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SAF Wednesday E-Brief
Feb. 26, 2014
E-Brief Links >   Past Issues      Contact UsFollow SAF on:   Share on Linkedin Twitter  Share on Facebook

In this issue ...
  • Congressional Reps Unveil Bipartisan Caucus for Domestic Cut Flowers
  • Two Surveys Provide Valentine's Day 2014 Overview and Insight
  • SAF Joins Forces With Business Groups in Letter to Boehner
  • Event Business: Not One Size Fits All
  • Annual Report Highlights AFE's Latest Accomplishments
  • Americans' Confidence in the Economy Improves Slightly
  • Business Builders
  • Best Practices
  • Newsmakers
  • Trends
  • Tip Of The Week
  • Mark Your Calendar
  • Spotlight


    Congressional Reps Unveil Bipartisan Caucus for Domestic Cut Flowers
    By Mary Westbrook

    Reps. Lois Capps, D-Calif.-24, and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.-50, (center) launched The Congressional Cut Flower Caucus last week with a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill. The lawmakers were joined by industry representatives including (from left to right) Debra Prinzing, author of “The 50 Mile Bouquet”; Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm in Mount Vernon, Wash.; and Lane DeVries, of The Sun Valley Group in Arcata, Calif.

    In Washington D.C., about a dozen members of Congress have expressed interest in a new group dedicated to promoting the domestic cut flower industry through briefings, events, networking opportunities and ongoing dialogue about some of the challenges American flower growers face. The Congressional Cut Flower Caucus, spearheaded by Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.-24) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.-50), launched last week with a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill and an invitation to lawmakers — particularly those with flower farms in their home districts — to join the conversation.

    “I am thrilled to work with Congressman Hunter to launch the bipartisan Congressional Cut Flower Caucus,” Capps said. “Floriculture is our nation’s third largest agricultural product, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity. This caucus will be a platform to highlight these contributions and for increasing awareness for the issues facing the industry.”

    “Cut flowers are an important part of our local economy and offer consumers the opportunity to support American agriculture. In fact, my home state of California accounts for three-quarters of all cut flowers grown here in the United States. I am proud to co-chair the bipartisan Cut Flower Caucus with my colleague, Representative Capps, to help bring attention to the issues facing American growers,” said Hunter.

    Caucuses are regularly formed on Capitol Hill and often serve as a working-group platform for a particular issue; their level of activity varies widely, from staging grounds for public relations-photo opps to arenas for vigorous discussions and advocacy, according to beltway insiders. While Capps and Hunter will set the group’s agenda, California Cut Flower Commission Chairman Mike A. Mellano, of Mellano and Company, based in Los Angeles, said initial efforts will likely focus on awareness-building.

    “The first step is getting interest and generating some energy,” he said. “One of the main drivers is getting recognition for domestically grown cut flowers and (the fact) that we have significant production. Clearly, the caucus is going to be looking for opportunities to help our industry thrive for many generations.”

    CCFC started organizing “fly-in” visits to Congress six years ago to raise awareness itself among federal lawmakers; two years ago they invited growers from other states, including Washington, Texas and Pennsylvania, among others, to join the effort, which gave their cause more reach, said former CCFC Chairman Lane DeVries, AAF, of The Sun Valley Group in Arcata, Calif.  DeVries traveled to Washington, D.C., last week for the caucus announcement. “This is really about flowers that are grown on our farms in California, Washington State, where ever the case may be (in the U.S.),” he said. “It’s really gratifying now, as we find ways to connect to (consumers and lawmakers) and tell our story.”

    Domestic flower-share has decreased significantly in the past 30 years, from around 70 percent in the early 1990s to less than 30 percent today, and U.S. growers point to many factors behind that drop, including trade policies, labor and health care costs and environmental factors (water usage and pesticide regulations), among other challenges. How — and if — the caucus will address those issues remains to be seen, but Mellano said the establishment of the caucus is an important milestone.

    “The evolution of the industry (from heavy reliance on domestic flowers to dependence on imports, particularly from Colombia and Ecuador), did not happen overnight, and it won’t change overnight either,” he said, adding that he and others are looking for a more “level playing field.”

