SAF Wednesday E-Brief
Jul. 18, 2012

Derecho Blew Obstacles Florists' Way, But Didn't Dampen Their Resolve
By Katie Hendrick

Va. florist Karen Fountain, AAF, had to operate without electricity for two days. To keep her flowers fresh, she placed 15 bags of ice in her cooler.

A derecho, an intense straight-line wind storm battered 700 miles of the U.S. (from Kentucky to New Jersey) June 29 with wind speeds that reached 91 miles per hour, causing power outages for an estimated 2.7 million people, including several SAF members.

Last Friday, SAF distributed a survey to the 1133 retailers in the 13 states affected by the storm asking about derecho damage. (SAF also sent a survey to wholesalers and growers, but received no responses.) Of the 67 respondents, 20 lost power in their shops, five of them for three or more days.

Without electricity, 13 retailers had product go bad, 10 were unable to transmit orders, four could not make deliveries and three had weekend events work cancelled. Two florists reported physical damage to their shops.

In an open-ended comments section, florists shared how they managed to conduct business as usual despite the circumstances. Several purchased ice for their coolers; a few bought generators. One asked wire services to forward the shop’s main phone line to employees’ cell phone numbers, so they could take orders, which they “hand wrote, just like we did 15 years ago.”

A handful reported making arrangements by candlelight. Another, who had a $12,000 wedding to set up, but could not use the shop’s box truck (stuck behind an electric gate) “called everyone I knew with a mini van or truck to help us deliver the flowers.”

Karen Fountain, AAF, lost power for two and a half days at her shop, Flowers ‘N’ Ferns in Burke, Va. Though she had to make one funeral wreath in the dark, she told E-Brief, “the working impact wasn’t too bad, since we had done almost of the work for weekend events ahead of time.” To keep that advanced work fresh, her father, who also lives in the area, “quickly bought 15 bags of ice for our cooler,” before many of the gas stations and convenience stores sold out. The two weddings she had the day after the derecho both experienced some hiccups with power outages, but the affairs still went on: One bride got hitched in the dark (“someone found a battery-powered keyboard,” so she could still have music) and another got stuck in an elevator and had a delayed start.

“It wasn’t fun,” she said, “but it sure gave folks a lot to talk about for a few days, and it reminds us how important it is to have an emergency plan in place, both at work and home.”More

SAF Scores Big Wins on Access to Capitol, Specialty Crops
By SAF's Government Relations Team
The entire U.S. floral industry tallied substantial victories during the House Agriculture Committee’s review last week of the 2012 Farm Bill.

In addition to slight increases in funding for already robust specialty crop provisions contained in the Senate-passed version, an SAF-led coalition of retail interests successfully advocated for changes to existing loan guarantee programs to benefit Main Street businesses in rural areas (click here to read the group’s letter to Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson). The House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the full bill early Thursday morning by a bipartisan vote of 35-11.

During the markup, Reps. Austin Scott (R-8-GA) and Kurt Schrader (D-5-OR) offered an amendment to improve access to capital for rural microbusinesses under the USDA’s Business & Industry (B&I) Loan Guarantee Program. The amendment passed by voice vote; only one audible “no” could be heard during the vote.

If this amendment is included in a final version of the Farm Bill, rural lenders will have much greater flexibility in securing guarantees for operating loans and lines of credit for the smallest of small businesses.

The purpose of the USDA B&I Guaranteed Loan Program is to improve, develop or finance business, industry and employment and improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities. The B&I program differs from the SBA 7(a) loan guarantee program in a couple of ways. First, B&I loans are restricted to rural areas. B&I loan limits are also much higher than the SBA 7(a) program, but the amendment is intended to open the door for smaller lenders to make smaller loans to businesses.

Perhaps most importantly, unlike the SBA loan guarantee programs, there is not a requirement that a business first be turned down for a conventional loan before seeking a B&I guarantee.

Obstacles remain prior to final passage of the Farm Bill. Though the committee was successful in producing a bill with significant bipartisan support, House Speaker John Boehner (R-8-OH) has been non-committal in scheduling time for a vote on the House floor. With only 13 legislative days remaining before the August recess, it is unclear what the path would be to passage of a final Farm Bill before agriculture and nutrition programs expire on September 30. But SAF, through both the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance and the rural retailer coalition, will continue to push hard for final passage of a Farm Bill for the benefit of the entire industry.

