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  • Sympathy Business Q & A

    A Word With Jim
    By Jim Morley, AIFD Fellow

    The question many retail florists are asking as they look back at their sales for the past few years is, "Oh, where; Oh, where has our sympathy business gone?"

    If the bottom has fallen out of your sympathy business, it's time to look at how to bring it back. Many florists have found that changing their ways has helped. Maybe it's time to look at what is working and what's not.

    Yes, I know that sympathy business has changed and we have no control over that. The question is, what are you going to do about it? When was the last time you asked your customers what they like, or don't like, about your sympathy arrangements? Contact some customers who used to order a lot of sympathy pieces, but no longer do. Why is that? By their answers, you should get an idea of what's wrong.

    Maybe it's not the design, but how it is sold. In today's fast-paced world you need a different sales approach — focus on the take home value of the arrangement. Or maybe it should be sent to the home rather than the funeral home. These are just a few of the things you can do to keep those sales moving.

    Q. Flowers are much more expensive now, how can I make them look their value?

    A. Try grouping your flowers. This gives better impact with fewer flowers. What is grouping? Identical materials placed in a specific limited area, with space between the individual parts. This allows the viewer to see the individual variety, color, form or texture of each material. Materials scattered throughout the arrangement lose their impact.

    Q. Are clear glass containers with loose arrangements acceptable at funerals?

    A. This is a trend I have seen across the country, and I believe it's very much in favor with the consumer. This is the type of arrangement that will be taken home after the funeral. Be sure your construction is sound. Remember, your driver, the funeral director and the consumer must handle it. If it is well constructed, there should be no problem. You might even include a box for the trip home and a note to the funeral director to save the box. Another important point — keep on good terms with the funeral homes you service. Now more than ever, we need each other.

    Q. When using lilies in funeral pieces, we always remove the pollen-holding stamens, but we still get in trouble as more lily blooms continue to open. What should we do?

    A. Visit your funeral director and his staff and teach them how to remove the pollen from flowers and their clothes. The cost to you would be slight, but the value received great.

    Buy them a box of chenille stems and a box of non-sterile latex gloves and show them how to use them. Note: The best way to remove a stain is by placing the garment in direct sunlight for 30 minutes. (My thanks to a good friend in Holland for this tip.)

    Q. In the past year I have had several requests for English garden planters. Instead of planting all the plants together in containers, we have left them in their pots and covered the top with moss. Several have come back due to a lack of water. If I plant them all in soil, they become too heavy. Is there an easy solution?

    A. There is a simple answer. Include a printed note that tells the customer the plants are in individual pots and must be watered individually. Explain that the planter is lighter this way, and it is also easier for them to replace a single plant when needed, especially if you have used small, blooming plants.

    Q. Are silk arrangements acceptable for sympathy work?

    A. Yes, but in my opinion only when the customer knows the receiver's taste and the colors in their home. Or try to persuade the sender to let you do it after the funeral, when you can find out the proper colors and style.

    Silks should never be sent to the funeral home. Funeral flowers should be alive, to give a sense of hope and remind viewers that life does go on. If the customer insists, send it. But you're the sales person and you can advise and persuade, insist on fresh flowers.

    Q. In the past it was customary to place flowers on the door of the house of the deceased. Is this still done?

    A. Yes, but not so much at homes. It is more often seen at businesses when they close because of a death. I believe the practice when away because homes were being robbed while the families were at the services. I would still suggest it, especially in areas where families accept mourners at their homes.



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