    “We don’t want to create an inflammatory environment or go to battle with our South American friends and partners … but we are looking for every positive opportunity we have to position the domestic flower producer to succeed in combination with products out of South America and other parts of the world,” said Mellano, who has trading partnerships with growers in Colombia and Ecuador. “We are friends and we are compatriots, and in some instances we are competitors. Competitors compete.”

    Growers and advocates such as Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm in Mount Vernon, Wash., who was also in Washington, D.C., last week, count the establishment of the caucus as a second success in Washington this winter, following the White House’s use of homegrown product at a State Dinner in February. (Read more about the State Dinner in last week’s E-Brief. “(The caucus) will help to raise awareness with local florists and consumers that there are important economic, environmental and quality considerations to be made when buying flowers,” she said.

    CCFC’s CEO, Kasey Cronquist, PFCI, said California’s environmental laws — among the most stringent nationwide — mandate that flower farms must “adhere to high standards that protect our air, water and soils.” He added that CCFC is also in the process of developing a certification (administered through a third-party).

    For some in the industry, the news of the caucus produced a wait-and-see mentality. Like Mellano, Chris Drummond, AAF, of Plaza Flowers outside of Philadelphia, pointed to the complex issues that the caucus will have to tackle if it’s to be more than a feel-good platform for lawmakers. While Drummond, who was not involved in advocating for the caucus, does see consumer sentiment supporting locally grown flowers and ornamentals, among his customers, “the impetus that’s driving purchasing is still value,” he said. “If that’s not there, it’s difficult.”

    Drummond and Christine Boldt, executive vice president of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida, also said that advancements made in South America, in terms of improved quality and strong social and environmental certifications and initiatives, can sometimes be lost in the discussion about the importance of American-grown product — as can the economic benefit of that segment. Florverde Sustainable Flowers, for instance, has certified 74 of the 116 exporting farms in Colombia, representing 40 percent of the country’s total exports (in volume).

    “We strongly feel that we’re complements to each other, not competitors,” Boldt said, adding that imported flowers “are supporting more than 200,000 jobs in transportation, supermarkets and other places.”

    “If we could overall just try to increase consumption of flowers, we would all benefit —Colombia and California,” she said. That message was echoed by former SAF President Harrison “Red” Kennicott, AAF, of Kennicott Brothers Company in Chicago. Thirty years ago, the company’s farm in Illinois was “one of the largest rose growers in America.” They shut down the operation when they could no longer compete with California growers; the business has changed even more since that time. “Today, we continue to prefer selling local and American-grown flowers, but over 70 percent of our flowers are now imported,” Kennicott said.

    In Sewell, N.J., John Richards said “about one-third of (Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist’s) flowers are from domestic sources from coast to coast and local growers with seasonal offerings.” He said he hopes the caucus leads to increased visibility of American-grown product — and called California product in particular “integral” to his business. Still, he said, large challenges loom for everyone.

    “One of the continual challenges for our industry is the consumer's attitude towards flowers as being a specialty item and mainly for occasions and not general use or consumption,” he said. “Hopefully through the caucus, there will be more dialog, potential PR and value placed on flowers and flowers grown in the U.S. As an industry, we have to do a better job with flower promotion and the overall value to the public and the contribution to the US economy.”

    Kennicott agreed. “Any effort which raises the awareness of flowers among consumers is a huge benefit to our entire industry,” he said. “The biggest challenge is to keep all messages positive.”

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    Two Surveys Provide Valentine's Day 2014 Overview and Insight
    By Mary Westbrook

    Source: SAF’s Valentine’s Day 2014 Consumer Poll, by Ipsos eNation. 1,016 participants.

    Many florists trudged and slid through snow and ice to make their Valentine’s Day 2014 deliveries — but for all the bad weather and havoc, some good news on holiday spending has emerged: The median amount spent on flowers or plants for Valentine’s Day this year was $40, more than in 2013 ($35), and substantially more than in 2012 ($27.40). That’s according to SAF’s Valentine’s Day 2014 Poll, conducted by Ipsos eNation, which queried consumers about their buying habits in the days after Feb. 14.
    Source: SAF’s Valentine’s Day Survey. Sent to 2,951 SAF members via email on March 2,2014. Based on 282 responses (9.6%).

