Florists reveal their strategies for satisfying those toughest
of clients: brides.
by Monica Humbard
One of the best ways to get wedding work is through
word-of-mouth advertising. Super Floral Retailing talked to
three supermarket floral designers with thriving wedding
businesses and found that the keys to winning recommendations
are to demonstrate your knowledge about everything from the
flowers to the reception locations and to make each bride feel
her wedding is the most important one for which you’ve ever
Here are strategies for building your wedding business, and in
“Three Brides’ Stories” (starting on Page 28), you’ll find
satisfied brides’ perspectives on what their supermarket
florists did to make their wedding flowers memorable.
Margette Jobin, floral manager/ designer at the Price Chopper
Central Market Florist in Clifton Park, N.Y., says one of her
secrets to success in wedding work is her ability to build
strong relationships with both her brides and representatives at
the reception venues. She goes on every delivery for the
weddings she designs to make sure that what the brides want is
To avoid scheduling conflicts with reception venues during
set-up, Ms. Jobin works closely with the sites to plan
timetables that work for everyone. After she sets up for a
wedding, she always leaves her business cards. Some of the
largest reception locations in Upstate New York now refer their
clients to her floral department.
Ms. Jobin’s efforts go beyond working closely with the reception
locations. From the first consultation, she strives to make
brides feel confident in her abilities and as though their
weddings are her own. As a result, she has families return for
weddings of bridal couples’ siblings as well as for flowers for
past bridal clients when their children are born. “You build
business by building relationships,” she says.
Part of building a strong relationship with wedding clients
involves being honest with them. Sometimes that means telling
them what they don’t want to hear—maybe a flower is out of
season or it won’t hold up. The key is to have at least one
solution. For example, Jodi Evans, floral manager for a Hy-Vee
in Ankeny, Iowa, says many wedding magazines today are showing
lilies-of-the-valley in bouquets, but it is hard to find
high-quality flowers year-round. To solve the problem, Ms. Evans
suggests brides use silk lilies-of-the-valley in their bouquets.
She says brides are open to this type of assistance.
Jon Strom, vice president of floral and lifestyle merchandising
for Price Chopper, a 115-store chain in six Northeastern states,
puts a lot of importance on building relationships with the
brides. He suggests seizing moments such as when another florist
has turned away someone or when a bride suddenly has no flowers
on the morning of her wedding. This is the time to step in and
save the day. While this takes a lot of extra effort, Mr. Strom
says, there is a tremendous bond built, which generally results
in future business.
experienced wedding designers
Margette Jobin has handled more than 500 weddings
during her 13 years at Price Chopper’s Central Market
Florist in Clifton Park, N.Y. Three of the store’s five
full-time designers oversee about 125 weddings a year.
The average cost is from $1,500 to $2,500, but Ms. Jobin
has done several ranging from $4,000 to $7,000. Her
floral department delivers, sets up and rents a variety
of wedding accessories, including different styles of
Floral Manager Lori
McKenna is one of five full-time designers on staff
at her Hy-Vee in Des Moines, Iowa. If the store needs
additional help for weddings, it calls on other Hy-Vees
for assistance. The store’s average wedding includes
four to five bridesmaids, up to 20 boutonnieres and as
many as 20 table centerpieces. Ms. McKenna says her
brides are looking for the “most bang for their buck.”
Jodi Evans, floral
manager for the Hy-Vee in Ankeny, Iowa, designs weddings
whose costs average several hundred dollars, but she has
sold some that cost in the thousands. She estimates that
about 20 percent of her department’s sales each year is
from wedding business. The store has three full-time
designers, so it can handle up to three weddings a
weekend. Ms. Evans says her average bridal customer does
not need centerpieces but rather flowers for the wedding
party and altar bouquets.
The best way to ensure a perfect wedding is to start out on the
right foot. All three floral managers we spoke with insist on
personal consultations. While they won’t turn away brides who
drop in to discuss their services, they do ask brides to make
appointments with the designers with whom they will work
throughout the planning process.
Floral Manager Lori McKenna is one of five designers who conduct
wedding consultations at a Hy-Vee in Des Moines, Iowa.
Consultations take place in a room near the pharmacy. Ms. Evans
uses her Hy-Vee’s dining area for her consultations, and at
Price Chopper, Ms. Jobin utilizes an office space.
During consultations, all these floral designers show
photo albums of previous weddings their departments have
designed for as well as commercial wedding flower selection
If the brides choose, Ms. McKenna will order the flowers
and create small mock-ups. Likewise, Ms. Jobin shows her brides
samples of what they have discussed.
Mr. Strom calls pricing for weddings an art, and his company has
special training on pricing every other year. If you are just
getting into the wedding business, he suggests charging for all
extra services from the beginning.
Supermarkets have different philosophies on whether they charge
for all the flowers ordered or only the ones used. While Ms.
