations go into a half couch casket spray? If you have weekly featured items, each one should follow a recipe and executed the same way each time. This gives the customer consistency. Think about the success of McDonald’s. Each dollop of catsup or mustard is premeasured and does not vary from burger to burger or location to location. It ensures the right amount of product is being given for the right amount of money spent.
While we are far more creative than assembling burgers, the sad truth is that most McDonald’s employees make more money than many flower shop owners! Again, one of the biggest reasons is not following recipes in the design room. Not all designs are “recipe designs” and are not duplicated as much if at all. When these come along, it is important to remember to write down every component that is added into the finished styling as it is designed. It is pretty difficult to remember how many stems were used of every component at the end of the design process.
While no one enjoys being the Flower ‘Shop Gestapo’, it is important to stress to all staff persons just how important accuracy is when creating the design work. Since most flower shops only operate on a 10% profit margin at best, each nickel, dime and quarter really does make a difference. Let the Count be your reminder that Every Component Counts!

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