Flowers Top of Mind for Valentine's Day Competitors
By Jenny Scala
The Valentine's Day mudslinging has begun, and it seems gift retailers recognize which holiday gift is top of mind. SAF contacted three this week, asking them to forgo their "forget flowers" message.
Is Cupid Still Counting His Pennies?
By Ira Silvergleit
Customers have also been opting for less costly roses — and that thriftiness has contributed to a decline in red rose orders. Last year, 65 percent of all rose orders were for red buds, compared to almost 70 percent in 2008. Mixed-flower bouquets — not non-red roses — seem to be making up the difference. Sales of mixed flowers as a percent of all orders continued to rise to 36 percent last year, up from 29 percent in 2009. Sales of non-red mono-colored roses, mixed-colored roses and non-rose single flower types were virtually unchanged over the past three years at retail florist businesses.
More Florists End 2010 on Upbeat
By Ira Silvergleit
When it comes to forecasting, florists remain cautiously optimistic about the economy at the macro level. About half said the economy would remain the same in the next six months, while 28 percent predicted improvement and 10 percent thought things would get worse. The breakdown mirrors results from earlier surveys.
As for their own businesses, a combined 87 percent of respondents said sales would either improve or remain the same, virtually unchanged from the third quarter of 2010.
"Negligible" still best describes movement on the hiring front. Three quarters of the owners said they don't anticipate adding staff, beyond seasonal/holiday help, in the next six months.
These preliminary findings are based on more than 300 responses from growers, wholesalers and retailers. Watch for additional results including changes in annual sales and profits over the next few weeks.
Prospect for Duty-Free Status Remains Uncertain
By Kate Penn
The February 12 deadline for Congress to renew duty-free status for flowers from Andean countries could come and go — but ratification of a four-year-old free trade agreement may end up being what keeps the duty-free status in the long term.
Currently, flowers from Colombia and Ecuador enter the U.S. duty-free, but that status has to be renewed periodically under provisions of the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). If it’s not renewed on Feb. 12, importers of record will begin paying duties — 6 percent on average — beginning Feb. 13.
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee this week appealed for a free trade pact with Colombia, which has been gathering dust after it was negotiated and signed by both countries’ presidents — but never ratified by Congress — four years ago.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said the U.S./Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) had been delayed too long and needs to be ratified by Congress so American farmers, ranchers and workers can have a chance to compete.
The deal, which was signed in 2006 by President George W. Bush, has not been approved by Congress because of opposition from Democrats who believe Colombia is not doing enough to stem violence against labor leaders in that South American nation.
“But there’s been more talk lately in Congress about the need to ratify it – coming from some Democrats who have been historically opposed to it,” said SAF COO Drew Gruenburg. The FTA would make duty-free status for flowers coming into the U.S. from Colombia permanent.
The Obama administration supports pending free trade agreements with South Korea and Panama but has yet to place its full support behind the Colombian deal.
The outlook for renewing ATPDEA remains cloudy, said Gruenburg, with Democrats and Republicans both looking for concessions. “Democrats want an increase in trade adjustment assistance funds – dollars to help industries that can document how they have been hurt by imports,” Gruenburg said. “Republicans want to move all three FTAs together as a package before agreeing to an extension of ATPDEA.” Republicans may also withhold support for ATPDEA to pressure the White House to drop its opposition to the U.S./Colombia FTA.
SAF will continue monitoring the situation and update members through E-Brief and other communications.
Learn to Love the Media: Interview Cheat Sheet
By Kate Penn
Preparation is the key to maximizing this opportunity and — let's be frank — not making a fool of yourself and saying the wrong thing to people armed with cameras, microphones, blogs and printing presses.
Here are some of the tougher questions that, without planning for them, can easily put you on the defensive. Stay calm, cool and Cupid-centric with these answers:
Q: Why are rose prices so high for Valentine's Day? Don't point the finger at growers and wholesalers, blaming it on their "high prices." Do explain the economic realities of the holiday: Just like with other commodities, supply and demand affects rose prices. Valentine's Day inspires the heaviest demand, more than any other day of the year. Several rosebuds must be sacrificed to create one, long-stemmed rose, and we need to hire additional help and drivers to fulfill the huge demand for roses on this one day in the middle of winter.
Q: I saw roses advertised for much less elsewhere. Why are your roses more expensive? Don't say derogatory things about other outlets for flowers or use phrases such as "cheap flowers." Do use it as an opportunity to educate the reporter about all of the variables that factor into price: When comparing prices, it is important to know what you're buying. The price of a dozen roses will vary based on the rose variety, design style and the level of service. For example, long-stem roses arranged in a vase and delivered to your sweetheart's doorstep will cost more than an unarranged bunch of medium-length stems. Most of our customers find the added services and superior quality to be well worth it.
