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Christmas Countdown 2021

Five weeks to Christmas!

Yikes … doesn’t sound long but it’s still plenty of time to make sure you capture every sale possible and, most importantly, enjoy it yourself.

Which is why we reckon this weekend (20/21st November) is the perfect time to make sure you’ve done everything you can, have all your systems and procedures in place and have covered every contingency.

It’s a long old article … there’s a lot to think about … and it may be an idea to print it out so you can make your own side notes ... but arm yourself with a coffee (or something stronger!) and see if there’s anything you’ve missed or if any of our ideas prompt you to add things into the mix.

1: Set limits and expectations.

You can either be so busy you fall asleep in your Christmas lunch or you set realistic goals and aspirations and enjoy the day.

So, first question should be how much can you and, if you have one, your team realistically do without pulling all-nighters or damaging your health?

In terms of estimating look at your 2019 figures if you have them because 2020 was such a weird year so can’t really be used as a fair comparison.

If it’s 100 orders a day great … if it’s 50 that’s OK too and if it’s only 10/20 then as long as it’s making you money then that’s perfectly fine as well.

Do not be influenced by what other people are doing or saying. Set the target YOU can achieve and only move it upwards if you are 100% confident you can cope.

2: The team is key!

After Feb 14th we reckon Christmas is the worst peak. Yes, its great fun and there’s that lovely warm fuzzy feeling but it’s a messy combo of being a long, drawn-out affair which seems to go on forever ending in a last-minute mad dash as people do that whole ‘last minute dotcom’ thing and expect you to come up trumps!

If you’re on your own then make sure all your family realise they will have to cook for themselves, empty the washing machine and be on hand to make you cups of tea – or dish up large glasses of wine!

If you have a team then you need to lead from the front so hold a meeting to make sure everyone knows what is happening, what the goals and targets are and to make sure everyone is on board.

Last year was an odd one, 2021 should be more normal but given what’s happening out there in Covid-land there are no guarantees so make sure everyone is in the know and every contingency is covered.

It should be a compulsory (and paid for) session with everyone involved, even part timers and delivery drivers, and held after the shop is shut so you can focus.

Not only will it give you the chance to discuss everything but, more often than not, pick up on suggestions you might otherwise not hear. Yes, this one may be geared towards Christmas but Valentine’s and Mother’s Day are only round the corner so chances are lots of the ideas can be rolled over.

We've a whole load of useful information on team meetings and other HR things in the FTC Resources Hub. click here to find out more.

3: KISS the collection

OK we know a lot of florists have already set their collections but don’t panic if you haven’t … you still have time but you need to get a wiggle on as you should really start your sales campaign on November 27th. You could wing it and leave it later but personally, with supplies on both fresh and sundries tight across the board we’d want to have everything in place ASAP.

Keep It SimpleS and do not offer a zillion and one options! Not only does it confuse the customer but opens you up for all sorts of complications and in that last frenetic week you need it to be as slick as possible.

Limit the range to a core of, say, 4 lines (1 bouquet, 1 basket, 1 hatbox, 1 plant) and then permutations of the those in 3/4 different colour ways. Use words like Limited Edition, Special Collection or similar to show that they are bespoke and not available forever!

Look at the fabulous McQueens and Hayford & Rhodes websites. They look stunning but actually the range is relatively small. Click here see how Darlington based Nattrass Florist created theirs in a day and using a phone!

4: Keep the website clean

Always take things off the website if they are sold out. It will save you time and irritation to the customer. Yes, it may look good to have ‘Sold Out’ on something and it might show you/it are popular but from the customer’s perspective it can actually be really annoying to see something you like but it’s not available. Our advice is to remove them and use the fact you are selling out fast as a PR exercise in your social media … see social media ideas!

5: Promote the bud

One of the main reasons customers feel let down is because the flowers are in bud when they arrive rather than full and open like the pic. Truth is a lot of people don’t understand how flowers work so explain why flowers are sent tight and that it is for their greater enjoyment. Look at how online players like Bloom & Wild and Flying Flowers turn it into a positive and copy.

6: Embrace substitutions

Even in normal times sometimes you have to sub but again you should turn it into a positive rather than a negative … which means not only calling it something else (research shows customers view the term substitution as a negative) but, rather than hiding it in teeny tiny print, explain with confidence that substitutions are in the customer’s interests not yours!

If you have to use something different say that it is because either the product isn’t available due to global supply issues or because it simply wasn’t good enough so you have swapped it for something that will give a better experience for the customer based on your professional experience and knowledge.

