SAF Wednesday E-Brief
Oct. 14, 2015

Local Florists Turn 'Petal It Forward' into Love Fest ... and Marketing Gold
By Mary Westbrook

Rio Roses partnered with the IM Able Foundation for a giveaway and fundraiser at Zoo Miami. Flower recipients cheerfully mugged for the camera throughout the event, and Rio Roses shared those photos through its social media channels.

When Karen Flanders put out a call for volunteers to help support her Petal It Forward event, she wasn’t exactly sure what she — or her volunteers — were signing up for. The owner of Lady Slipper Creations in Chester, New Hampshire, planned to give out about 600 roses to strangers, including patients and medical professionals at nearby medical facilities. And, while she expected the experience to be positive, she wasn’t prepared for just how emotional the day would become.

Former SAF president Shirley Lyons, AAF, PFCI, generated positive publicity for Dandelions Flowers & Gifts through flower giveaways that helped boost spirits — particularly in Roseburg, Oregon, where community members still are reeling from the recent mass shooting tragedy.

“The response was incredible,” Flanders said. Many of the recipients were cancer patients undergoing chemo and other forms of treatments. Flanders’ volunteers were allowed inside the facility to hand out flowers to family members and patients; one woman told the team that receiving the flower gave her a reason to smile — the first reason she’d had all day.

Hundreds of miles away in Scott, Louisiana, Annie Taylor of Leona Sue’s Florist had a similarly emotional moment during her Petal It Forward event, when a bouquet recipient was so overwhelmed, she sat in her car and cried. “We have no idea what she was going through, but she said, ‘Thank you,’” said Taylor.

And in Denton, Maryland, a senior citizen was so taken aback by flowers from Patti's Petals Florist, Gardens and Gifts that she kept repeating, “For me? This is for me?”

These stories — among many, many others like them — help capture the experience of the nearly 50 floral industry members who participated at the local level last week in SAF’s Petal It Forward event.

In Encinitas, California, Dramm and Echter gave away 200 bouquets, a feat the company shared on social media. The grower also partnered with other industry members, including the San Francisco Flower Mart, for Petal It Forward efforts.

In New York City on Oct. 7, SAF’s energetic “street team” — which included SAF member Nic Faitos, nine additional volunteers from his NYC shop, Starbright Floral, and DVFlora which handled the product and delivery logistics — capitalized on popular pay-it-forward initiatives by randomly giving two bouquets each to passersby in Times Square and Union Square. SAF members were encouraged to promote their own complementary events — and many who participated pulled out all the stops.

A small sample of the dozens of events we’ve heard and read about on social media include:

Many industry members partnered with other businesses and groups to plan and promote their events. Some of those partnerships included: The campaign itself was made for the digital, share-happy age. Participating SAF members and flower recipients were encouraged to share their experiences on social media with the hashtag #petalitforward. The response online was overwhelming—and overwhelmingly positive, said florist after florist. In addition, many participants also scored positive coverage in the traditional press, including:

Palace Florists in Washington, D.C. handed out 1,000 roses and interacted with about 500 people in a two-hour window, including these two recipients. “It was wonderful to meet so many people that use our flower shop but tend to call or order online,” said owner Lee Herman.

Beyond the press, the effort led to an outpouring of support and appreciation from people on the receiving end of the flowers. Read more about the results from SAF’s campaign in New York City. Check out additional stories and photos on SAF’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Staff at Washington D.C.’s Palace Florists, including Donna Dolgoff, Andrea Luts and Beth Herman, had “a lot of fun” with the social media side of Petal It Forward, said owner Lee Herman. “We had our tweets re-tweeted, and we posted on our Facebook and Instagram pages.”

Radebaugh Florist and Greenhouses in Towson, Maryland, handed out a total of 200 bouquets at a local coffee shop and, later in the day, the city center, where there was more foot traffic and opportunity for interactions.

“There were so many wonderful reactions,” said Kaitlin Radebaugh, of her shop’s Petal It Forward event. “The best was watching someone walk away with the bouquets and, before they get to the end of the street, handing off the bouquet to someone else and seeing that persons reaction to a pure act of kindness from a stranger.”