    The poll also found that one quarter (23 percent) of American adults bought fresh flowers or plants as gifts for Valentine’s Day, about the same as last year (25 percent).

    A separate survey that queried SAF member florists about holiday results found divided results within the industry: About 42 percent reported an increase in sales and roughly the same number reported a decrease. Sixteen percent reported flat sales this year. (Those numbers are fairly consistent with results from SAF’s Gut Check Survey, sent out immediately after the holiday, and previously reported in E-Brief.)

    For many respondents, poor — or, downright awful — weather conditions became the story of the holiday: Among those who experienced a drop of 16 to 20 percent, 82 percent said the weather was a factor; about 96 percent of those who saw decreases of more than 21 percent attributed at least some of the drop-off to the weather. The survey found that about 42 percent of respondents turned away business or stopped taking orders this year — a decrease from last year’s roughly 64 percent.

    In metro Atlanta, historic icy conditions forced Betsy Hall to close her store, Hall’s Flower Shop and Garden Center, at 2 p.m. on Feb. 11, and all day Feb. 12. She was open Feb. 13 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., with limited delivery, and all day on Feb. 14, when walk-in business was “strong all day” but she was “unable to take any more orders for delivery.” The final tally for her week was painful: down 43 percent.

    Radebaugh Florist and Greenhouses also had to deal with wintry conditions around Baltimore, Md. “We lost all walk-in traffic on (Feb. 13) because of the snow,” said Kaitlin Radebaugh. “We were lucky that we got all of our Thursday deliveries out on Wednesday and were able to deliver everything on Friday thanks to the SUVs we rented earlier in the week.” While Radebaugh said average transaction sizes appeared to have increased — in keeping with the results from SAF’s consumer poll — the business was down for the week because of the weather. Still, she said, the shop’s can-do spirit helped ease the chill — and stay in customers’ good graces. “I know we gained a lot of goodwill with our customers throughout the week because of how we handled things,” she said.

    In other parts of the country, the forecast was better and so were the results. At Memorial Florists and Greenhouses in Appleton, Wis., Bob Aykens, AAF, said he had projected a 5-percent decrease from 2013 because of day-of-the-week sales trends. While the total number of sales did decline by 5 percent, the average sale was up 3.2 percent; by week’s end, Aykens found that they were more or less even with last year — a positive development for Aykens and his team. “I also noticed lots of gentlemen purchasing for their wife, mother and daughter in one transaction where in past they would be just buying for their wife,” Aykens said.

    Highlights from the two surveys include:

    SAF Consumer Poll Findings
    • Supermarkets and grocery stores were the venue of choice for 44 percent of consumers; about a third of flower buyers (31 percent) made their purchases at a retail florist. Both numbers are comparable to 2013 findings.
    • Not surprisingly, red roses remain the most popular flower gift, bought by three out of five (61 percent) flower buyers (compared to 63 percent last year). After red, the second most popular color for roses was pink (27 percent), followed by mixed colors of roses (16 percent). Among flower purchasers, about one-quarter (24 percent) bought a single type of non-rose flower, while another quarter (26 percent) bought mixed flowers. Plants proved to be a gift choice for just one in five purchasers (21 percent).
    • This year, half of all buyers were targeting the gifts for a spouse (52 percent) and one-fifth gave the flower gifts to a significant other (20 percent). Other common gift recipients included mothers (18 percent), children (11 percent), friends (11 percent) or oneself (7 percent) — in these instances, women were more likely to be the gift-giver.
    SAF Survey of Retailers
    • Among florists who experienced an increase in sales, top factors cited included the day of the week (39 percent); fewer flower shops locally (34 percent); the weather (31 percent); higher price points (30 percent); the regional economy (27 percent); increased advertising and shop promotions (26 percent); and higher delivery charges (16 percent). Anecdotally, florists wrote in with success stories related to pre-holiday e-mail promotions, diversified product (including gift baskets) and skillful upselling by staff — along with unlikely assists from Mother Nature: “Everyone is sick of winter and decided flowers were a great gift!” explained one respondent.
    • Florists who saw a decrease listed top factors such as the weather (68 percent); day of the week (50 percent); competition from order-gathers (25 percent); the regional economy (24 percent); competition from mass markets and supermarkets (23 percent) and competition from non-floral vendors (10 percent). The long weekend also factored into declines, according to several write-in responses.
    • More than 30 percent said sales this year were higher than 2003, the last time the holiday fell on a Friday. About 21 percent said they were lower. Roughly 8 percent said they were the same. (About 31 percent weren’t sure how the numbers compared; for about 10 percent of respondents the question wasn’t applicable.)
    • Florists reported that on average 29 percent of the week’s orders came in on Valentine’s Day (compared to 41 percent in 2013) and about 38 percent came in the day before the holiday (compared to 44 percent last year.) Three-quarters of orders were delivered on Valentine’s Day, a number that’s on par with 2013 (78 percent).
    • About 57 percent of florists reported keeping their promotion efforts on track with 2013 levels. About 27 percent increased them and 12 percent pulled back.