Q: Aren't Valentine's Day flowers passé? Don't use this as an opportunity to disparage other gifts or industries. ("At least flowers don't have any calories ... "). Do show why flowers are the perfect gift: Absolutely not. Flowers and romance go hand in hand, which is why they are one of the most desired gifts for Valentine's Day. Almost everyone can remember the last time they got flowers, which demonstrates the powerful impact they have.
Q: How do you handle working around the clock to fulfill the huge demand for Valentine's Day flowers? Don't complain about how busy you are. Do show off your professionalism and enthusiasm for the holiday, so the audience will know you can take care of their needs and calm their worries about getting the best gift for their loved ones: With a lot of organization — and a lot of love. We also hire extra staff to help fulfill the orders. There's a method and a magic about flowers. The method is that organization. The magic is that we're in the business of making people happy, and that's what makes it all worthwhile.
Q. I heard bad weather is affecting the rose supply. How are your Valentine's Day roses? Don't miss the opportunity to show off the global floral industry and your resourcefulness: Flowers come from all over the world and we are in the business to wow our customers' loved ones with the best selection of top-quality flowers.
Here are some additional "easy" questions that might come your way, with suggestions for how to answer them:
Q: What do you offer for those who can't afford a dozen roses? A: The beauty of flowers is that we have countless ways to help you express your feelings. Whether it's with a single rose or a mixed-flower arrangement in any size, we can help you give a gift that is special, unique and works within your budget.
Q: Why flowers? A: Flowers are unmatched as a Valentine's Day gift. After all, what else delivers such a powerful, personalized impact with just one phone call?
Q: Do you guarantee satisfaction? A: Absolutely. We do everything in our power to make sure that each recipient of our flowers is thrilled. But if for some reason you are not satisfied, we want to hear about it and will do our best to make you happy.
Want more tips? Visit SAF's Valentine's Day Resource Center, www.safnow.org/valentinesday.
House Ways & Means Committee Member Tapped for CAD
By Brian Gamberini
A member of Congress since 2008, Lee's appointment to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee puts him in deliberations over tax and trade issues including the 1099 form, estate tax and other key floral industry concerns.
SAF member Keith Rockcastle hosted Rep. Lee during a visit to his shop, Rockcastle Florist, in Rochester, N.Y., last summer. The congressman built his reputation while working in a family manufacturing operation.
Rep. Lee joins a full lineup of inspiring and motivating speakers at CAD, March 14-15 in Washington D.C. SAF members from across the country become powerful advocates for their businesses and the floral industry during CAD. Make your plans now to join them on Capitol Hill.
Visit www.congressionalactiondays.com for program details and to register. Questions? SAF's Laura Weaver will be happy to help. Contact her at email@example.com or (800) 336-4743.
Alphabet Soup? Not If You're a Grower
Identifying and controlling bacterial problems is the focus of several sessions at SAF's Pest & Production Management Conference, Feb 24-26 in San Diego. Among them:
For more information contact Laura Weaver, firstname.lastname@example.org, (800) 336-4743.
Who's Outstanding in their Field? Tell SAF — by Jan. 31
Will somebody you know be named to the Hall of Fame this year or receive another top SAF honor? Maybe…if you submit a nomination by Jan. 31. Don't miss this once-a-year opportunity to give deserving industry members the recognition they deserve. Learn more about the awards and nominate someone today.
Ready for some recognition yourself? Earn the credentials that reflect your professional commitment and expertise. Apply by Jan. 31 for the American Academy of Floriculture or the industry's premier speakers bureau, Professional Floriculture Communicators - International.
Questions? Contact Kara Krause, email@example.com, (800) 336-4743.
Time to Chime in on Health Care Reform
By Brian Gamberini
SAF is seeking member help in gathering together information about the new health care reform law. SAF members are encouraged to do their part by completing a survey on the law that was sent yesterday to all SAF members. Click here to access the survey.
The House last week passed a bill to repeal the health care law. Although it passed, it is highly unlikely the bill will go any further because there are not enough votes in the Senate for repeal, and President Obama has said he would veto any repeal bill that made its way to his desk.
SAF Senior Director of Government Relations Jeanne Ramsay said the floral industry needs to have a voice in the process, as the Republican majority in the House looks for ways to repeal, revise or defund certain elements of the bill.
"SAF was a player in the debate last year and we want to continue in that role," Ramsay said, "so we are collecting feedback from SAF members. We hope that feedback will help guide us as we determine our next steps."
