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  • A Holiday Notebook: Planning Cures the Pressure

    Flowers and Profits®

    Dealing with perishables and the unpredictability of business fluctuations makes the buying and selling of floral products a challenge. And during the holiday periods, most florists can use all the help they can get making decisions because the sales pace is so hectic.

    One of the easiest ways to handle this challenge is keeping track of the information that is affected by the fluctuations.

    Whether you choose to computerize or to keep your records manually is less important than your commitment to record data. Detailed records are a basis from which you can derive information to make good decisions.

    This season, get a notebook and write down observations, notes, comments and other information that might help you better prepare for next year.

    Who Has Time?

    Planning and organizing are two activities that will give you more time when you really need it — during the rush. Proper planning allows you to make effective decisions in advance of this chaotic time. With records of past years at your disposal, you can mentally and organizationally prepare for the sudden upsurge in business.

    If you are a new business it will be more difficult to make planning predictions for this season, but recording the events of each holiday you go through, as well as your general business cycles, will be the start of a business history to guide you in the future.

    Daily Notes

    Try to record information while all the events are still current in your mind. This is especially important if you are using a manual recording system, rather than a computer. This means taking time before, during and immediately after the holiday to record observations, ideas, problems and solutions.

    You should have an employee meeting during and a few days after the holiday to get input from your staff. Employees can provide insight to events you may have forgotten, or solutions to problems for which you hadn't thought.

    Page 1. Hello Diary

    Starting today, keep a daily diary. Make concise notes regarding everything in the shop. Observations or thoughts you might think to be inconsequential may prove to have valuable insight in future planning.

    For example: Last Christmas, Mary, your delivery coordinator became too ill to come to work the last three days before the holiday. Because Mary was always the person in charge of deliveries, they did not go out as smoothly.

    Looking back at this note from last year, you may decide this year to "cross-train" other regular personnel to handle a key person's duties just in case this same incident happens again. Or you may decide to hire and train an additional person to cover a vital position, such as Mary's.

    There may be several ways of handling such a situation, once you recognize the potential threat to your business this year.

    Page 2. Record Supplies

    For example, last year the designers ran out of Christmas ribbon two days before the holiday and your local wholesalers were sold out. The designers completed the holiday designs with generic ribbon, which did not create the artistic designs your clients have come to expect from your shop.

    If you remember this a year later, you may plan to buy more ribbon or to investigate other sources from which to get ribbon quickly. But if you had not recorded these incidents last year, you may have forgotten they ever happened.

    It is much easier to remember you did 300 floral arrangements in the three days prior to Christmas than it is to remember that you ran out of pre-picked pine cones and had to spend extra time attaching picks to cones for your last 50 designs. Record everything.

    Page 3. More Details

    It is important to keep records and track every variable: sales, production, inventory, personnel, delivery, advertising, budgets, workroom, space at the sales counter — even the weather outside.

    In the end it may be the seemingly inconsequential note that it snowed the day before Christmas that explains why you saw a drop in sales on that date.

    Using Your Information

    Accurate records make planning easier. By studying your data from last year, you can make better decisions in marketing, purchasing, staffing and workflow planning to handle the increased holiday volume.

    Slow periods are good times to review records, forecast sales increases, analyze changes in client buying habits and even update customer information.

    Page 4. Hard Products

    Past years' notes can provide guidance regarding your product line for an upcoming holiday. But, they must also take recent sales into account. New sales trends may have developed which could influence your holiday planning. Shop displays and decorations should also be given consideration as you develop your product line.

    For example, plush toys may have been a particularly slow sales item last Christmas. However, in the last six months you have noticed an increase in your sales of brighter, more whimsical plush items.

    Given the recent upsurge in demand, you would probably choose to buy similar items for this holiday. And if you have a back stock of plush from last year, you might ask the design staff to think of ways to use these items first or to incorporate them with brighter colored merchandise.

    Page 5. Fresh Products

    If you purchased carnations and pompons on five separate occasions in small lots last Christmas, this year you might plan on buying them in case lots at a better per-unit price and with production line processing and handling.

    Your records may show an increase in tropical flower sales last Christmas, but you were not able to purchase them late in the season. This and other notes may indicate you need to order tropicals and similar popular merchandise earlier or in larger quantities.

    From some suppliers, Christmas merchandise may be shipped in July and not paid for until December. This provides the opportunity to receive merchandise early and prepare permanent designs and display items earlier.

    Well Worth the Effort

    No matter how you measure it, being prepared always pays off. Pricing, staffing, production schedules, delivery schedules, display and workroom space can all be planned early through review of your records from last year. Charts and diagrams can be designed in advance to keep activities organized and orderly.

    There are many computer programs available that help with record keeping and planning. Specific programs are designed to track sales, inventory and categorize items sold. Programs can also track sales from individual customers. Some programs even incorporate graphing and charting, should you wish to extend your record keeping to this extent.

    Although computerization can simplify the process of record keeping, a manual record keeping system can serve you well — as long as you invest the time in gathering the initial data during the holiday.

     

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