Fewer schools have homecoming dances. Where they still exist, some students opt out of flowers altogether. In other schools, it’s become a mini-prom.
How can florists adapt to keep homecoming sales alive?
Group discounts? A customized collection? A ‘friends and flowers’ order placing event?
We spoke with three accomplished florists. Among other tactics, one offers simpler and less expensive homecoming designs to earn business for prom and other events. Two others raised their prices and are earning higher profits on fewer sales.
All three offer design photos and ideas along with additional tips for catering to today’s high school students.
Changes with the times
Homecoming was designed in the 19th century to encourage alumni to come home for a celebratory game or event at their alma mater. Giving flowers to one’s date has long been an important part of this tradition.
Traditionally a male student buys a fresh floral corsage for his homecoming date and she chooses a boutonniere for him. Times change.
“In some schools, Homecoming is diminishing and they no longer have a dance,” explains Todd Bussey AIFD of Bussey’s Florist & Gifts in Cedartown, Georgia. “It’s not financially feasible to invest your marketing dollars or energies in those areas.”
Offer petite bouquets
Photo: Todd Bussey AIFD
“With the schools that are having homecoming dances, it has become like a miniature prom and is very profitable,” says Todd. “I find that it varies according to the schools.”
Bussey’s finds it more profitable to focus on selling small bouquets rather than wrist corsages.
Petite bouquets are faster to make, require less decorative accessories and can be designed further in advance. Whether the bouquet is hand-tied and stored in water until pick-up or designed in a water-saturated bouquet holder, the flowers have access to a water source, unlike a wristlet.
This video offers tips for How to Design a Petite Bouquet
Homecoming leads to prom
“We see homecoming as an early marketing opportunity for prom,” says Todd. “We intentionally keep our homecoming flowers simpler and less costly than prom to help make the distinction between the two.”
Bussey also uses the fall dances to forecast trends for spring proms by observing which fashionable colors and styles their customers are choosing.
“This gives us the opportunity to predict what will be chosen for prom in our specific market, which is much more accurate than just reading about projected trends online or in magazines.”
To reach potential customers, Todd relies heavily on social media, knowing that is where he can connect with young clients. Boosting popular posts or posting timely online ads allows him a high profile while maintaining a low advertising budget. He also markets directly to his email list for special occasions.
“Flowers follow fashion” suggests Cherrie Silverman AIFD, EMC of Cherry Blossoms in Westminster, Colorado.
Cherrie’s flower shop is in an area that has 10 high schools. They still have homecoming dances, but she’s not getting as many orders for wristlets as she did several years ago.
“Over my 37 years of design I’ve noticed there are periods of time when dressing up is more important than others. Flowers are a part of that look,” Cherrie explains. “The style here is more casual now and kids are going to the dance in groups. When that happens, there are less flowers being given to dates.”
Combos and upsells
Photo: Cherrie Silverman AIFD, EMC
Cherrie promotes trend-setting homecoming combos of coordinating corsage and boutonniere and offers an add-on like hair flowers to upsell the orders she does get.
The schools in Cherrie’s area select a homecoming court each year so she donates the court flowers to keep the Cherry Blossoms name visible to students.
Along with gluing succulents into wristlets and boutonnieres (as shown above), sometimes you need to secure them into foam bouquet holders. Try this technique, How-to Incorporate Succulents into Your Design
Adjusting price and service
“In the last few years I have significantly raised my prices,” Cherrie confides. She now fills fewer homecoming orders but makes a higher profit per order. She’s making more money while investing less time in design.
Still, she says, “Homecoming dance day is a busy one. That’s the day dad’s walk in with their son and say ‘my son didn’t get his date a flower!’ We handle it. At prom time, it’s the moms we deal with, but for homecoming it’s the dads that bring the guys in for last minute flowers.”.
Need more gluing tips? Revisit this blog Gluing Flowers into Prom Wristlets is Fast and Easy
Functional and fun flowers
“I’m all about functionality and comfort,” says Cherrie. “If it’s not comfortable, it’s not fun.”
She promotes the easy-to-wear Wrap Wristlets for her homecoming florals rather than offering a range of more expensive, trendier bracelets.
“One-size-fits-all, they are easy to design with, lightweight and comfortable to wear,” she explains. “I buy them by the case and have them drop-shipped to me.”
Changing with the seasons
Photo: Theresa Colucci AIFD, PFCI
Theresa Colucci AIFD, PFCI agrees that “informality is causing fewer requests for flowers”. There are three high schools near her Meadowscent shop in Gardiner, New York.
“Only one school has a homecoming dance,” says Theresa.”
One advantage her flower shop has is that there are three formal school dances in the region–homecoming in September or October, Snowball in February and prom in April or May. These dances present three opportunities to offer different colors, textures and styles of flowers to the same satisfied customers.
Upsell by updating designs
“We’ve definitely changed the way we sell corsages in recent years,” says Theresa. “By adding the fancy bracelets and decorative add-ons we really increased the price of our wristlets and no one has objected.”
Wristlets are worn for all three events though Theresa wishes her clients were more receptive to small bouquets.
I shared with Theresa how I worked with local vendors years ago in my flower shop to make the switch from wristlets to bouquets. It worked!
‘Bouquet and bout of the week’
Contact local dress and tux shops to ask if you can display a bouquet of the week in their stores in return for handing out their business cards or fliers in your flower shop. Each week create a bouquet and matching boutonniere, giving each design a name.
Think petite bouquets for homecoming, larger bouquets for prom and more impressive wedding bouquets during each corresponding sales seasons.
Sales details that matter
Creating designs in advance allows you to recipe each design, calculate the cost for accurate three-point pricing and take photos for promotional materials and a shop-counter sales album.
Create a flier for each of your homecoming designs that includes a photo with a description and range of prices. Include your shop contact info: phone, address, website, social media listings, etc. Add a unique code on each flier as a discount code for the buyer and tracking results for you.
To help inspire the sales of more floral accessory items—bouquet, wristlet, bout, hairpiece, ring, necklace, etc.—add suggestions to the fliers.
Also, it’s relatively inexpensive to enlarge photos and frame them as posters for your sales area, inspiring more impulse buys.
How do you encourage homecoming sales?
How do you encourage modern-day partiers to continue wearing flowers for these events?
Please share your innovative ideas with us in the comment section!