For questions about the specialty crop provisions of the Farm Bill, contact Lin Schmale at For questions about the USDA B&I Loan Program and capital access programs, contact Corey Connors at

Making a Case for Main Street

Interested in seeing exactly how Rep. Scott and Rep. Schrader make the case for Main Street businesses and florists specifically? Check out the video:

  1. Go to:
  2. Scroll to Video Playlist along the right panel and click the link entitled "Farm Bill Markup - Evening Session"
  3. Fast forward to the 7 minute and 20 second mark (entire length of video is in excess of five hours). The committee's consideration of the amendment lasts for approximately three minutes.

Florists Scale back Sales Forecasts, Hiring in Q2
By Ira Silvergleit
The percent of florists expecting increases in sales over the next six months dropped from 47 percent in the first quarter of the year to 38 percent by the end of June, while those expressing optimism in 2012 fell from more than half (52 percent) to 44 percent. Florists who offered neutral assessments, increased 6 percentage points to 28 percent. This follows their ‘so so’ assessments of business in the second quarter as reported in last week’s E-Brief.

Source: SAF Economic Outlook Survey for Q2 2012. Based on 333 responses (response rate = 8.0%): 300 responses from retailers. Launched 7/06/2012.

The results mirror what’s happening in the general economy. The Commerce Department reported retail sales fell unexpectedly for the third month in June and hiring failed to reach economists’ projections. Even upper income Americans (those with incomes of $90,000 or more) increasingly say the economy is getting worse, matching the proportion of lower and middle income individuals.

Source: SAF Economic Outlook Survey for Q2 2012. Based on 333 responses (response rate = 8.0%): 300 responses from retailers. Launched 7/06/2012.

As owner optimism eroded, so did plans to add staff. Almost 80 percent of owners (an increase of 10 percentage points) said they would not be adding staff in the next six months (not counting any seasonal or holiday help). More than half the owners agreed that they would not be altering existing staff levels.

Source: SAF Economic Outlook Survey for Q2 2012. Based on 333 responses (response rate = 8.0%): 300 responses from retailers. Launched 7/06/2012.

As the spring holidays wound down, owners cut back on marketing efforts, as the proportion saying they would be increasing those efforts fell by 10 percentage points versus last quarter.More

Less than One Week to vote in the VaseOff! Challenge

VaseOff! entry “Barefoot with Waves,” by Leanna Gearhart-Theye

VaseOff! entry Tranquil Motion, by Tony Medlock

VaseOff! entry “Island Girl,” by J. Robbin Yelverton

VaseOff! entry “Bora Bora,” by Lizzie Borchers

The votes are coming in for The VaseOff! Challenge, SAF’s online floral design competition series that went live to the public last week, flaunting florists’ talent for matching flowers to recipients’ personalities. With voting closing on July 23, there’s one week left to vote and share it with your customers and friends.

SAF has posted the four entries, submitted by member florists, to, where consumers can vote with a click of the “like” button next to their favorite design. The Challenge: Design an arrangement sure to delight a friend who loves the beach and can't get enough of the sun, surf and sand.

Individual floral businesses can benefit from the challenge, even if not directly competing in it, says Jennifer Sparks, SAF’s vice president of marketing.

“By helping to spread the word about the VaseOff! Challenge, you are leading consumers to, which touts the benefits of flowers and plants and the expertise of professional florists,” she said. “The Challenge itself showcases the expertise that florists hold in matching flowers to personalities, and that’s a message that should be shared.”

Here a few sample messages you could post on your Facebook wall and Twitter page, followed by a link to the voting page:

Celebrate summer with the VaseOff! Challenge! Vote for your favorite arrangement, custom fit for the quintessential summer girl. (link to blog)

Florists can match flowers to any personality. Check out these four arrangements for a friend who can’t get enough of the sun, sand and surf! (link)

Want to send flowers to a friend who loves the beach? Get inspired here:


Can’t get to the beach? We’re bringing it to you. Check it out: (link)

Sparks also suggests that SAF members pin the VaseOff! Challenge to their Pinterest boards.

Florists can give the VaseOff! Challenge a try for themselves by posting the link to the blog, as well as posting a photo of their own summer-inspired arrangements on their websites and social media vehicles.