On social media, a young woman tagged Radebaugh Florist and Greenhouses to gush about the experience of receiving flowers unexpectedly, and to share her experience of “petaling” the act forward. That interaction was “fantastic,” said Kaitlin Radebaugh.

Annie Taylor of Leona Sue’s Florist promoted Petal It Forward extensively on social media before the event. The interactions the posts generated represented dramatic improvements over previous efforts, she said.

Georgianne Vinicombe of Monday Morning Flower and Balloon Co. said her shop gave out 200 daisy bouquets. They even surprised a bus of tourists from Japan.

Kim Wood, Ali Wood and Ashley Wood, of Patti's Petals Florist, Gardens and Gifts handed out 350 flowers around downtown Denton, Maryland. The local newspaper editor accompanied the staff for some of the handout time.

In partnership with California flower growers and local colleges and design students, the San Francisco Flower Mart distributed about 620 bouquets.

After receiving flowers form Ashland Addison Florist in Chicago, a grateful consumer took to social media writing: “Unexpected [kindness] is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”

In Philadelphia, Plaza Flowers jumped into the action with its own giveaway. The shop encouraged recipients to interact online — a big component of the PR effort, which relied on sharing and social media posts to build awareness.


Industry Members React to Historic Flooding
By Mary Westbrook

Charleston, South Carolina, has seen record rainfall and flooding. When Tiger Lily staff arrived on site for weddings that weren’t canceled in the aftermath of the initial storm, “we were heroes,” said Manny Gonzales.

The worst of South Carolina’s historic flooding may be over, but the cleanup won’t be easy — or fast. So far, 19 people have died in the floods and more than 300 bridges and roads are still closed around the state.

Tim Lawing, AIFD, of Tim’s Touch Flowers & Gifts in Lexington — located less than 15 miles from Columbia — said he’s seeing those infrastructure problems firsthand.

“We are still experiencing closed roads and bridges,” he said. “Many washed out underneath the road and then the pavement collapsed.” As of October 12, “many of the schools are still closed due to road conditions and they are using school facilities for shelters as well.”

While some areas around Columbia saw boil water advisories lifted over the weekend, other residents remain under the advisory, and at least 20 of the state’s dams collapsed in the catastrophic flooding.

“One of the local caterers has been feeding the people on two streets in an area near me,” Lawing said. “I have been several times to help serve dinner to about 175 people. Until you see the entire street lined with debris pile 7 to 9 feet high in front of each house, you don't understand the devastation.”

Jimmy Richardson of Tommy’s Wholesale Florist in Florence said he’s hearing about challenges from his customers. “We have one client in Andrews, South Carolina, that lives four miles from his flower shop,” he said. “It takes him close to four hours one way to get to work because of the roads closed.”

Not surprisingly, Richardson, who said he didn’t know of any florist with significant structural damage to his or her business, said the flooding has hurt floral sales in the state; his own recent open house and design show saw a very low turnout, only about 30 people.

“Hopefully, things will return to normal as soon as soon as more roads are opened,” he said.

Tiger Lily’s delivery drivers had to be strategic navigating the city and surrounding areas. Fortunately, the shop was not damaged in the storm. “We’re on high ground by Charleston standards,” Gonzales explained.

Len Collins of Georgia State Floral Distributors Inc. in Augusta, Georgia, said he had to cancel his Monday delivery last week to affected areas, owing to closed or washed out roads. By Wednesday, those routes were back to normal. (Augusta is about 75 miles from Columbia; Collins estimates that about 10 percent of his customers are in affected areas.)

Another concern: canceled events.

“During the storm and the weekend after (Oct.3-4), myself and other wedding vendors were jumping through hoops, trying to help brides find new venues for their weddings,” said Lawing, adding that flood damage could hurt venues for months to come. “One had over 8 feet of water that washed through the entire facility.”

Florists in Charleston — a top destination for weddings — were particularly tuned into the potential for lost business.

