Smart Selling | First Impressions Do Count


This is the second in a 10-part series aimed at empowering Floral Management readers to build a foundation month by month, sale by sale, for higher sales, more confident employees and happier customers.

Last month, we kicked off this new column by discussing the need to hold regularly scheduled meetings with staff to foster a stronger sales culture in your shop.

This month, we’re focusing on improving how your staff members greet and engage customers on the sales floor. I regularly hear that walk-in traffic has dropped dramatically this decade. Even more reason, I feel that we need to do a better job of making a strong impression on shop visitors.

Let’s begin with language

What’s Happening: What do YOU say to customers as they enter the shop? I ask because inevitably staff will follow your lead, either actively or passively. The worst opening question (ironically, the most commonly used in flower shops) is, "How can I help you?" I want to scream in response, "You can help me by showing me around your flower shop, asking intelligent questions and making it easier for me to shop here!"

What Should Happen: We know that most customers enter the store either on a whim or without specific flowers in mind. Therefore, your staff needs to be taught by you to interact with and listen to customers. When you set the right tone from the beginning, you will make bigger sales, guaranteed. As the owner/manager, you must instill in your staff the fact that customers want to be engaged and listened to, not just asked the same bland questions that we’ve been using for the past 100 years!

There was a famous study done at UCLA by Dr. Albert Mehrabian that states that face-to-face communication is 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone of voice and 7 percent words. Stunning, right? Think about those numbers in terms of the customer experience in your store. When someone walks in, do they see staff behind the counter checking Facebook on their phones, OR are they happily greeted by someone walking toward them? What do your customers hear? Is it a sheepish, "How can I help you?" or a more engaging "What’s your special reason for flower shopping today?"

Still Skeptical? Historically, I have found flower shop staff to be shy about interacting with customers, but why? This is a conversation you need to have with your team. Here are some talking points that I bring out when I do on-site training.

  • You can never profile a customer based on appearancesince you will often get the opposite result. For example, there’s a tendency to offer lower price points to older customers based on the assumption that they don’t want to spend much and/or are on a fixed income. Unbeknownst to you, that customer pulled up in a new Mercedes and heads to Boca for the winter! Sell her an item based on your conversation and her needs.
  • Customers will not run screaming from a high price.This is a crazy myth that is perpetuated in our industry; yet in 25 years of waiting on customers, I have probably had only 10 people hang up or walk out upon hearing a price they did not like. Customers are smart — they’ll let you know if they don’t want to spend that much. All they’re really saying is "Give me another option or price point."


The art of the telephone sale and first Impression Events, Floral Strategies style.

"When someone walks in, do they see staff behind the counter checking Facebook on their phones, or are they happily greeted by someone walking toward them?"


This column continues at , where you will find more onselling face-to-face along with some customer service games to play with your staff to get them more comfortable with selling on the floor. Plus, visit a video primer on this topic.

Tim Huckabee, FSC, is president of FloralStrategies, which provides customer service, sales and POS system training to retail and wholesale


Eric Levy, President, Hillcrest Garden, Inc.

 Congresional Action Days

At CAD, Industry Members Engage – and See Results

Re-post: Hillcrest Garden, Inc. | Staff Writer Shelley Rodriguez | written by Heather Larson

Floral Industry News ,  Government Relations ,  Week In Review

It didn’t take long last year to prove that when floral industry members come together in Washington, D.C., their combined voices can make a big difference.

Months after 119 growers, wholesalers, retailers and suppliers from 30 states asked lawmakers to increase floriculture research funding during the Society of American Florists’ 2017 Congressional Action Day, the  House Appropriations Committee  wrote a recommendation doubling that amount.

“The Committee values the importance of the floral and horticulture industry as floral and nursery crops are the third-largest domestic crop in value,” reads the report, which recommended increasing the funding of the Floriculture Nursery Research Initiative to $500,000. “The FNRI is focused on addressing and solving the industry’s challenges and needs.”