Unless it is a really specific flower – like a memory flower for a funeral tribute – the majority of customers will be fine.

7: Be cheesy – googly eyes sell

There’s a whole new generation of flower buyers out there and chances are they are younger/different to you. You can stick to your late 90’s/early noughties style guns if you insist but if you have an aging customer base you may be missing out.

We’ll talk about grandmillenials and Aesthetic Explorers - another important target group - in another feature but what we would urge is don’t diss the absurd, the – to you - old fashioned – or what your granny might have liked.

Just like Laura Ashley prints, macrame, flat packs, terrariums, bloom chysanths, dyed flowers, drieds and googly eyes are re-emerging in popularity and as a retailer you need to pay the rent, rates and wages so sometimes selling what you don’t like can make the difference between profit and loss.

8: Hold an open house/evening

We don’t – indeed can’t – advocate a crowded shop; you need to keep yourself safe (see #14) but we equally think it’s important you do let customers in and browsing to encourage sales.

Our personal preference would be a VIP open evening for your top spenders/regulars where you can contain numbers and make your key clients feel special.

Discounts are OK – although be careful of percentages. Better to do a £5 off on spends over £50 than 20% - and we like the idea of a goodie bag which can be made up relatively cheaply but looks generous.

9: Delivering the goods … make it pay!

There is no such thing as Free delivery - just less flowers in the design or a reduce profit margin. Because every time you turn the engine on it is costing you money. Delivery costs need to cover fuel, insurance and van costs including maintenance. As a rough calculation we’d be looking at 55p a mile plus a contribution to your drivers’ hourly rate so circa £1 per mile minimum and a £3 minimum even if you are walking the delivery round the corner … because even if it only takes 10 minutes that’s 10 minutes of time you need to cover.

Do not be brow beaten into giving free delivery or getting het up when someone moans. Let them go somewhere else … you are running a business not a charity and we don’t see anyone else giving free delivery … well not unless you spend a fairly hefty amount of money!! The minimum charge by supermarkets is £40 spend and even then, it will cost you anything between £3 and £7 depending on which one.

Our feeling is you should seriously pushing Click & Collect as this not only avoids delivery headaches but gets people into the shop where you can hopefully encourage them to buy something else and why you should always have impulse buys by the till!

The only time we would even countenance free delivery is if it helps you out by spreading the load so you can get more done. For example, delivering on Tuesday 21st is a useful way of clearing the decks and having spare capacity on the 23rd/24th so you could perhaps look at a ‘start Christmas Early’ delivery special offer. The flowers will easily last through and you claw back some time.

10: Route it Right

Whether you’re delivering one or one hundred orders they need to get there on time and in a way you don’t lose out financially.

Plan your delivery routes carefully so you avoid too much back tracking. Unless people pay a priority charge you should only go to each area once a day. It may also be a good thing to look at reducing your delivery area and cutting out areas that are simply too far/too thinly spread out to be viable.

Keep a look out for any road closures/works that might impact on routes and be honest with customers as to what is possible and don’t be afraid to say that deliveries may be late if weather/road conditions are bad. Customers tend to be far more amenable if you forewarn them.

Make sure you get the van serviced in the next couple of weeks and check the spare tyre is OK! Oh yes and monitor the weather forecasts. If snow etc is forecast try to have a backup plan – a friend with a 4 x 4 perhaps – and maybe even invest in snow tyres or a toboggan! In short ‘Be Prepared’ because personal delivery is your main USP and has to be right.

11: Special Deliveries

Some florists offer a Christmas Day delivery service and even dress up in Father Christmas or Elf outfits.

It should only be done in the morning (between 10.00 and 13.00 so you can be back in your own home at 14.00, it must carry a premium price (£15 minimum) and be limited to a number you can sensibly cope with.

However not only can it be really good fun and a fab surprise for people, especially if they are on their own, but it is a great PR story and shows you go the extra mile!

12: Colour it wisely

Do a search on trends for Christmas and it looks like anything and everything goes … or it’s just that the trend experts are hedging their bets!! We’ve seen everything from muted berry tones to bubble-gum pink being punted. Personally, we reckon traditional red and gold will predominate alongside a natural, sustainable feel.

Whatever happens you need to avoid ending up with a load of red or too much glittery stuff as that isn’t usable into the new year and why we always suggest investing in bronze, copper, cream and slate grey containers. You can make them look festive with lower cost red and gold accessories like baubles, ribbons etc but they’ll still be usable into the new year.