Still, Collins said most of his customers seemed to have gritted their teeth and pulled off their events, unless the customer canceled first. “It was not easy, but they did what they had to do,” he said. “When it comes to destination weddings, the show must go on come hell or high water. [Florists] take pride in that, too.”

Manny Gonzales of Tiger Lily Florist said many wedding parties were caught off guard by the bad weather when it first hit. In the days leading up to the storm, few forecasters were predicting how devastating the rain would be and many were focused on then-Tropical Storm Joaquin, which eventually made an eastward turn away from the U.S.

“Most folks thought the rain was not going to be too big a deal and got to town that Thursday and Friday (Oct. 1-2),” said. “Most vendors came through, but several venues refused to hold the wedding, out of liability and employee/guest safety. … Other venues, including brand new hotels that had just opened, stepped up and took the weddings same day.”

Set-ups over that first weekend “weren’t the toughest part,” Gonzales said. “We were the heroes bringing the flowers to the elated brides.”

Instead, pick-ups posed the real challenge. “Midnight, raining, flooding, everyone was stressed out, tired and guests were drunk,” he said. “Navigating the streets at night was challenging because it was difficult to see how deep the water was. Fortunately, our guys made the right calls [driving around town], and we kept our trucks rolling.”

Other companies Tiger Lily works with weren’t as lucky. “A couple rental company trucks stalled out in water 3-foot deep,” Gonzales said. “A chair rental company woman was stuck in an elevator with 50 chairs when the power went out.”

At Keepsakes Florist, also in Charleston, Karen Spalviero said two out of her four weddings were canceled the weekend of Oct. 3-4. Other deliveries, including funeral work, also were affected by road closures.

“Luckily, my shop did not have flooding and only briefly lost power,” she said.

For his part, Gonzales, who wrote a heartfelt column about the aftermath of the Charleston shooting for Floral Management said he’s ready for the city to be out of national headlines.

“Hopefully, we'll be a sleepy southern town [again],” he said.

Farther north, in Wilmington, North Carolina, Dana Cook, AAF, of Julia’s Florist had to delay some deliveries from Monday, Oct. 5, to Tuesday, Oct. 6, after the initial storm.

“Customers were very understanding as there was quite a bit of standing water in the low-lying areas,” she said. “One of our large gated communities was especially hard hit by the heavy rain.” By Tuesday, her drivers were out in force again without issue.

Of course, retail florists weren’t the only industry members facing logistical challenges. The area surrounding Walterboro, South Carolina, “was hit very hard with lots of flooding,” said Catherine Jakaitis, director of global marketing for Floralife and Oasis Grower Solution, who noted that one employee had to be evacuated from his home, along with is family. (The office itself was not in a flood path.)

“The other problem is that there are many bridges washed out and road closings,” she said. “They do not call us the low-country for nothing. So, there are some issues getting to work.”

At press time, SAF was still reaching out to industry members in affected areas. Want to share your story? Email

With New Partnerships, SAF Brings Value-Packed Events to More Cities
By Mary Westbrook

Several shops chose to send multiple employees to SAF’s 1-Day Profit Blast in Seattle, so they could collaborate on how to use the information gleaned from the event.

A new partnership between SAF and some if its wholesaler members is making high quality education even more affordable — and bringing it even closer to home — for many retail florists.

On Nov. 14, SAF will host its 1-Day Profit Blast in Des Moines, Iowa. The packed program will include expert insight on business, technology, trends and design, along with a supplier showcase.

To offset costs and keep the registration rate low, the Bill Doran Company is underwriting the program.

“This is really a win-win for us,” said Bill LaFever, president of the Bill Doran Company. “We can give our customers access to a great program, but we don’t have to be the ones to develop and coordinate the content and logistics — which takes an incredible amount of time. That’s SAF’s expertise, so we can leave the content and logistics to them, and we can work on getting our retailers to attend.”