That message of support is a direct result of SAF members lobbying during CAD — and SAF’s 38th Annual Congressional Action Days, March 12-13, in Washington, D.C., will build on exactly that kind of momentum.

“This is really big news: We have it in writing that Congress values the industry,” said SAF Chief Operating Officer Drew Gruenburg last year of the House committee’s recommendation on FNRI funding. Gruenburg noted that during and after Congressional Action Days, floral industry members worked hard to educate lawmakers on the valuable role FNRI plays in industry research, and the importance of the floral industry to the overall U.S. economy.

“It shows the power of constituent involvement,” he said.

Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations, added: “When CAD participants discussed FNRI with congressional offices, noted its importance, and asked that the program’s funding be partially restored, those offices enthusiastically responded. Rather than being politely dismissed, SAF members were listened to and commitments were made on the spot to support FNRI funding through an official funding request procedure.”

Eric Levy, owner of Hillcrest Garden in Paramus, New Jersey, and the president of International Floral Distributors, has participated in a number of CADs, and said he’s seen the pay-off of engagement firsthand.

“I do believe that when congressional representatives see enough people come through their offices asking for the same thing, they act,” he said. “And you always learn so much at CAD. For example, last year, I learned about the corporate tax rate. Fast forward 10 months, and the Republican-led Congress lowered the corporate tax rate to 21 percent. Now I can explain the issue to my colleagues and family members, because I heard about it all at SAF’s CAD.”

For CAD details and to register, visit . The cut-off date for guaranteeing the SAF room rate at the CAD hotel is Feb. 16. The early-bird registration fee is $295 for members and $395 for non-members by Feb. 23. Your CAD registration includes an additional FREE registration for a second person from your company who has never attended CAD before. This offer is not available online; please contact .

SAF’s 38th Annual Congressional Action Days is underwritten by Platinum Partner CalFlowers and Gold Partners BloomNet, FTD and Teleflora.


Eric Levy, President, Hillcrest Garden, Inc.

Congres Retirements


Thursday, January 11, 2018

The first mid-term elections of Donald Trump’s Presidency will be held on November 6, 2018.

This is January, 2018 so ten months from now – exactly 10 months from now – Washington, DC will be poring over the results in all 435 House districts to see who won, who lost, who needs to be sent a letter of congratulations, who needs a condolence note.

As of this morning, there are 239 Republicans in the U.S. House, 193 Democrats and three vacancies. As there are 435 voting Members of the House, whichever party has 218 Members or more, gets to control everything.

Remember, there is no filibuster rule in the House. You have 218 (assuming you can hold them all) and you get to elected the Speaker, the Chair of every committee and subcommittee, you get to appoint about 2/3 of the staff of those committees and you get to decide what comes to the Floor, when, and under what rules.

The Ds need a net gain of 25 members of congress to get to that magic 218 point.

It is a very big deal.

That’s why we are seeing an increasing level of hand-wringing along K Street (my office is one block away on L Street where the wringing of hands is frowned upon, if not outright forbidden).

As of this writing, 31 of those 239 Republicans have already announced they will not be seeking re-election.  That’s one of those numbers you need to look at carefully. 31 is correct, but without further explanation it is likely you believe they are all leaving to spend more time with their families and less time trying to raise money for their  next Congressional race.

It is not true. Of those 31, 19 are, as NPR put it, “retiring outright” but “another 12 are running for higher office” – Governor or Senator.

Also, to hear cable news hosts read from their teleprompters, you would think that all of those 31 seats will flip to being Democrat. Also not true. Some – maybe most – will flip, but it is beyond unlikely that Democrats will go 31 for 31 (or whatever the final number of retirements is) next November.

Speaking of which, there are 15 Democrats who have announced they are not running for re-election to the House and it is equally unlikely that the Ds will go 15 for 15 in holding onto those seats.

Having written all that, let me give you the bad news: It is likely the Democrats will take control of the House when the 116th Congress convenes on or about next January 3.

Keep in mind that my predictive skills are not what they used to be. Ask President Hillary Clinton, for instance.