Evans says her department charges only for the flowers that are
used and sells the rest in the store, Ms. Jobin charges for all
the flowers ordered but attempts to work all of them into the
Ms. McKenna says it is crucial to have well-trained designers
who know what they are talking about. Before designers at Ms.
McKenna’s store consult with brides, they must train on the job
under the other designers and sit in on consultations until Ms.
McKenna is sure they can provide a high-quality experience for
Mr. Strom also believes that a successful wedding business is
driven by the employees. At Price Chopper, all floral designers
must take an FTD Group, Inc. design class to receive FTD
certification. They do not handle consultations themselves until
they have sat in on a few with another designer.
To further develop employees’ design skills, Price Chopper
offers advanced design classes. The chain also pays for its
designers to take classes offered by wholesalers.
Three brides' stories (1)
“Incredible” is how one New York bride’s mother described her
family’s experience with Margette Jobin, the floral manager and
one of three wedding designers at Price Chopper’s Central Market
Florist in Clifton Park, N.Y. “She exceeded our expectations,”
Phyllis Shapiro says.
Ms. Jobin was recommended to Ms. Shapiro and her daughter
Jennifer Lee by a friend who had two daughters married in one
summer. When Ms. Shapiro mentioned Ms. Jobin’s name to others,
they also spoke highly of her work. Ms. Lee admits she was a
little apprehensive about using a supermarket florist, but she
trusted the two brides who recommended her.
When Ms. Lee met with Ms. Jobin, she knew what she wanted, right
down to the types of flowers. She shared her ideas and pictures
of what she was looking for. Ms. Lee confesses she is “pretty
picky,” but by the end of her initial consultation, she could
tell Ms. Jobin “knew her stuff.” She was impressed with her
knowledge of the flowers and reception sites. At their second
meeting, Ms. Jobin won her confidence with a sample centerpiece
that was exactly what she wanted.
Not only was Ms. Lee impressed by the fact she could get more
for her money, she says she appreciated how Ms. Jobin listened
to what she said and was honest if she thought something
wouldn’t work. In addition, she liked Ms. Jobin’s ability to
come up with solutions when something she requested wouldn’t
work. When Ms. Lee wanted candles down a staircase but was faced
with the problem that they had to be enclosed, Ms. Jobin came up
with a solution that involved floating candles.
Ms. Shapiro says Ms. Jobin was easy to work with and is the only
florist she will use now. Since the wedding, both mother and
daughter have recommended her to friends.
Although nothing can replace word-of-mouth advertising from
brides as well as their guests, you still have to promote your
wedding business in other formats. Both Ms. McKenna and Ms.
Evans’ Hy-Vee floral departments advertise in area newspapers’
bridal sections. Price Chopper also advertises in bridal guides
in major newspapers as well as on the radio, and last year, it
created a television commercial that airs periodically.
Mr. Strom strongly recommends a presence in the store to promote
wedding business to regular shoppers. In addition to large
in-store signage, most of the Central Market Florists in larger
Price Choppers have areas with tables, chairs and wedding
arches, where designers conduct consultations with brides.
Before Ms. Jobin had built up such a following, she took
pamphlets and sample bouquets to Chamber of Commerce business
mixers. She says this tactic increased her business.
Sometimes excellent work is rewarded with free promotion. One of
Ms. Jobin’s weddings recently was featured on top wedding
planning site The Knot,
www.theknot.com. Her location has become
so popular for wedding work that she recently had to add a third
designer for weddings. Her store now can handle up to seven
weddings a weekend.
Most successful supermarket wedding businesses also take part in
bridal shows. Hy-Vee floral departments in the Des Moines area
share a booth at their company’s bridal show in the Hy-Vee
corporate office in West Des Moines twice a year, where they
display 15 to 20 bouquets. The show also includes a variety of
wedding-related vendors, such as travel agents and
photographers. In addition, the Hy-Vee in Ankeny, Iowa, has its
own annual wedding show at the store as well as occasional
Three brides' stories (2)
Another mother-daughter team was impressed by Margette Jobin’s
talents. Karen Brewer, the mother of the bride, was surprised at
the florist’s knowledge of both the wedding venues and the
flowers and appreciated her honesty about what flowers would
work and what wouldn’t.
The bride, Stephanie Rovero, wanted callas for the boutonnieres,
but Ms. Jobin was concerned about their durability and suggested
white Cymbidium orchids instead. She added a little pink to the
groom’s boutonniere, and both mother and daughter were happy.
Ms. Brewer also was pleased at the one-on-one attention her
daughter received. Ms. Jobin sat down with Ms. Rovero and talked
about budget, expectations, types of flowers and colors. Ms.
Rovero brought pictures of what she liked to their second
meeting. After they had discussed everything, Ms. Jobin created
a mock-up, which Ms. Brewer says was really important to her and
her daughter. While the mock-up captured the look they wanted,
Ms. Brewer says the actual flowers were even better.