Jacob McCall AAF, AIFD, FSMD

SAF launched its 1-Day Profit Blast two years ago as a way to make the kind of “high quality education” floral industry members enjoy at the organization’s annual convention more accessible to more of its members, both from a cost and time perspective, said SAF CEO Peter Moran.

“Our annual convention continues to grow, and it gets rave reviews from everyone who attends, but we also know that many of our members simply cannot afford (the time and/ or dollars required) to attend it,” said Moran.

SAF’s annual convention spans four days, includes 25-plus educational sessions and costs between $775 and $850 to register, plus travel and hotel. The most recent convention, SAF Amelia Island 2015, had close to 500 attendees. The SAF 1-Day Profit Blast, by contrast, features four programs in a single day and costs $139 for SAF members ($189 for non members) and $99 for additional attendees from the same company and draws between 80 to 120 attendees.

Tim Huckabee, AIFSE

Moran said he sees the smaller audience at Profit Blast as a strength. “It’s small enough that we can have each attendee stand up and introduce themselves at the beginning of the event,” he said. “It also makes for a very interactive event, where attendees feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their ideas, which basically adds to the content provided by the speakers.” Thirty-minute breaks between each of the four sessions, plus breakfast and lunch, allow for even more attendee interaction.

Since fall 2013, SAF has brought its 1-Day Profit Blast to Atlanta (October 2013), Baltimore (January 2014) and, most recently, in January, to Seattle, where DV Flora, DWF and Frank Adams Wholesale helped subsidize the cost.

Derrick Myers, CPA, CFP, PFCI

The new effort to partner with wholesalers means SAF can potentially expand the programming and bring it to even more cities around the country, Moran said. The Bill Doran Company is sponsoring an additional 1-Day Profit Blast on February 27 in Austin, Texas.

Highlights from the Des Moines program:

SAF’s 1-Day Profit Blast in Des Moines is from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Nov. 14 at the Des Moines Downtown Marriott. (Hint, hint: Bring your manager, your lead designer, your most promising sales associate; there will be something for everyone.)More

Industry Champion to Head University of Idaho's Ag College
By Mary Westbrook

Michael Parrella, Ph.D.

A top researcher and a “founding father” of SAF’s annual Pest & Production Management Conference has been named dean of the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Michael Parrella, Ph.D, will take over as dean on Feb. 1.

Parrella comes to UI from the University of California-Davis, where he served as the chair of the Department of Entomology and Nemtatology and as associate dean of that university’s agricultural sciences department.

“I am excited about joining the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Idaho,” he stated in a UI press release. “The president and provost have a wonderful vision to move the university forward and CALS has a critical role to play.”

Parrella has a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Rutgers University and a master’s and doctorate degrees in entomology from Virginia Tech.

Parella has been on the forefront of critical research that affects the daily work life of many members of the floral industry, said Drew Gruenburg, SAF’s chief operating officer.

“Mike is first and foremost a researcher and scientist, but his research was always conducted with an eye toward practical applications for growers,” Gruneburg said. “He did not conduct research just for the sake of conducting research but rather was always considering what was important to the grower— and ultimately to the industry.

Gruenburg cites Parella’s participation in the creation of a conference some 30 years ago on the leafminer, a pest that was seriously affecting chrysanthemums, as just one example of his dedication to the floral industry.

“Mike was instrumental in bringing together the brightest minds in pest and disease control to see what could be done,” Gruenburg said.

Ultimately, the leafminer was controlled and crisis was averted, Gruenburg added. “The initial leafminer conference soon morphed into SAF’s Pest & Production Management Conference. The conference that Mike helped put together served as a model for a larger, annual event with staying power.”

Read more.More

U.S. Retail Group Sees Holiday Sales Growth Slowing This Year
U.S. holiday sales will increase by 3.7 percent in 2015, marking slightly slower growth than last year as stagnant wages and sluggish job creation weigh on consumer sentiment, according to an outlook from the leading retail industry group. The National Retail Federation forecast sales for the last two months of the year at $630.5 billion, excluding for autos, gasoline and dining out. The growth rate would be significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent but below the 4.1 percent increase in 2014, the NRF said.More

Steal Holiday Promo Ideas from Major Companies
By Mary Westbrook

Sephora’s “Giftopia” campaign with pre-packaged goodies of four to five popular items from the store sold like hot cakes last year.