13: Get the Paint out

Spray colour can transform anything – and we mean anything – into perfect and highly original festive lines and is a great way of recycling old containers and damaged flowers. For best results spray a base layer of Oasis® Super Silver and then top with Oasis® Gold, Copper or Brilliant Silver.

For a really special look use Oasis® 24k Pure Gold or for a more subtle look use Antique Gold. Oasis® Glitter Design Spray, is another great way of adding a quick festive touch to flowers and plants … succulents look great with a smattering of silver!

14: Have a Plan B … and C, D and E if necessary

We don’t want to be depressing but you MUST have a plan B in case something happens to your team or you. Use the team meeting (see #2) as a COBRA planning session. Think of all the things that could go wrong and make sure you have a solution. It’s like having an insurance policy. Have one and nothing will go wrong ... don’t and the sky will fall in!

15: Bubbles

We hate the idea too but the last thing you want is the shop/studio to shut because of isolation issues. If you have a team split them into groups and if you can work a split shift system, do it. May not be as much fun but shutting the shop completely is going to be a lot less funny.

If you can’t bubble then make sure everyone is comfortable working in a tight group/confined place. Even if you are double and tripled vacced you can still get Covid, never mind all the other bugs and beasties going around so be careful. Maybe even ask your team to take LFT’s every other day so that people are comfortable and confident.

If you are worried about the legal implications have a read of our Vaccines and Testing Guide from Croner here.

16: Can work be done at home?

If space is at a premium and you are worried about your team getting poorly or overstretched see if there are any tasks that can be done off site like bow making, making up care card packs, writing out message cards, doing social media etc. There is no rule that says everything has to be done in the shop/studio and it may help.

17: Look after the team and yourself

Keep the team happy, healthy, motivated and jolly even if they are having to put in extra hours.

Make sure there are plenty of snacks and fruit, water and hot drinks … maybe even a daily hot chocolate from your local coffee shop or a glass of wine or cocktails for the later evening shift.

That said, try not to work silly mad hours. It can be counterproductive and it’s better to start early and finish at a relatively normal hour if possible. Work out a shift system and if you’ve got some staff that are better in the shop than the workroom (or the other way round!) deploy their skills in the best place rather than everyone trying to do everything.

Beware of bringing in temps. They can be great, but they can also a pain in the wotsits if they’re not totally in tune with your full-time team. It may be better to pay overtime to people who know your ways.

There are other ways you can adapt staffing to make it more effective … this is one of our articles that might help.

18: Take time off

No, we’re not being mad, we are being motherly!! We know it’s going to be tough … was ever thus in a florist shop … but we really don’t recommend all-nighters unless you REALLY can take an afternoon catch up somewhere along the line. We’ve been there, done it and been knackered as well so please, please take care of yourself … as we say in #1 we do not want to think of you falling asleep in your festive lunch!!

19: Feed the soul and the body

Make sure your freezer is full of ready to heat meals so you don’t have to scratch cook or live on take outs or make sure the slow cooker is set up every morning. Get your own present list sorted out before 1st December and book out at least two pre-Christmas treats for yourself and your family as well so you don’t end up feeling you’ve just spent the whole of December making everyone else happy and you missed it!

20: Push the Shop Local message

Chances are the pandemic saw a lot more local customers using you … you need to trade on that whole Shop Local message at this time of year and latch into any of the campaigns going … like the American Express Small Shop Saturday Holly & Co’s Shop Local campaign or anything your local council may be doing.

21: Keep in touch

Use your database (you do have one don’t you – if not now is the time to get it sorted!!) and contact everyone who bought from you last year to tell them about your collections, any special offers, new lines or just as a gentle reminder to book a delivery before you run out of slots. There is no harm in saying you have limited delivery options and hopefully will encourage early orders on the clip.

22: Always have a BBB (Bally Big Bouquet!!)

Always have a range of top dollar designs on your site … yup even a £500 option. The average spend in the UK may be in the region of £48 but have some designs at £70/£90/£125/£250 and even a £500 offering as well.

Not only might you sell them but it makes your normal ones look amazingly good value!! You only need to make up mock-ups for the pictures so it’s the sort of thing you should schedule for your normal big delivery day and yes you may have to buy in some specials but the investment will be worth it as you can use the pics on your social media as well.

To emphasise the size always shoot it with someone holding it against a wall/fence or similar with just their legs and top of head showing or held over their shoulder … that way people can see just how big it is. This one is from Susan Travis in Middleton, and yes that is a person behind it!

23: Go big or go home

If a bouquet could fit in a standard courier box as an independent florist you probably shouldn’t be selling it because bespoke floristry is thinking outside the box! The only things that can be smaller are hatboxes and baskets and even then we would say always go the biggest you can.

