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  • Exterior Designs Bring Business

    The Retail Florist

    The next time you drive down the street in your community, make it a point to notice just how many homes are sporting some type of outdoor floral decorations. Many florists find exterior designs have become a lucrative part of their business. And, while long thought to be largely limited to Christmas, outdoor arrangements are now recognized across the country as floral money makers for all seasons.

    Lorie Westmorland and her mother, Judith Brandley, owners of Lorena Moss in Sierra Madre, Calif., create rather unorthodox outdoor decorations. But Lorie says that shouldn't surprise anyone, because their entire approach to business is unusual. "We don't operate like a typical florist," she explains.

    At Lorena Moss they use things people find in their garages or attics and find a way to make those items part of their floral design pieces.

    "We use ladders, old porch rockers, and even old, rusted Tonka toy trucks as planters and floral displays in our shop," Lorie says. "We find they tend to give people ideas about things they can use and do around their house, inside and out. Then they come to us for help in actually pulling the design together."

    She says her shop does lots of outdoor wreaths, making them seasonally oriented, and no two are alike. Lorena Moss' wreaths are also very different from what customers are likely to find somewhere else: lots of garden variety flowers and herbs, and freeze-dried vegetables.

    "Everything is very fresh and different looking here," Lorie says. "We've made it a point to never buy the same thing twice. So, our customers have learned if they like something they'd better go ahead and buy it, because they may not be able to get it later."

    Sharon McGukin, owner of Designer's Touch in Carrollton, Ga., thinks the best way to market outdoor designs is to fill your own store with exterior decorations, both inside and out. Some of her approaches to marketing outdoor designs include writing articles for the local paper, holding advertised "how-to" design seminars for members of the public and pre-selling to customers.

    "I'll say, 'remember we'll have our Christmas decorations up,' on whatever date," she says.

    Like Lorie, Sharon provides outdoor wreaths for all seasons. But the most proactive thing she does to market exterior arrangements is to advertise that she's available for floral consultations. Sharon charges a consultation fee, but allows customers to take that amount, or a percentage of that amount, off their first purchase.

    During the consultation itself, Sharon makes a full plan for decorating the entire house, inside and out, but allows customers to set their own priorities about which part of the plan they'll incorporate first.

    "I get a lot of return business through the year from this," Sharon explains.

    Dorothy McDaniel, of Dorothy McDaniel's Flowers in Birmingham, Ala., finds having a sizable storefront a real asset for marketing her outdoor designs. She keeps the storefront fully decorated and gets a lot of sales from people who either want what they see hanging up, or something very similar to it.

    Dorothy and her staff do a lot of mailbox decorating for parties. They also strew garlands around outdoor benches and even in trees.

    She believes it's important to stress to customers that permanent decorations don't last a lifetime. "They need to be freshened up, refurbished, updated and sometimes just replaced, on a regular basis," Dorothy notes. And, she's quick to point out this tactic helps increase repeat business.

     

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