Flower shop proprietors and operators want to give customers a range of options for every special occasion. Rather than limit their inventory to flowers and plants, many florists offer a selection of gifts to complement, or be sold in place of, a floral arrangement.
“Some people want a gift that will last longer than the flowers, or they want something that will remind them of the floral gift, or some people may be buying for a person with allergies,” said Kimberlee Grob, owner and lead designer at Locker’s Florist in West Allis, Wis. “Balloons, chocolates, and stuffed animals are all classic accompaniments for flowers for different occasions. Generally, we carry things that are natural. Since we’re a flower shop, we try to keep it to things which are either easy to understand or common to send with flowers. Our best-selling gift items include some self-care items from a local woman-owned company. Lip balms, room sprays, and rosewater mists have been good sellers. Also packages for new moms. Plush is a good add-on, as well as things like chocolates.”
Gifts and snack bouquets make a great alternative for men, and recipients with allergies or other sensitivities. And a small business, florists welcome the opportunity to work with other artisans and gift vendors in their community. Brenna Tiller, manager of Strawberry Fields Flowers and Finds in Richmond, Va., said their unique operation has been a fixture in their neighborhood for years. “We really like to be involved with our community. The way our shop works—we have the gift section up front and the design table in the back. We’re out here making flowers and engaging with customers. We like to be part of the neighborhood and surrounded by pretty things,” she said.
The store sees a lot of foot traffic, with passersby and regulars stopping in for a chat or to browse their inventory. “It would feel like we were lost without the gift shop. Last year we were closed and just did the flowers and deliveries. It felt a little strange,” she admitted. “For our gifts, we like to focus more on local and regional artisans. We feature a lot of Richmond-based artists and those from the Atlantic region. We try to carry as many American-made gifts as possible. We have a lot of candles, pottery, cards, dog and cat gifts, baby gifts, children’s gifts. Also tea towels and bath salts. We’ll include the gifts in our flower arrangements, as well. We carry plants and succulents and have a potting station where customers can pot their own plants.” Sydney Hale Candles are one of the store’s top selling items: “We sell tons of them. People sometimes come in just for the candles. They donate a portion of their proceeds to a dog and cat rescue. We’re a dog-friendly shop so we love that about them,” Tiller said.
Gifts have always been part of the equation at Swiss Flower and Gift in Wheat Ridge, Colo., according to Owner Heidi Haas-Sheard. Her parents started the business as a traditional flower shop over 50 years ago, and Haas-Sheard expanded the operation beyond flowers. She bought the building, whittled away at it, and brought in the gifts – “About 32 years ago, the gift selection here was pretty tacky—dried flower arrangements, gift baskets, your traditional gifts. I expanded and started bringing in some artwork, nicer vases, food products. You have to be careful, but also believe in what you’re selling and have a vision of how you’re going to incorporate it [the gift]. Stuffed or plush animals have to be able to attach to a fresh flower arrangement—it can’t be too big. You have to find things that make it easy for the person to say yes [to the gift]. The other important thing—you have to like what you sell,” Haas-Sheard explained. “We do well with Swedish cloths [a cross between a paper towel and dish cloth] and 3D puzzles. We sell some accessories like handbags. We don’t get into clothes much because it’s so hard to factor in sizes. We carry a lot of home décor—lamps, artwork, furniture pieces. The key is to be diversified.”
Other florists opt for more of a “niche” gift selection. Luv It Gift & Flower Shop in Lincoln, Neb., stocks “Christian-based gifts. Wall hangings, figurines. Terrariums are also one of our specialties,” said Tony Kohles, co-owner of Luv It with fiancé Thu Tran. “People do like to give a gift with the flowers. My fiancé is the florist and I like the Christian-based gifts, so when we opened [in May 2021], we wanted to have both. We’ll create a fruit basket for someone moving into a new house, or for men’s birthdays or other occasions we’ll create a snack basket or fruit basket.”
Customers may not realize a florist also sells gifts, especially if they are taking advantage of online ordering or contact-less delivery. Retailers say it’s important to make the gift selections visible and make customers aware of what’s available. “In general, we try to put the gifts into the mix so people are reminded we carry these items. When we’re working with someone, the gift is usually an add-on. We know the occasion, so we can make a good recommendation for a gift. We don’t have too many items that would exceed the cost of the flowers. Most of the add-on items are a way to increase the sale and the enjoyment of the gift for the recipient,” Grob explained. “As a smaller retailer trying to carry things the larger retailers don’t have—we try to stock gifts that are local, different, and from smaller companies so we’re offering people things they wouldn’t get somewhere else.”
Florists utilize different methods to encourage adding a gift. “If someone is ordering a flower arrangement or plant, we will ask if they want to order something from the gift shop,” Tiller said. “We also have an ‘add on gift’ option online. We have gift sets, which are a fun way to add a gift on. We’ll do a theme, like a journal and a mug.” Tiller said when it comes to customer service, the team at Strawberry Fields strives to be visible and available, but not pushy. “We really like to treat everyone like they’re special. Many of our customers are repeat customers. If someone comes in for flowers, they may not know what to do. We offer help and let them know we’re here. But we try to let people be—there’s a lot to take in. We’ll be here designing, but available if people have questions.” Grob said exceeding customers’ expectations is her best customer service tip: “It sounds so cliché, but I would say under-promise and over-deliver. Setting realistic expectations, then providing above and beyond that makes for a great customer experience.” Kohles said customer satisfaction is their primary goal: “We’ll go out of our way to make a delivery. My fiancé gives tips on how to care for certain plants so the customer understands what they need to do. Just providing friendly, Christian-based customer service [works].”
Haas-Sheard said communicating with the customer is key to making a sale. “The most important thing is to listen to what the customer is looking for and educate them as to what their options are rather than strictly ‘upselling.’ Give them options so they don’t feel they are being upsold. For instance, if someone is coming in and celebrating someone’s birthday, ask them if they need a card, or would the recipient enjoy some gourmet cupcakes? And have the products placed so the customer can see them. Have things visible to make the suggestion. Ask people what they like. If they’re looking for a gift but don’t necessarily want flowers, ask them what they like. Then ask them what their budget is.”
She added it’s all about thinking creatively and finding ways for gifts and flowers to work together as much as possible: “Look at pieces that would work well with flowers. For instance—a travel mug. They have a useful gift afterwards, and you are still selling the flowers. It’s a slow process because if people don’t know you have gifts, it will take time for people to build that knowledge in your community. Try to break that stigma. Word of mouth works great—hold an after-hours shopping spree to educate the community about what you do and what you have available. Hold classes to educate people. Continually add things you think are good and are at good price points. Add to your collection.”