SAF’s public relations agency, Ogilvy PR Worldwide, selected the four contestants from SAF member applicants, based on their design experience and inspiration, as well as their level of social media activity. They include:

The VaseOff! Challenge is SAF’s latest public relations program designed to drive traffic to the blog and promote positive floral messages to consumers and the media.

“In this world that revolves so much around social media, consumers like interaction,” said Jennifer Sparks, SAF Vice President of Marketing, “this challenge provides a fun, interactive way to spread the good news about the benefits of flowers and the expertise of florists, with the capability of going viral very quickly.”More

Coupons Build Sales — Even When Customers Don't Use Them
By Mary Westbrook
Given up on coupons? You might want to rethink that position.

Researchers at the University of Virginia (UVA) recently found that coupons generate more sales for businesses — even when the coupons themselves go unredeemed.

Coupons, of course, have been an advertising staple for generations, but other studies have called their effectiveness into question. After all, only a very small percentage of coupons – perhaps as low as 1 percent – are actually put to use.

According to the new UVA research, however, that frustratingly low return rate is misleading, because even when customers don’t use coupons, they tend to spend more money on purchases in associated stores, both on promotional and regularly priced items. That kind of result indicates that the humble coupon may do something that’s hard to put a price tag on: build brand awareness and loyalty among local customers.

“That finding isn’t surprising, but the magnitude of the benefit is,” researchers wrote. “If businesses realized how powerful this increased awareness can be, they would take as much care with coupons as they do with other marketing materials, striving to delight customers, not simply close a deal.”

Try this:

Read more about the UVA study in the May 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review. More

Make a Great First Impression: 7 Smart Tricks
Research shows that customers decide whether or not they want to work with you within two seconds of meeting you face to face. That puts the burden on you to make certain that those two seconds really count. The only way to do that is to prepare ahead of time.More

Add 'Visual Texture' With Variegated Varieties
By Katie Hendrick

Ombre, a multi-tonal trend, is one of the hottest looks of 2012 — spotted on actresses’ tresses, models’ manicures and in nearly ever designer’s line from Badgley Mischka to Banana Republic. Tap into this style with bicolor roses.

From seersucker threads to chocolate-vanilla swirled soft-serve treats, summer proves that some of the best things in life come in two colors.

Want to give your arrangements a multi-tonal effect? Reach for one of the eight varieties of bicolor roses highlighted in this month’s Floral Management.

Each works well as “a chromatic transition flower, marrying hues in an arrangement,” to create a mono-botanical, bicolor composition, said BJ Dyer, AAF, AIFD. “Roses can shoulder the demands of a single-flower design by themselves, but bicolor varieties offer more visual texture than roses of a single color,” said the co-owner of Bouquets in Denver, a two-time winner of Floral Management’s Marketer of the Year. “Plus, the consumer loves them — and that’s good for sales.”

Check them out here.More

Management Lessons from the London Olympics
Fast Company
London is ready. No matter what it looks like close up, this massive project involving thousands of people, hundreds of groups, and billions of pounds, will be ready when they light the flame on July 27 — and the experience offers a nice refresher course on a few easily overlooked laws of leadership.More

Keep Your Employees Motivated this Summer
Small Business Trends
Summer's here in full force and, no matter where your business is located, chances are your employees have caught summer fever. How can you keep employees motivated, engaged and present when beautiful summer days are calling them away? The big essential for summer management is being realistic.More

Boost Your Online Exposure with the Flower Factor Blog

Put yourself into the national conversation about floral trends on SAF's Flower Factor blog. Read the blog posts and leave your thoughts in a comment, making sure to identify yourself as a florist and include a link to your website. Why? It gives you visibility, helps to establish you as an expert, increases your search engine ranking and builds relationships that could lead to more opportunities and connections. Need more reasons? Read Why You Should Comment On Blogs To Build Your Brand and 4 Reasons You Should Comment on Blogs. More

Perfect-for-Promotion Postcards in 15 Different Designs

No matter how much direct mail they get, SAF’s gorgeous full-color postcards always catch the eye of flower-lovers. Choose from 15 different designs, featuring professional photography and positive messages about flowers and florists. They’re all deeply discounted for SAF members. Customize the back with a special offer and send them to customers to keep your business top of mind. View the full selection at the SAF store.