24: Use the stems

We admit it we cringe when we see florists use an 80 cm and cut it down … why??? Your bouquets should be longer and more flamboyant than anyone else’s and, given you can often get a 70/80cm for very little more than a 50/60 (because all the pack houses are looking for that length) why wouldn’t you? The cost implication to you will be negligible … the difference to your recipient and ergo the sender will be huge!

25: Make sets

Sell three hatboxes as a complete gift, always put plants in pots and sell as a unit price, put add-ons in the same picture rather than expecting people to remember to add a teddy/box of chocs etc. It’s simply means making a second shot but it is a far better way to sell the add-ons.

26: Sustainability matters

The ‘green’ message is hugely important but be sensible. We see a lot of florists telling a ‘green’ story or dissing another product/source to make them seem better but which we know isn’t true. In such a sensitive area you need to be careful and not make promises you can’t keep or which could catch you out.

One of the most well researched messages we’ve seen is this one from the team at Petalon who are very upfront about what they can and can’t do and equally honest about imports.

Truth is, it’s OK if it's only baby steps … like using bio-degradable glitter or packaging, having an electric van or delivering by bike or recycling containers. In our opinion the fact you are even trying to do things is a plus point.

27: Finishing touches

This is where clever telesales or website build works well. The finishing touches … be it a luxury velvet bow as against standard satin or the cute love token attached to the design can be valuable add on sales but need to be built into the script or as a pop up just before the person checks out on your website.

28: Sell well

Don’t ever say prices start at x or ask what the budget is. You should never make assumptions about how much a customer can afford nor assume they know anything about flowers (most don’t) but instead give them a range of options in ways they can relate to.

It may take more time/be harder work but having a real conversation with a customer doesn’t just create a relationship that could result in repeat business but can often end up with a far higher sale as well.

Use furniture to explain the size of a design. Say a hatbox is suitable for a coffee table or small sideboard … a table decoration is best for a dining table etc. OK not all dining tables are the same size but it gives people something to relate to.

There will always be exceptions to the rule (i.e., the manky customer who only want to spend a tenner) but the majority of times making the effort properly will pay huge dividends.

29: Pricing

The biggest thing to think about and - to be blunt essential - to get right. Get it wrong and you could end up losing a fortune. Even one stem too many can make a huge difference - 100 orders with £1 too much content is suddenly £100 down the drain!

We know we keep banging on about it but DO NOT BE AFRAID to put your prices up or putting less in the design. We are noticing some online people are because they can’t absorb the flower price hikes either and they buy HUGE volumes.

Do not feel pressurised to try and price point with them or supermarkets. If your customers won’t pay what you NEED to make a living then they are not the right customers. Easier said than done we know but please do not under-price just to get sales, Remember Turnover is vanity, Profit is sanity.

30: Packaging

We admit we’re still suckers for shiny cello and ribbons but do try to keep it as environmentally friendly as possible. Both Berisfords and Suttons offer a range of environmental options and whilst it costs more it’s important that everyone does their bit.

You don’t want to be accused of greenwashing but if you are using environmentally friendly products tell people. Alternatively wrap in hessian/newspaper (we like the FT as it’s not just boring black and white) or ditch packaging completely and offer a naked collection and make a thing of that too!

If you are still confused by the difference between biodegradable and compostable our sustainable floristry section has a load of useful articles that can help.

31: Vouchers

Not everyone wants to send the full Monty at Christmas but still want to use flowers and plants as a gift option. Have beautifully printed vouchers/gift certificates available in increments of £20 and upwards and present them in either high quality envelopes – we’re talking vellum tied with stylish ribbon and maybe dried flowers or within a cute pot plant. Whatever you do it has to be as stylish as any other design you send out.

32: Beat the January Blues

As an alternative to vouchers think of running workshops in January. It’s a relatively quiet time for retail floristry and gives something for people to look forward to. Can be anything you like – crowns, spring door wreath, table centres, even a hand tied but people will want something to do and it’s another cool gift idea.

33: Know thy enemy

No, not your local florist but the online players like Bloom & Wild etc. They are the ones switching customers away from traditional local florists on a grand scale ... look at what they are doing and see if you can switch people back. They aren’t really selling anything different to you but their marketing is oh so slick. Spend time looking at their website, do a test order, get on their mailing lists and learn from them.

