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industry talk

trends in tributes

Sympathy buyers look to floral departments for personalization, keepsakes and value.

    While some supermarket shoppers prefer to purchase sympathy flowers at other outlets, more and more consumers are recognizing the value in supermarket sympathy options. So this month, Senior Editor Shelley Urban asked four floral managers this question: What types of sympathy work do your customers ask for? 

    Our customers really want things that are customized; they don’t just pick something out of a sympathy book anymore. Quite often, they bring in pieces that meant something to their loved ones, and we incorporate those items into their arrangements. When we make something that’s really different, we take pictures, so we can show them to families because it’s hard for them to envision how we can personalize their sympathy pieces. Once, for a person who was a hunter, we created an actual “scene” with a [large] grapevine deer and cattails, so it looked like the outdoors. Some people may think these things are bizarre, but people tend to like them. We really enjoy learning about the person we’re making the flowers for, and families seem to appreciate it, too.
Denise Taylor, floral manager
Price Chopper #175; Schenectady, N.Y.

    We send lots of afghans, usually with religious sentiments, such as the Lord’s Prayer, or [images], such as a country church setting. They’re full-sized afghans that family members can take home. We have them on display in our shop, and customers have the option of purchasing an afghan along with a wooden easel for display. Most send the afghan on our easel, which we’ve customized with a dowel rod across the top, so the afghan drapes down and lays on the floor, so the entire image or verse is visible. Our easel is marked with our shop name, so the funeral director sets it aside, and we pick it up. Usually, we’ll put a small swag of “silk” flowers at the top and drape it with some ribbons or maybe a little corsage-size attachment, just to add a bit of flowers.
Mitzi Hadorn, floral manager
Buehler’s; New Philadelphia, Ohio

    Mainly, we sell big baskets—both fresh flowers and plants. We’re really known for our plant baskets, and we sell lots of them. Mostly we make baskets with two plants, but our big one has four plants. We offer customers an array of plant choices, but it’s mostly foliage except I’ll often put a blooming plant in the bigger one to give it color. Customers like plant baskets because they want to be able to give something to the family that they can take home and keep as a memento.
Lisa Tapp, floral manager
Albertsons 4176; Weatherford, Texas

    Sympathy is the mainstay of our floral sales, and most is family flowers—casket pieces, standing easels and sprays. We do lots of custom work. We find all kinds of unusual containers in our grocery store’s GM department—buckets, whiskey barrels, a bear standing up holding a pot, and water fountains that we arrange with plants or fresh flowers. But the casket piece is the most important, and our customers often bring in the deceased’s personal items because they want to incorporate a lot of the hobbies that describe their loved ones. Just the other day, we had an actual [horse] saddle. Another florist turned the family down, but we never tell families “no.” I look at it as a challenge and find ways to make it work. We also incorporate photos and other personal items into standing easels, and keeping things attached is a challenge, but we always find a way.
Ann Mair, floral manager
Days Market; Heber City, Utah
Reach Senior Editor Shelley Urban at or (800) 355-8086.


Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.