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    Business Consulting and Floral Accounting!
    Florists are always complaining to us that they have had to teach their accountants how to account for their business. We are a full service accounting firm that has specialized in the florist industry for 30 years. We developed our Floral Analysis Program™ to help our florist make more money. MORE

    SAF Joins Forces With Business Groups in Letter to Boehner
    by Brian Gamberini
    SAF joined 636 business organizations in signing a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week, urging that the House move forward on immigration reform this year. The letter, organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was also sent to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.

    It urges the House Republican Conference to use the standards released by House Republican leaders in January, as a guide. “The timing on this letter couldn’t be more perfect, in advance of our Congressional Action Days,” said SAF’s Lin Schmale. “It specifically notes agriculture’s needs. We believe that agriculture has made its case and desperately needs reform this year — in fact, we have needed it for several years!”

    The large and diverse cross-section of American businesses signing the letter clearly points to the great economic consequences of failure to move forward this year.

    The letter states, “We are united in the belief that we can and must do better for our economy and country by modernizing our immigration system. Done properly, reform will deter illegal immigration, protect and complement our U.S. workforce, better respond to changing economic and demographic needs, and generate greater productivity and economic activity, while respecting family unity... Failure to act is not an option.”

    “During Congressional Action Days, we will be adding floriculture’s voices once again to what is becoming an increasingly loud call for action,” Schmale said. “If you’re not at CAD, you’re missing a chance to help move one of the great issues of our era.”

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    Syndicate Shades of Orchid

    Radiant Orchid has been dubbed Color of the Year by Pantone, the global authority on color; inspiring artists, designers and stylists who color the world. Syndicate Shades of Orchid are right on-trend and are sure to ignite passion and beauty in your floral designs, regardless of season or occasion. Syndicate’s got dozens of styles, sizes, and shades of this dynamic hue. Check them out here!

    Event Business: Not One Size Fits All
    By Katie Hendrick

    If you think the term “event florist” is a euphemism for a floral hobbyist working out of their garage, think again. Designers specializing in weddings and parties have studios and business strategies as individual as their clients’ grand affairs. In this month’s Floral Management, contributing editor Mary Westbrook spoke with three florists who scrapped (or highly altered) their traditional retail businesses to focus on events and found unique ways to build their reputation and profits from high-end clients.

    Here’s one of their approaches:

    Mandy Majerik, AIFD, PFCI, of HotHouse Design in Birmingham, Ala., began collecting exclusive, hard-to-source props and storing them at an offsite warehouse. She began allotting at least 15 minutes of her wedding consultations to taking brides-to-be on a tour of her treasures, prompting at least one to say, “Oh my God! It’s like walking through Pinterest.” With that, an extension of her brand was born in 2013: PropHouse, a rental division. Majerik positioned herself as the floral designer able to source the most unique and whimsical décor, and has grown her wedding revenue by 25 percent.

    Read more about Marjerik and others in “Right Size Your Wedding Business.”