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent (to $616.9 billion) this year, a full percentage higher from last year. With a huge opportunity for profit, large retailers are fighting tooth and nail for consumers to spend their holiday budgets on their businesses.

At, Shilpi Tomar, a content strategist for creative brands, said smaller businesses should be prepping now to get a piece of that action. She recently collected top ideas from major brands that smaller companies can steal and tweak to capitalize on holiday spending.

Wrap and go. According to the Journal of Psychology & Marketing, consumers viewing beautiful packaging have had more intense brain activity than neutral packaging.  Product packaging has a strong influence on how customers feel about products, and should be valued even more strongly during the holiday season. Example to emulate: Sephora’s “Giftopia” campaign with pre-packaged goodies of four to five popular items from the store sold like hot cakes last year. Why? The company made gift-giving easy and selected the staff’s top picks in each box.

Create a video. Eye-catching videos can make your brand stand out from the crowd. A small budget and a creative mind can go a long way when promoting your store, so if your video is distinctly humorous or clever enough and aligns with your brand you can have a recipe for a heavily-shared video. Example to emulate: Movie and show-streaming website Netflix did an incredible job last year providing a trailer for a fireplace. The idea was so simple and elegantly executed, that it racked up over 250,000 views. If you notice, the video only includes shots of the fireplace and “reviews” so the excuse of a low budget can’t be made on this one.

Need additional inspiration? Check out how the team at Tiger Lily Florist in Charleston, South Carolina, used YouTube to give its customers a behind-the-scenes look at the shop’s wedding and event business and busy spring season.

Pin to win. According to marketing & analytics tool Piqora, each “pin” a user attaches to his or her Pinterest boards is worth (on average) $0.78 in additional sales to the brand whose merchandise is featured. That’s almost an extra dollar worth of sales for each pin. Example to emulate: Last year, Topshop, a UK-based women’s fashion retailer, used Pinterest to power its online gift guide. They attached oversized tags to the most pinned in-store merchandise, and included a giant touchscreen in Topshop New York and London, which allowed shoppers to pin while shopping in store. They incentivized shoppers by including a contest in which users included #DearTopshop when pinning items from the retailer to add the item to their wishlist. Not only did these ideas retain loyal shoppers, but also drove hefty amounts of traffic to their social sites. While the giant touch screen might not be feasible for every business, the Pinterest tags in-store and social media campaign can be used by anyone.

Read about how some florists are using Pinterest to increase sales and build awareness online.More

6 Ways to Create an Engaged Email List
Direct Marketing News
Email is the zombie of marketing channels. Despite numerous claims that it's dead, email continues to live on. And while the channel may be alive and well, the subscribers featured on marketers' lists can sometimes show the same level of engagement as someone six feet under.More

Why Your Politeness is Costing You Money
From a young age, most of us learn that being polite is important. It's how you make a good first impression. It's how you convey respect. It's how you need to act if you want to be respected in return. While all of this may be true, it turns out that there are unexpected negative consequences to politeness. Surprisingly, these consequences may prevent you from growing your business to its fullest potential. In other words, being too polite can cost your business money.More

Succulents Lend Rustic, Elegant Chic to Modern Weddings
The Washington Post
Succulents are showing up everywhere in the world of weddings, from bouquets and boutonnieres to centerpieces and even take-home favors. They’re dainty yet hardy, and come in a surprising array of colors and textures. Best of all, they’re eco-friendly and can be replanted at home after your nuptials as a reminder of the special day.More

'Out of the Box' Weddings Become 'Instagrammable' with Help from Hotels and Planners
Financial Post
Young adults who are flocking to their friends' weddings this year are less likely to find formal rehearsal dinners, traditional buffet fare and staged photographs. Instead, they may meet the couple's families at an informal mixer, dine on late-night bites at an after-party and encounter a social media concierge who will ensure the day is documented on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More

