Do it with daffs … give a little, get a lot

Tis the time of year when many a florist will bemoan the fact that supermarket daffs are cheaper than they can buy them at and how can they compete - usually followed by some bright spark who says skip the wholesaler, pop down to supermarket and buy theirs! Now I wasn't about to get involved in any public debate but it did prompt a series of thoughts so here goes...

1: Why the heck would a small independent florist even try and compete with supermarkets. Given their buying power versus yours, you can't possibly do it – well not unless it is a designated loss leader or special offer – and anyway competing on price as a daily strategy is the guaranteed death knell of any business. Supermarkets are a completely different beast in terms of range, customer and service level. If you feel you have to compete with supermarkets then I would suggest you change your mentality toot sweet as that won't work. As many florists say independents have to be different, not just a 'mini me' Sainsbury's/Waitrose/Lidl etc.

2: Why on earth does anyone think it's acceptable to buy supermarket flowers (unless it really is a DIRE and I mean DIRE emergency) and crow about it or give wholesalers a hard time/have a pop at them.

I, probably more than anyone, have listened to – heck reported on – all the different ways you can buy but the fact is you only have to look at the national sales figures and realise that in sheer pounds, shilling and pence (ask your mother!), the vast majority of flowers and plants sold to traditional florists still go through equally traditional bricks and mortar wholesalers around the UK – all of whom price point just as keenly as anyone and are there 6 (sometimes 7) days a week, will hold stock if you are running late/short of space and will often act on your behalf as a 'extra' team member, not just expect you to press buttons on a keyboard.

Indeed, I would go as far as to say that without the bed rock of the long established wholesalers many a florist would be stuffed ... be it in terms of supply or lines of credit. So please don't diss wholesalers who are heroes in my book given the risks they take and deffo don't crow about your supermarket daff or IKEA plant purchases in my hearing.

3: Why are we even discussing the price point of daffodils when what we should and could be doing is taking its very essence of being the most visible start of spring to our advantage. You see if I still had shops I would use the fact they give so much bang for your buck as a very economical marketing ploy and give them away - with a business card and discount voucher attached - to any or all of the following

• every kid at my local school with a tag saying "give me to someone special" on the basis it would then get into the hands of an adult with spending power – important given MD is looming

• customers at my local pub – specially the chaps given VD is looming even sooner

• random strangers at bus stops near my shop just because it would be fun to see thier reaction, a good press story and would get me noticed

• Commuters as they come home from a hard day at my local station – do it on a Friday evening (a la the old F&PA/FCH Friday is Flower Day) and it will be straight into their homes and a reminder that flowers make a difference.

• in the local shopping mall (if allowed - outside if not!) to tell a different foot flow my shop existed

And, because I would be letting the local press, radio and TV know what I was doing, chances are they'd give me some free publicity and might even follow me with cameras/microphone as I did it.

So yes I might spend £250* giving away 160 bunches (320 if I split them into 5's so even better value) but if 10% of my 160 came back and spent £35 I would be quids in, heck if just 5% came in I'd still be OK, having covered my costs and got myself some free publicity.

Oh and I would always buy my flowers from a real bricks and mortar wholesaler on the basis that if I expect consumers to support me as a bricks and mortar florist then I should do the same to my suppliers.

The figures

All costs estimated and rounded to nearest pound – to be used as a guide as each florist will be different

160 bunches (10's) Daffodils at average cost* including delivery - 100.00
Cellophane and raffia tie - 15.00
5 hours of giving away time – maybe get kids to do it for free - 60.00
Labels and tags – printed from computer and cut or luggage labels with stickers on them - 30.00
2 hours of PR planning - 30.00

Total = 235.00

Return on Investment – based on national average purchase price of gift bouquets
16 customers spending £35.00 = £560
8 spending £35 = £280

If I split the bunches into 5's - whilst costs would go up in terms of time needed for hand out and labour to split the ROI is even more interesting and actually I'm not sure anyone would mind getting 5 instead of 10, especially if you let them move a little rather than just presenting pencils!

32 customers spending £35 = £1,120
16 spending £35.00 = £560

** Eds Note:  I spoke to Fentogollen Farms, Flowers by Clowance and Peter H Smith to get a UK wide range of prices for this week on standard yellow trumpets. Obviously weather plays a part but - assuming it does what it should - prices will come down and the range of varieties will go up so you could do it later and still achieve the same results although you would miss the pre VD push.

Fentongollen Farm: 

Flowers by Clowance: 

Peter H Smith: