Friday, June 12, 2009

Wedding Survey

I've found myself involved with a forum for professional florists lately and as you can imagine there is much discussion about brides and weddings!

One of the recent subjects was about how florists with retail bricks and mortar stores can distinguish themselves from home based businesses selling flowers out of their houses. Rather than just knock them for not putting in all the effort and expense we do to maintain retail stores, we hope to come up with some ways that make a retail florist a better choice.

To that end, I'd thought I'd survey any brides who come to this site and ask what's the number one quality they're looking for in their wedding florist. I know we're all hoping creativity comes out on top, but I honestly think that there are many factors in the decision and won't be too surprised if it's something else!


Kristin Wolter-Canfield said...

This post was sad to me. I am a big fan of yours. But feel the need to say that those of us working out of the house are not "pseudo-florists". It is not always the case that we are "not putting in all the effort and expense" to run a retail store. I for one would LOVE to have my own retail store and have that as my ultimate goal at some point but for reasons such as financial and family (I have a baby) obligation, it is not possible at the moment. I do hope that this survey and discussion leads to answers for you and other stores but please consider that you had to start somewhere too and rather than not follow my passion of floral design,I have chosen to work out of the house until my dream of a shop comes to fruition.

Sprout said...

Please accept my apology – it was not my intention to offend anyone with the phrase “pseudo-florist” and I’ve changed the post. (I was actually being kinder than most of the florists I know…) And it most certainly wasn't personal.

I do, however, think that I have a lot to say on the topic of bricks and mortar businesses vs. home based businesses and I’m going to have this conversation in some future posts. I think it’s vitally important to my industry and my community. If you haven’t noticed, retail floristry is a dying industry and I am beyond worried about where we are headed.

As for how I got my start – I studied art in college, then switched schools to get a degree in horticulture covering everything from turf, to greenhouse management, to floral design. I went on to floral design school, followed by graduate work in landscape design. I worked for several flower shops over the span of 10 years, starting at minimum wage, always looking to advance my skills with each job change. I saved my money, eventually moved back home to trim expenses and finally opened my own shop over 8 years ago. It never once occurred to me to sell flowers out of my residence to achieve my dream.

Chacun a son gout.

David said...

I have been doing a huge survey of "on-line" florists. Clearly there are a lot of people working out of their homes/garages, and looking at the galleries I would say that their are many very talented people who do not have shops. For that matter, there are many florits with rather poor quality products in their photos.
On the whole most of the work I have seen is pretty good.
However, if I were selling my establsihment's services to a bride, one of the key assets that I would highlight is the clean, well-lit and adequately sized cooler that ougt to be a main part of the shop. While the home-florist can do good work, the same envirnoment limits the scope of the work. I would beat that to death. I would show all current literature on the cold chain, and how much better flowers will perform if they have not endured stres of high and varying temperatures.

Sprout said...

I agree, David, that there is a wide range of quality out there, whether one works out of a bricks and mortar shop or is in a home based business. I'm not sure location is an automatic indication of quality.

I disagree with you on the cold chain though. I don't know where you get your flowers, but the cold chain is broken long before my flowers get to me. Vendors around here deliver in vans lacking air conditioning and when I go to the wholesale flower market, the majority of the product is sitting out at room temperature for 7-8 hours. It's the same at some individual vendors as well.

Until every bunch has LCD thermometers, there's no way to prove the cold chain by the time the flowers reach the florist.

Remember about 10 years ago, there was talk afoot about thermometers on every bunch? Wonder why that didn't happen...I'm thinking shippers don't want us to know when something sits on the tarmac at the airport. FedEx, etc. do not have dedicated refrigeration services for flowers.

Any how, the cold chain is not something I would use to promote as an advantage over a home based business. Not until we can prove whether or not it has been broken.

Flora Nova Design said...

I stumbled across your blog because you had left a comment on a recent posting on my blog FloraNovaDesign.
I am a member of GSFA (Greater Seattle Floral Association - We are a group of independent floral design studios located in the Seattle area. Only 1 of our currently 15 members has a retail store - all others are operating either out of their homes (majority), or have rented a warehouse-type studio to work out of. We pride ourselves as companies offering highest standards of quality and customer service and our members are considered by many in the area as the leaders in the wedding and event floral industry. I personally work out of my basement (with a big walk-in cooler...).
I think it will be difficult to divide the floral design world into 2 camps: the ones running a retail store (the "better choice") and the ones selling flowers out of their houses (the not-so-good choice?). What ultimately makes us good designers is the passion for what we are doing, experience and artistic skills, and highest standards of customer service. And I think these factors are not depended on where and how we are working.

Sprout said...

Flora Nova -This isn't an argument about talent - I've already said that there is a range of quality to be found in all areas.

I'm going to save most of my remarks for a future blog post, but let me ask you (and any other studio/ home based florists) this - Do you make and deliver $35 get well arrangements to the local hospital? Do you do funeral work? Do you have cut flowers for the cash and carry customer who wanders in for a $12 bouquet? If not, why not? No judgment here, just asking what your motivation is. Kristin has family obligations that prevent her from opening a store, I'm wondering what the business model for others it the convenience of making your own hours? Is it you enjoy doing wedding work but not prom wrist corsages? Is it the ease of entry/ business start up?

All the studios/ home based businesses out there need to accept that they are my competition, as well as Wal-Mart, home Depot, the supermarket, Amazon, and my neighboring bricks and mortar shops, and as such I'm learning the most I can to compete with all of you. I'm trying to find a way to keep bricks and mortar stores relevant, or someday we all may wake up to find them gone.

Flora Nova Design said...

This is certainly an interesting discussion - though I am not sure that we can find a right or wrong solution for the retail store world. :) Each business owner needs to define a business model that works for them personally as well as serves the customers' needs.
When I started my business ~6 years ago, I looked at different models that fit my personal needs. A retail store was out of the question for many reasons and I opted for the model of a studio specializing in event work only (yes, I do not sell $12 arrangements for the walk-in customer but I do offer prom or funeral work for my clients). This business model works great for me because first and most importantly, I love wedding/event work and secondly, it gives me the freedom I need to spend time with my family (yes, I am "booked" on a certain Saturday in May because I am going camping with my kids).

As for the Seattle area, it seems that floral design studios, which specialize in event work and operate on a basis of by-appointment-only, are on the rise. However, we also have a few very successful "independent" florist retail stores (no FTD or Teleflora wire services) who are setting themselves apart by offering fabulous artistic designs.
It all just depends on what model works for you and what model you can make work in this world. There seems to be room for all of us.


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