6 Tips for Planning a Celebrity-Style Wedding
Colin Cowie Weddings
From intimate celebrations to iconic weddings, Colin Cowie works to give clients the ultimate experience. Now he's sharing his secrets with you. Throw a celebrity style wedding with these six tips. More

12 Proven Tactics for Rapidly Growing Your Presence on Social Media
Social media is not a clean formula. It can either intimidate people who have never managed a company account, or excite them with opportunities to elevate the medium. Over the past three months I've been working hard to grow both my personal and company brands on social media. It's been a big learning curve.More

How to Build Real Relationships with Customers on Twitter
Small Business Trends
So you’ve developed a strategy to target potential customers on Twitter — bravo. But that’s just the beginning. Creating engaging content and developing relationships on Twitter are the next big hurdles. Average Twitter users follow at least five businesses, and 37 percent of users buy from the brands they follow. You can capitalize on these odds by building relationships on Twitter through smart, well-planned messaging. More

Eva Walsh Named EVP of Marketing and Leasing

Dallas Market Center today announced Eva Walsh has been named executive vice president of marketing and leasing. In her new position, Walsh will lead the teams and the strategies to both promote Dallas Market Center as a global trade destination and to enhance its portfolio of leading manufacturers exhibiting the latest lifestyle products inside the 5 million square foot, open-daily marketplace.

Walsh now oversees teams responsible for leasing permanent and temporary space across all product categories as well as marketing communications, retail development, travel, and market services.

“We are aligning the sales and marketing initiatives under Eva’s leadership in order to integrate messaging, maximize our brand position, collaborate on new business, and deliver even better resources to the marketplace,” said Cindy Morris, CEO and President of Dallas Market Center. “Eva is an imaginative, passionate executive who has tremendous respect and offers a fresh approach to the business.” More

Start Boosting Holiday SEO Now
By Shelley Estersohn

SAF members can download more than a dozen free winter holiday graphics to share on their Facebook pages.

You wouldn’t go into the holiday season without the right inventory of hard goods, gift items, signage and shop décor. Be sure to do the same for your virtual store. Here are two things you can do now to boost your online visibility throughout the holidays.

1. Pre-plan Social Posts. Lay in a stock of seasonal online content so you can keep a steady stream of holiday messages flowing to your website and social media outlets no matter how busy you get. Size digital images for your website and save them in a “Holiday Posts” file. Create a list that includes each image’s file name, text for the post, URL of a related page on your website, hashtags, etc. Set up the posts now scheduled for a future “publish” date if possible. If not, put the date you want to use each post next to it on the list and refer to it as needed.

2. Pre-Season Your SEO. Search terms ebb and flow, so try to incorporate popular seasonal search phrases (meaningfully!) into your web pages. Here’s a list suggested by the Google Keyword Planner based on popular searches during November-December 2014.
Centerpieces Fall flowers
Christmas centerpieces Flower arrangements
Christmas floral arrangements Holiday centerpieces
Christmas flower arrangements Holiday flowers
Christmas flower delivery Holiday wreath
Christmas flowers Table centerpieces
Christmas trees Thanksgiving centerpieces
Christmas wreath Thanksgiving flower arrangements
Decorated Christmas trees Thanksgiving flowers

Rethinking Your Health Coverage? Start Here
By Shelley Estersohn
Working in partnership with Digital Benefit Advisors, a leading national employee benefits agency, SAF’s members-only Business Health Insurance program from Hortica now provides expanded resources, enhanced client services and expertise to help you navigate the complexities of the Affordable Care Act and employee benefits strategy.

Digital offers a comprehensive suite of benefit products and services in an a la carte format. You choose the products and services that best fit the needs — and budget — of your business. Options include core coverages like medical, dental and vision; life and disability insurance; and integrated supplemental benefits.

Hortica Insurance understands the floral industry better than any other insurance company. As an SAF partner, Hortica has a vested interest in the success of both the industry and your business.

Learn more about this exclusive member benefit.More