Nevertheless, the signs are ominous.

Since World War II, again via NPR “the president’s party loses an average of 28 seats in his first midterm election.” In fact, only once – George W.’s first mid-term (about a year after 9/11) has the incumbent’s party gained seats. In that case eight.

Bill Clinton lost 52 seats in his first mid-term which was 1994, the year of the Gingrich Revolution. Worse than that was Barack Obama’s first mid-term – minus 63 seats.

In each of those cases, the President’s job approval was significantly higher than Donald Trump’s is today. As election day approached, Clinton’s job approval was at 48 percent; Obama’s was at 45 percent. Donald Trump, according to the Real Clear Politics average is at about 40 percent, so he’s within range of Obama. But, as Obama lost 63 seats, that may not be a great target for the White House to aim at.

There are several early warning signals political pros look at to peek behind the electoral curtain. One is called the “generic vote.” The pollsters don’t ask “If the election were held today would you vote for the incumbent Rich Galen or the challenger Bob Smith?” They ask, “If the election were held today would you vote for the Republican or the Democrat?”

Again, from RCP, the generic vote favors Democrats by 11.8 percentage points. For context, in that 63 seat Republican sweep in Obama’s first mid-term, the Rs went into Election Day leading Ds on the generic ballot by just 6.8 percentage points.

But, just like the Presidency, we do not have national elections. In the U.S. House we have 435 separate hand-to-hand battles for each seat in each state.

We’ve got 10 months – and likely many more retirements – before Election Day.


Eric Levy, President | Hillcrest Garden, Inc.


Two-Thirds of Florists Predict Strong Valentine’s Day Sales

Reposted By: Hillcrest Garden| January 17, 2018In:  Floral Industry

SAF December Holidays and Valentine’s Day Intentions 2018 Survey. Emailed Jan. 4, 2018. 8.3 percent response rate.

A mid-week holiday and a strong economy bode well for Valentine’s Day 2018. (Fingers crossed that the weather cooperates!)

According to a recent Society of American Florists’ survey, about 67 percent of florists predict an increase in Valentine’s Day sales this year, when the holiday falls on a Wednesday, compared to last year, when sweethearts celebrated on a Tuesday.

Thirty percent of respondents expect 2018 returns to be about on par with those in 2017.

The last time Valentine’s Day fell on a Tuesday, in 2012, 80 percent of retail florists said  holiday sales increased over the year before.

Among the popular messages and techniques florists plan to incorporate into their Valentine’s Day promotions: flowers are a surprise for your sweetheart at work (72 percent); flowers make people happy, as proven by research (52 percent); and flowers are affordable luxuries (33 percent).

About 24 percent of respondents also plan to promote flowers with special deals and offers, 16 percent said they’ll play up the fact that flowers go well with romantic dinners and weekends away an 7 percent said they’ll position Valentine’s Day flowers as a “green alternative” for the holiday.

SAF December Holidays and Valentine’s Day Intentions 2018 Survey. Emailed Jan. 4, 2018. 8.3 percent response rate.

Respondents plan to charge on average about $67 for a dozen, unarranged long-stemmed roses and $84 for a dozen, arranged long-stemmed roses.

Last year, in a post-holiday SAF survey, respondents reported charging on average about $66 for a dozen, unarranged long-stemmed roses and $85 for a dozen, arranged, long-stemmed roses. Both numbers are in line with 2016 results, when florists reported charging $83 for arranged versions and $65 for unarranged.

About 60 percent of respondents said they’re pre-booking roughly the same amount of fresh product, compare to last year. Around 30 percent said they’ll pre-book fresher product.

SAF December Holidays and Valentine’s Day Intentions 2018 Survey. Emailed Jan. 4, 2018. 8.3 percent response rate.

Forty-five percent of florists said they’ll offer incentives (discounts, free items, add-ons, upgrades and priority services) for early delivery. About 46 percent said they’ll do the same for early ordering. Eighteen percent said they’ll incentivize “likes” on Facebook or other social media acknowledgements.

