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7 Ways to Save, Maintain or Grow Your Sympathy Flower Sales

7 Ways to Save, Maintain or Grow Your Sympathy Flower Sales

Photo: Shonda Cunningham AIFD

Funeral spending is trending down. Funeral home profit margins are down 43 percent since 1999. The floral industry is feeling the pinch with increases in memorials, graveside services, cremations, shortened visitations, please omit and life celebrations, just to name a few. How can you save, maintain or grow your sympathy flower business in the face of the changing traditional market for sympathy flowers? Here are seven ways.

There is good news

Photo: Shonda Cunningham AIFD

For many retail shops, sympathy flowers remain a viable part of daily business. Retail florists capture about a third of sympathy floral purchases but 70 percent of the dollars, dominating the high-end market. And nearly half of all florists are optimistic about overall business this year, according to the Society of American Florists. Flowers still speak when words fail, offering visible emotional support for grieving family and friends. A memorial service without sympathy flowers? It feels sadly bleak and incomplete.

1.    Remember to comfort the living with flowers

Photo: Shonda Cunningham AIFD

Effective sympathy flowers connect with the emotions of viewers. Too often, we think of sympathy flowers as funeral flowers and lose our creative edge. Flowers help families celebrate the life of a loved one. These expressions of love and respect bring comfort and uplifting spirits by adding beauty and fragrance to a room. Sympathy flowers become a safe conversation for those who are at a loss for words. Sympathy designs are seen by more people than flowers delivered to homes. Take a hard look at the menu of styles you offer. Are your designs changing with the times?

2. Offer traditional designs with a flair

When it comes to floral trends, the more things change, the more they stay the same. “Sympathy designs today are very similar to the designs sold 30 to 40 years ago,” says Randy Wooten AIFD, PFCI of Douglas, Georgia. “I see designs from the past—gates ajar, Jesus called, broken wheel, empty chair—experiencing a resurgence, though often in an interpretative or updated version.” “I find that design preference depends on age,” says Shonda Cunningham AIFD of Silver Cricket Floral Atelier in Park City, Utah. “Older customers prefer more traditional designs and younger clients are more open to customized or unique designs.”

Photo: Shonda Cunningham AIFD, Design: Thaddeus Servantez AIFD

To grow a successful sympathy business, floral designers must have the ability to express a customer’s love, comfort and grief in innovative and eye-catching ways that are professionally priced. Even in a traditional market, you must offer designs with a creative flair to encourage customers to invest in sympathy flowers. “This is where I think demographics come into play,” says Thaddeus Servantez AIFD of Westminster Flowers in Westminster, Colorado, echoing Shonda’s comments. “My older clients prefer traditional designs with a creative edge. Younger consumers offer us the opportunity to create designs with more artistic flair.”

3. Create a collection for visual impact

The goal of any creative florist is to have their sympathy work noticed first in the long line of floral designs often found in a funeral home setting. Today, viewing hours have decreased to a day followed the next day by the funeral. Sometimes viewing hours and funeral service are the same day. One way to draw attention to your arrangements? Use the same flowers and colors to create a collection positioned together for greater visual impact. The collection in the photo above includes casket spray, an easel-mounted wreath and two table arrangements. The elements can be easily re-arranged and moved to other locations. Flowers in these designs include snapdragons, larkspur, roses and alstroemeria, swordfern and foxtail fern. Sympathy flowers must offer high visual impact to get noticed quickly. Collections help consumers feel funeral flowers are worth the expense.

4. Choose mechanics for speed and ease of design

One long-standing American tradition for funerals is placing flowers on the casket. Fresh flowers stay fresher in a reservoir of water and stability is important since flowers are often transported between services. A casket saddle is a good sturdy mechanic. Along with shorter viewing times, you often have less time for order-taking, design and delivery. Mechanics that make the job faster, easier and more stable in transport are more important than ever. Apply these design tips to your various designs. Attach a floracage or other floral foam cage to an easel or bamboo easel by hanging it from the easel hook and then wiring it into place with a bind wire, florist wire wrapped in floral tape, cable tie or waterproof floral tape. Run a florist wire through the floral foam and around the easel for extra security. [rev_slider alias="sympathy7-1"]

Wire flowers only when necessary

The old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” applies to flowers. It’s best not to wire flowers unnecessarily because puncturing the flower diminishes its lifespan. If the extra strength of a wire is necessary, our previous blog about How to Wire and Tape Flowers offers some helpful tips.

5. Personalize designs

[rev_slider alias="sympathy7-2"] Pink sympathy design: Thaddeus Servantez AIFD Designs that inspire a special memory or life event are emotionally powerful. The retail trend of personalizing funeral flowers continues to grow. Individualized designs can tell a story, share a favorite color or inspire a memory or conversation. These emotionally connect grieving family and friends and remind others of what was special about the person. “Number one, I just feel grateful to get to use my flowers to help these families through this time of transition,” says Thaddeus. Incorporating items that reflect the favorite flowers and colors, hobbies, or occupation of the deceased is a great way to personalize your sympathy flowers.

6. Suggest other options than ‘Please Omit’

Photo: Shonda Cunningham AIFD

In recent years the funeral flower business has diminished in some areas due to ‘please omit,’ changing lifestyles, loss of traditions and donations to charities. The ever-rising number of cremations continues to present a challenge. Often, when consumers feel uncertain about what is appropriate to send to a service, they simply opt out of sending flowers. Suggest instead that flowers be sent to the home or office is often as an alternative. Develop marketing materials that educate your customer on the benefits and guidelines for using flowers to comfort those who have lost loved ones. Visit our sympathy resources page for free photos and information you can use in promotional materials for your floral business.

7. Network with funeral directors

Network with funeral directors and take the time to truly listen to their needs, objections and suggestions regarding flowers. “Open communication with local funeral directors is the best resource,” says Thaddeus, “because this allows them to see you as a partner in helping the same customers. This creates better working relationships.” Meet with local morticians regularly to discuss services and gain insight as to how you can better work with them to make flowers an integral part of their funeral services. Be open to their ideas for using flowers to comfort families. Provide funeral directors with the presentation materials they’ll need to inform their customers about your products and services. Create your own consultation book for the funeral director and the bereaved with photos of the variety of personalized arrangements you can create.

A transitional time

“As a floral artist, it’s an honor and a privilege to help our customers through this transitional time of grieving and closure by expressing their emotions with flowers,” says Shonda. 57 percent of mortuary science majors are now women in what was once a heavily male-dominated industry. Do you think this will this change that industry’s view on the relevance of sympathy flowers? What suggestions do you have for meeting the challenges of a changing sympathy flower market?
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