SAF members who have not completed the survey are encouraged to take about 10 minutes to do so, here.
Early Bird Specials: Florists Entice Customers to Plan Ahead
By Kate Penn
Free or reduced delivery top the list of tactics florists are using to urge early ordering and early deliveries for Valentine’s Day, to not only increase sales but also offset the windfall of orders that will otherwise hit on the Monday holiday.
Of the 169 florists who indicated in a survey (e-mailed in mid-January to SAF members) they’d be offering incentives for early orders and delivery, free or reduced delivery fees were the chosen tactic for more than two-thirds of them. One shop, leaving nothing to chance, is calling last year’s customers and offering free delivery to those who place their order on the spot.
The incentives for early ordering or delivery come in all shapes and sizes — here’s a sampling:
One florist insists it’s the one time florists don’t have to incentivize customers: “When it comes to guys, they don’t care about price, they just want to get it done.” Nor does the prospect of making the Monday workload more manageable motivate one florist, who wrote: “My business is open and ready to serve those with floral needs every day of the week . . . I do not plan to offer across-the-board special incentives for Valentine’s Day, nor any other time.”
Let us know whether — and how — you’re ensuring a strong and profitable Valentine’s Day.
Valentine's Day Sales Forecast to Rise
Love may be free, but Valentine's Day can sure get expensive. An early forecast of how much Americans are expected to spend on their significant others this year predicts Valentine's Day spending will rise nearly 6 percent, to $18.6 billion. Retail consulting firm IBIS World, based in Los Angeles, predicts the strongest growth will be in jewelry and flowers, forecast to grow 11.3 and 16.8 percent each. Read more.
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Why Mobile Shopping Could Rival Online Shopping
Although few consumers make purchases using their phones, smartphones are playing a critical role in purchasing decisions, according to a study released by ForSee Results. The study, which surveyed 10,000 visitors to top e-retailer sites, found that 11 percent of them made a purchase using their phones this holiday season, compared to only 2 percent at the same time last year. Read more.
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Want to get make it easy for your customers to buy flowers from you on their mobile devices? Get the floralApp™ — if you’re an SAF member, you get a special deal on it — request info about the floralApp™.
Are Your Employee Reward Programs Legal?
By Stephenie Overman
Caffeine’s not the only means to a perky staff for your busiest day of the year. More tangible (i.e. monetary) perks can do wonders for employee morale and productivity — just make sure those incentives are legal.
If you plan to bump up your workers’ pay for V-Day, don’t use a scale based on the number of hours an employee works each week, said Washington, D.C., attorney Howard Radzely, in an interview with the National Federation of Independent Business. Radzely, a partner with Morgan, Lewis & Bocklus, LLP, focuses on labor-related legislative, regulatory and administrative issues.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, a straight hourly pay scale, such as $12 per hour for 40 hours and $13 per hour for 45 hours, does not yield proper overtime wages for non-exempt employees, Radzely said. Proper overtime pay is time and a half, and required for non-exempt employees working more than 40 hours a week. And it can’t be used on “exempt” workers because these employees are salaried, he said. If you start paying them by the hour, the Department of Labor will consider them to be non-exempt.
Furthermore, not only are employers required to pay non-exempt employees overtime if they work beyond 40 hours each week, but the overtime rate must also include a proportional amount of the bonus. (This does not apply to salaried employees.)
Want to give a bonus to employees who don’t use their vacation or sick days? Not a problem, Radzely said. But some states, such as California, Illinois and Tennessee, require businesses to compensate employees for their unused vacation time no matter what.
And states generally do not allow you to dock pay when employees don’t reach a goal, added Peter Bloom, a business attorney and founder of The Bloom Group in Washington, D.C. Most state laws forbid employers from deducting “any portion of an employee’s wages unless the employee has agreed in writing to that deduction, in advance,” he said. So while you may offer a bonus to employees who reach a goal, you cannot deduct their base salary or wages if they do not.
See Your Website Through New Eyes (and Browsers)
Your website might look great on your computer, but what about everybody else’s? Before all those Valentine’s Day flower browsers start checking it out, be sure you’re looking your best from their point of view. See how your website looks in different web browsers by going to www.browsershots.org. Just paste in the url and pick a few common options like Firefox, Safari and Chrome.
On the Horizon
2011 Pest and Production Management Conference
Feb. 24-26, 2011
SAF 31st Annual Congressional Action Days
March 14-15, 2011
SAF Growth Solutions: A Mini-Conference for Florists
June 22-23, 2011
SAF Palm Springs 2011 - 127th Annual Convention
Sept. 14-17, 2011
Westin Mission Hills Rancho Mirage, Calif.
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