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    Moss In An Instant -

    At this time of year, everyone enjoys a sneak peak into spring. Blossoming potted plants fit the sale perfectly! And dressed in the earthiness a mossy clay pot the flowering gift delivers a welcoming contrast to interior settings. But no need to wait for Mother Nature. Easily enrobe terra cotta in Design Master® MOSSY ColorTEX Spray, the instant moss texture in a can.

    Annual Report Highlights AFE's Latest Accomplishments
    By Suzanna McCloskey

    The American Floral Endowment (AFE) has just released its 2012-2013 annual report.

    “This annual report showcases the recent exciting ways AFE has been serving all segments of the floriculture and environmental horticulture industries,” AFE Chairman Paul Bachman of Bachman’s, Inc. said. “The donors who generously support the Endowment make all of this great work possible.”

    2012-2013 annual report highlights include AFE's: Do your part to secure a strong future for the industry today by making an annual pledge or donation. A stronger Endowment means a stronger, more profitable industry for everyone!

    Past annual reports dating back to 1988 and information about other AFE programs and services are also available online.

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    Americans' Confidence in the Economy Improves Slightly
    Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index increased slightly to -15 for the week ending Feb. 23, after registering -17 or lower the prior four weeks. While the index is still negative, it is nearing the highest weekly average in 2014 to date: -13 found in early January, before the Dow Jones Industrial Average took a major dive. It is still below the readings of -10 and higher found at times last year.   Read more.

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    Two Business Basics to Review Constantly
    By Katie Hendrick

    It pays to listen. Bouquets heard event clients complain about shrinking guest lists and responded by teaching them how to fix the problem with Facebook. This action earned the Denver-based flower shop big business — and the 2009 Marketer of the Year title.

    Embracing new technology, networking to meet more people and trying different marketing campaigns are necessary to help your business grow. But it’s equally important to pay attention to the basics. You can’t just check them off a list and move on “any more than a great baseball player can stop paying attention to throwing, catching and hitting,” says Erik Sherman, whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times magazine, Newsweek, The Financial Times, Chief Executive, Inc., and Fortune.

    In a recent article for Inc., he highlights a few tenets of business that you may take for granted, but should be reviewing every day:

    Know your customers. It’s good to know your market; it’s better to know people: “...what they want, what they lack, where they feel pain and what they hope for,” said Sherman. How? Talk to your customers. Make small talk. Friend them on Facebook. Host a small party in your shop. Then listen. Maybe they’ll mention belonging to a civic organization that has monthly luncheons or a big event coming up (presenting an opportunity to pitch your services) or an interest in learning some floral pointers (hint: consider teaching design classes).

    Look for simple, yet big ideas. “Take your customer knowledge and start to solve their problems,” Sherman says. For a good example, read how BJ Dyer, AAF, AIFD, and his late partner, Guenther Vogt, of Bouquets in Denver, Colo., listened to their event clients project low attendance and, in turn, hosted seminars on turning Facebook into an attendee-getting machine. As a result of their problem-solving initiative, they grew their own business as their clients’ budgets expanded with sold-out parties. This simple, but ingenious campaign earned the shop the 2009 Floral Management Marketer of the Year award. (Got an idea you’d like to enter in this year’s contest — and throw your hat in the ring for the $5,000 prize? Click here for info.

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    The No. 1 Reason 80 Percent of Advertising Fails
    By Katie Hendrick
    Great headlines are those that come at the target in an unexpected way, as shown by this company that earned's “ad of the week” moniker.

    If your advertising isn’t getting you results, you can probably blame your headline.

    It's a scientifically proven fact that five times as many people read headlines as read body copy of an ad,” says John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing Consultants. “Yet, most small business advertising is wasted for lack of an effective headline or, worse yet, no headline at all.”

    Don’t fall into the camp that sends out emails without carefully considered subject lines, posts pictures on Facebook without a witty caption or mails postcards that lack a clear call to action.

