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Starting out in the special events world 40 years ago, it was all about “The Wedding”. Rental companies provided tents, tables and chairs. There were no pro companies or linen manufacturers and fewer event coordinators except for those who specialized in guiding a client through the pitfalls of etiquette, steering them to the best bands, florists and caterers. The florist created the “look” that was current and fashionable. How life has changed! Social refinement has been replaced by instant gratification, celebrity and shock. Price driven competition, multiple options of access to flowers, Pinterest, the ‘do it yourself’ craze and constant social media has replaced experience and reputation. The traditional florist who put heavy emphasis on the special events category, chasing the large single sale while neglecting their day to day business, faced severe challenges during the economic downturn. Many went out of business. But, fear not, there is still a place for a quality, service driven, traditional brick and mortar retail florist to be successful and PROFITABLE. A special event is the client’s definition, be it a funeral, shower, graduation or business meeting. Flowers are an extension of the giver, to satisfy the desire for recognition. Flowers represent the giver’s image or personal branding. As baby boomers age and redefine life, they are redefining death as well. The three day event has been reduced to one, cremation becoming main stream. Although funerals are shrinking in some ways, in others they are becoming a special event. “In lieu of flowers” presents an opportunity for charities that went unsupported by the deceased while alive; family asking others contribute for them in their name, in death. Flowers are always appropriate at both the funeral home and the wake; it is the final dignified tribute to a loved one. The professional florist should be giving guidance for both events to the bereaved, presenting the survivors in their best light. Showers, baby or wedding, are celebrations. Coworkers assemble to give showers, men are invited to couple’s showers. Showers range from small to large guest counts, Novelty locations and local celebrations of upcoming weddings can make this a lucrative area to develop. Often it is a themed event, requiring unique items. Give the client the opportunity to procure these items, even place them on the tables, while you provide a small accent arrangement. Prioritize your time, energy and creativity. Free has no value. “I’m all out of free and I’m not making any more” could be your new mantra and profitability will follow. The wedding industry is a continually changing animal. The tradition of the parents of the bride giving the wedding reception is rare today. Weddings, straight or gay, the couples are close to 30 years old, traveled, living together, some with small children. The days of the “blushing bride” are past. It is a combined effort, both sets of parents and the couple, or just the couple, who have started their own lives with their own guest list and immediate family; the parents facing retirement age without the ability to recoup the expense. The average guest count is about 140 with a flower budget of $2,300, each contributor wanting their “style” and “values” to be
acknowledged. The couple’s emphasis is on food and drink, novelties like photo booths and favors; destination weddings in far off lands, knowing/hoping few will be in attendance. Flowers and invitations are taking a back seat. Knowing this, the full service florist who is meeting and planning weddings is in a position of control and able to capture sales that may go elsewhere, keeping in mind the importance of limiting time spent chasing these sales. Graduations are a constant: kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school, college, they have become rituals to come together and have a party, the child a prop for the event. Graduations are similar to wedding or baby showers, clever themes with props that could be left to the hosts to create and install. Event props, candleholders, risers,
candelabras and linens, require storage and investment of capital. Factor packing, hauling, cleaning, breakage, theft and storage, it will take three to five times the cost before it is profitable. Most props last 7-10 uses before they are worn out and 3-5 years before they are no longer fashionable. Some clients have access to props from previous events and want to use them, thinking they will save money but they could be making you money. Have them deliver and place them on the tables so you arrive with just the flower arrangements and place them…no time or labor spent setting up or removing. When setting up a planning session, I’ve
found the phone works best, even if the client prefers text or email. Direct questions: date, locations, number of guests, color schemes, budgets, what are they looking for you to provide; personal flowers, centerpieces, linens? Meetings/planning sessions can be kept short with direct requests, “show me your inspirational pictures” and let them talk. It is their event, not yours. Give them what they want. If beyond your scope; send them away with your best wishes. If it is an event that you can handle and be profitable give them a general verbal quote; you already asked their budget in the initial phone conversation.