34: Get the timings right

The way Christmas falls this year is potentially fab … and potentially dreadful. If, as we suspect, a lot of people travel back to families on the Thursday then sales will be lower but it does mean you can focus on make-up/delivery … if they leave it till the 24th then you could be rammed!

Prepare for all eventualities but, if possible, make sure you have some back up plans to re-stock if necessary. The objective is to not miss a sale but equally – and especially if you are closing the following week – leaving the shop clear and clean so you don’t walk back into dead and dying flowers or, worse still, smelly buckets!!

35: Don’t miss the after-sale

Chances are people will want to send thank you’s and Happy New Year gifts but you won’t be able to get fresh supplies until Wednesday 29th if you have a local wholesaler and maybe longer if reliant on Dutch deliveries.

You only need to offer a limited collection – that’s what most of the big players are doing and plants are an obvious but talk to your wholesaler and see if you can get a small order of fresh cut, long-lasting varieties ion Christmas Eve. Varieties like white or peach amaryllis, orchids, bloom and spray chrysanths, carnations, lilies, Alstroemeria, eryngium etc - basically ones that can take some movement over the four-day shut down but still look great and last!

Have a bundle of contorted willow or frosted twigs to add volume and think a classic frosted white palette or purples or blues … anything but red!!

36: Join Forces

Collaboration is the name of game these days. Chances are you have already set up links with local pubs, restaurants, other retailers, community groups but if there are any links missing get on the case now. Even if it’s too late for Christmas you need to be thinking about the first three months of 2022!

37: Get plastered

Make sure all emergencies are covered. Check you have plenty of plasters, bandages, headache pills etc for you and the team.

When it comes to the flowers and foliage make sure you have cans of Oasis® Fresh Up brilliant for making all those brown spots on foliage disappear and Quick Dip® which is amazing for reviving flagging flowers and bringing them back to full glory.

38: Using foam wisely

Foam may be the devil incarnate for some but with more environmentally friendly options on the market it is still possible to get the benefits without it being an evil thing; important to retail shops where time is money and speed counts.

For arrangements you can start foaming up containers and adding foliage a couple of weeks in advance so they’re ready to flower up when the queues are out of the door! Keep them in a cool place and they’ll be fine. Place any spare foliage in a black bag and spray it lightly. Seal it up and it will keep fresh.

Wreath rings are perfect for quick and easy table decs while 1/3 of a brick of Foam is great for making low cost ready-to-go’s. Simply put a third of a brick in pretty wrapping, secure and fill with flowers and foliage to suit. You’ll use far less material but can still make a great looking design, it’s far quicker than a Hand Tied and because the flowers are in foam you can make them up a couple of days in advance.

39: Get social

Ideally, you’d spend half an hour every day posting fresh content using pics you took the day before of work you’d made. In reality and when things are busy that won’t always happen. So put some time into creating a file of ready to post content to fill in the gaps!

Alternatively, whilst we don’t want to be ageist, it may be that there is actually a hidden social media guru on your team so when you hold your team meeting ask if anyone would/could take it on.

In an ideal world you’ll have 30 different postings prepped using Canva or similar and check out what your relay and people like the Floristry Trade Club, BFA and Good Florist Guide are making available.

You need to create a good mix a mix of things and it should ideally include some video footage … a tour of the shop, you making something, a close up of one of your favourite design, the reaction of someone you deliver a gift to (get permission on this one).

On the static shot front you need to include

· Lines you want to sell

· Informative posts to show you have knowledge like caring for flowers, keeping the Christmas tree alive etc

· Fun facts about Christmas varieties,

· Competitions – either a straight raffle or the Christmas Name Game for example

· A 'Thank you for your Support’ … this message can be repeated through December

· Selling out fast posts – even if you aren’t - it creates a sense of urgency!

and … perhaps most importantly

· Fun shots of you and the team … be it wearing silly hats or flat out on the floor!!

Because being personal is no bad thing. People buy people so don’t be afraid to show your face even if you aren’t wearing lippy or dressed up to the nines!

Marketing specialists Avocado have created a whole raft of marketing ideas and videos as part of the membership package … you can get a taster here.

40: Enjoy it!

We know that Christmas is a long, hard, slog and by Christmas Eve most florists are heartily sick of glitter and sap. But just hang on to the fact that you will have made an awful lot of people happy and hopefully added a bit more profit to the bottom line. Just don't miss out on your own fun!!

Want more help?

Florist Magazine is part of the Floristry Trade Club which, for as little as £5 a month, can link you to a whole host of information and ideas. It's split into different hubs each covering key areas and is written by a team of experts who know their stuff. Click here to take a tour of the site and find out what else is available.

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