    To make it easier, Jantsch offers these four guidelines for what makes an effective headline:
    • It creates a sense of urgency. It gives a reason to stop and read NOW rather than later.
    • It communicates something the reader considers valuable.
    • It screams how you might offer something unique or at least interesting.
    • It points to something very specific (think: facts or how tos)
    He also shares some power words that command attention:
    • Discover
    • Easy
    • Free
    • New
    • Proven
    • Save
    • Results
    • Introducing
    • At last
    • Guarantee
    • Bargain
    • Why
    • How To
    • Just Arrived
    • Announcing
    • Never
    Here’s an exercise to improve your headlines: Write a few that clearly communicate your promise, benefit or unique selling proposition. Then ask yourself if they contain at least three of Jantsch’s guidelines. Make them even more successful by adding a power word or two from the above list.

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    Stop Discounting: 5 Easy Tips to Sell at a Premium Price
    By Marc Wayshak
    Have you ever discounted your price in order to close a deal? Have you ever touted lower prices in order to get a foot in the door? Then you are in the vast majority of companies that view discounting as a necessary evil. However, discounting not only destroys your sale's profitability, but it also lowers your value in the eyes of the customer. It is time to stop the discounting and enter into the world of premium value. Here are five easy tips to help you sell at a premium price.   Read more.

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    For Proof of Recovery, USA Today Turns to Florist
    By Mary Westbrook
    When USA Today went looking for a small business that illustrated a broader economic trend, they found the perfect example in Maris Angolia, president of Karin’s Florist in Vienna, Va. The newspaper recently highlighted Angolia, and her plans to replace a 180,000-mile Toyota Scion xB delivery vehicle “clinging to life.” According to the story, “the van purchase, the second for Karin's in the past four months, is evidence that small-business owners — once too suspect of a wobbly economy to make big-ticket purchases — are starting to invest in their companies again. The willingness to spend is good news for the auto industry and a positive sign for the broader economy.”

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    Online Consumers Show Greater Loyalty to Fewer Retailers
    Internet Retailer
    Online shoppers around the world want a reason to stick with a particular retailer or a small group of merchants, suggest global survey findings from consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. 15 percent of survey respondents say that over the last year, they have shopped with only one retailer through any channel. That's up from 8 percent in 2012. A further 43 percent report shopping with between two and five retailers over the past year, up from 35 percent in 2012. 27 percent of respondents say they shop with 6 to 10 retailers, down from 35% the year before. 14% shop with 11 to 20, down from 21% in the previous year, while 1% shop with 21 or more, the same as in 2012.   Read more.

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    What Brands Should Know About the New Woman Consumer
    Marketing Magazine
    The role and purchasing power of the female audience are changing, yet brands have been slow to drop outdated stereotypes, writes Jane Bainbridge. The 1950s advertising image of the archetypal female consumer was one of a consummate homemaker: attractive, slim, two beautiful children (one boy, one girl), handsome husband, content within her domestic domain. Roll forward 60-odd years and this image doesn’t feel quite so consigned to history as it should.    Read more.

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    Last-Minute Ways to Promote Women's Day
    By Shelley Estersohn

    Friday is International Women’s Day. Here are three fast and easy last-minute promotion ideas.
    1. Buds for buds. Set a table outside your shop offering passersby the opportunity to give a bloom with a personalized message to their hero for Women’s Day. Pre-fasten a card to each flower with your logo, phone number, address and website.
    2. Follow SAF’s Lead. Follow and share SAF’s Women’s Day posts from and Share SAF's Women's Day blog on Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog.
    3. Floral Corsages. Send corsages to local women TV news anchors for them to wear on Women’s Day. They might thank your shop on air.

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    March 10-11, Washington, D.C.
    Conference hotel: Ritz Carlton Pentagon City
    Arlington, Va.

    RETAIL GROWTH SOLUTIONS: A Mini-Conference for Florists
    June 11-12, Chicago
    Conference hotel: Hilton Rosemont-Chicago O’Hare

    August 13-16, Marco Island, Fla.
    Convention hotel: Marriott Marco Island Resort


    Women's Day Facebook Graphics
    By Shelley Estersohn

    Post SAF’s free graphics on your Facebook page to promote (and celebrate!) International Women’s Day. Download them here.

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