Throughout the experience, Ms. Brewer says, she felt Ms. Jobin
was accessible, always promptly answering her e-mails. In fact,
Ms. Brewer remarks, Ms. Jobin went above and beyond. When the
candelabra Ms. Jobin had ordered for centerpieces came in
shorter than they had anticipated, she found taller ones they
could borrow. Ms. Brewer says the centerpieces turned out
The family also thought the price was reasonable. The second
quote they had from a traditional florist was $4,000 more than
Since the wedding, Ms. Brewer has referred four people to Ms.
Jobin. Ms. Brewer has two more daughters and a son who aren’t
married yet and says she wouldn’t hesitate to use Ms. Jobin
again for their weddings.
If your floral department is thinking of developing a wedding
business, Mr. Strom advises, don’t go into it halfway. Before
you start, make sure your design skills are up to par and that
you are confident in your abilities. If you are not sure you can
do it well, he says, you shouldn’t do it at all. Failed attempts
only hurt your overall floral business with bad word-of-mouth.
The same applies to delivery services. If you can’t guarantee
reliability, start out with pickup at the store. As you gain
experience, you always can increase your services.
Unfortunately, Mr. Strom concedes, most people still don’t think
of supermarket florists when they plan the most important day of
their lives. He says overcoming this perception is the No. 1
thing supermarket florists must do to become successful. The
only way to do this, he says, is to build a reputation for good
service and high-quality flowers that is promoted by happy,
Three brides' stories (3)
the bride no. 1
Jennifer Wilson was referred by a friend to Jodi Evans, floral
manager at the Hy-Vee in Ankeny, Iowa. Ms. Wilson’s friend told
her that Ms. Evans was creative and gave her everything she
wanted and more.
From the first meeting, Ms. Evans made Ms. Wilson feel that she
was not just another bride. “She made me feel that my wedding
day was the most important one ever,” Ms. Wilson recalls.
The bride had an unusual request. She wanted to copy the look of
her grandmother’s wedding flowers from a black-and-white
photograph, but it was difficult to tell what the flowers were.
Ms. Evans not only captured the look of the garden-style bouquet
but also was able to customize it with Gerbera daisies, Ms.
Wilson’s favorite flower.
For the reception, in addition to providing fresh floral
decorations for the individual cakes Ms. Wilson’s mother made
for each reception table, Ms. Evans coordinated with Hy-Vee
catering and put flowers around all the chafing dishes.
Throughout her experience, Ms. Wilson says, Ms. Evans always was
willing to accommodate her needs. When the Alstroemerias came in
bluer than originally discussed, Ms. Evans immediately called
Ms. Wilson and asked her to come look at two solutions. Ms.
Wilson chose to have Ms. Evans add another pink flower to the
mix, which made the Alstroemerias seem less blue.
Although Ms. Evans already had gained this bride’s confidence
that the wedding flowers would be perfect, on the Saturday
morning of her wedding, Ms. Wilson was delighted to see her—not
another staff person—there to set up.
Ms. Evans even helped the wedding coordinator create a huge
heart made out of red rose heads on the bed in the couple’s
honeymoon suite. Rose petals were sprinkled from the door to the
Since her wedding, Ms. Wilson, who now lives in a suburb of
Kansas City, Mo., has recommended Ms. Evans to friends in Iowa.
“People should never underestimate the abilities and creativity
of supermarket florists,” Ms. Wilson says.
tips for a successful wedding operation
Here are some suggestions for improving your
wedding operation from Hy-Vee, Inc., based in West Des Moines,
Iowa, and Price Chopper, based in Schenectady, N.Y., two chains
that have built reputations for top-notch wedding services.
• Build strong relationships with brides.
• Insist that brides schedule a consultation with their own
• Select a location in your store for consultations where you
will have few interruptions.
• Always be honest with brides about whether you think something
• After a bride has chosen her flowers, show her a mock-up of a
bouquet or centerpiece.
• Downplay problems by immediately proposing other options or
• Seize “save-the-day” moments that can build lifetime bonds
• From the beginning, charge for extra services, such as
delivery, setup and transportation of flowers from one location
• Develop a strong working relationship with wedding venues in
• Leave your business cards at reception sites for future
• Advertise in bridal sections of area newspapers and magazines.
• Participate in bridal shows in your area.
• Promote your wedding business to regular customers through
in-store signage and occasional displays.
• Get involved in the community and local clubs where your store
is located to
cultivate future business.
• Gain corporate support for wedding services by showing their
profit potential, community-relations benefits and marketing
opportunities for your other
• Don’t offer wedding services or expand your wedding business
until you are sure you can provide the high-quality service
brides will expect.
You may reach reach Monica Humbard by phone at (800)
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