As for supply issues, leatherleaf will be in short supply. A coalition of growers in Florida came together late last year to get the word out to industry members about the shortage , which stem from a devastating round of hurricanes, cold temperatures and labor shortages.

Last year, about 88 percent of respondents to the SAF post-holiday survey experienced an increase in Valentine’s Day sales, compared to 2016, when the holiday fell on a challenging date, the Sunday of a long weekend. Those results were fairly consistent across business size, with respondents who have $1 million-plus in sales even more likely to report an increase (96 percent).


Eric Levy,

President | Hillcrest Garden, Inc.



Supreme Court to hear online sales tax case

Reposted by Hillcrest Garden, Inc. from The Hill | By Naomi Jagoda - 01/12/18 03:42 PM

© Greg Nash

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case about whether states can require out-of-state online retailers to collect their sales taxes. In agreeing to hear the case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, the court will revisit a 1992 decision in which it ruled that states could only require remote sellers to collect their sales taxes if the business had a physical presence in the state.

State and local governments have been pushing for a greater ability to collect sales taxes from internet purchases in recent years, as the growth of e-commerce has made it harder for governments to reach their revenue targets.

The Senate passed bipartisan legislation in 2013 that would allow states to require out-of-state businesses to collect their sales taxes if the states simplified their sales tax laws.

Similar legislation was introduced last year with bipartisan support, but the effort has stalled in Congress because House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteHispanic Caucus: Goodlatte bill is the 'mass deportation act'Top committee Dems: GOP chairs trying to undermine Russia probe with FBI textsEmboldened conservatives press Ryan to bring hard-right immigration bill to floorMORE (R-Va.) has wanted to take a different approach on the issue.

Amid gridlock in Congress, states sought to use the courts to try to get the 1992 Supreme Court ruling overturned. Justice Anthony Kennedy said in a 2015 opinion that he wanted the court to take another look at the issue.

The case before the Supreme Court involves a South Dakota law enacted in 2016 that would allow the state to require out-of-state online retailers with a significant economic connection to the state to collect its sales taxes. Supporters of South Dakota's case include groups representing state and local governments and brick-and-mortar retailers. 

“The Court’s decision to grant South Dakota’s petition is an important signal for retailers that invest in storefronts and jobs in local communities,” said Deborah White, general counsel and retail litigation center president for the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

But some online businesses and lawmakers think that the 1992 decision should be upheld. A group of lawmakers that included Goodlatte and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCommunity health centers await funding that expired months agoDemocrats mull keeping Senate in session overnightTop Dem presses Trump health official on potential ethics violation MORE (D-Ore.) had encouraged the Supreme Court not to hear the case, saying that the online sales tax issue should be left up to Congress to address. 

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDems sour on shutdown tacticsShutdown grinds into workweek after Senate fails to clinch dealWHIP LIST: Shutdown looms as Senate lacks votes to pass House spending billMORE (D-N.H.), the top Democrat on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said she hopes the Supreme Court sticks to its precedent. New Hampshire does not have a sales tax.

"A reversal by the Court would be especially damaging to New Hampshire where our small businesses have no experience collecting sales taxes and should not be forced to become tax collectors for other states," she said. Meanwhile, Rep. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemLobbying worldSupreme Court to hear online sales tax caseWeek ahead: Congress rushes to pass tax reform, funding before holidaysMORE (R-S.D.), lead sponsor of a House bill similar to the one the Senate passed in 2013, said that the Supreme Court's decision to take up the South Dakota case heightens the urgency for congressional action.

"If the Supreme Court rules in South Dakota’s favor, it could become a marketplace free-for-all. A South Dakota small business, for instance, could be forced to comply with 1,000 different tax structures nationwide without the tools necessary to do so," she said. "My legislation provides a necessary fix."


Eric Levy, President,

Hillcrest Garden, Inc.

The Color Purple

Joy to the world! The Pantone Color Institute has selected its 2018 color of the year ant it's especially 'florist friendly'

Click to view Pantone's Purple Pick