Flower Shops and Garden Centers

The retail outlets for the floriculture industry are the flower shops and garden centers of the nation. Some are small corporate chains, and some are operated as part of larger retail stores, notably Sears Roebuck, Wal-Mart, K Mart, Home Depot, and some supermarket chains. Most are small, privately owned businesses. It is through these retail shops that floral products reach the final consumer (Figure 15-4). The typical flower shop provides a full floral design service and carries potted flow­ers and foliage plants on a regular or seasonal basis. The shop may also sell gift items, greeting cards, or candy. Christmas decorations may be added during the holiday season. Garden centers always carry woody plant materials but many have a floral design service as well. Garden centers are a major outlet for the retail sale of bedding plants and bulbs. Their inventory may be diversified with floral products as well as pet supplies, firewood, Christmas trees, and seed.

The retail outlet may consist of a store with nearby parking, or it may include a sales yard and/or greenhouse(s). The owner or manager must be a skilled merchant with business training as well as training in horticulture. Training of shop personnel, techniques of promotion and marketing, customer relations, purchasing practices, accounting, and computer use are only some of the business subjects that a retail opera­tor must deal with daily. A retail center requires a general practitioner of business management, not a specialist.

figure 15-4. Most retail flower shops operate in an atmosphere of informal cordiality. Repeat customers are common and are usually known to the florist. (Delmar/Cengage Learning. Photo by Jack Ingels.)

Since a retail flower shop or garden center is a small business, the owners are likely to be directly involved with the services or goods offered. They may be floral designers, greenhouse workers, or sales­people. Unloading trucks, developing displays, answering customers’ questions, and running the cash register—all are as likely to be done by the owner as by an employee. There are few opportunities to play chair­man of the board in a retail flower shop or garden center.

The education required to be a horticulture retailer can be obtained through college programs at the two – or four-year level. The ideal pro­gram would include technical training in both ornamental horticulture and business management. Many retailers, unable to attend a univer­sity full time, enroll in part-time programs. Others take advantage of the short courses and educational workshops offered by the Cooperative Extension Service or industry trade organizations. Still others keep up by reading texts, journals, and magazine articles that cover retailing in general and horticulture in particular.

Floral Design and Sales

Floral design is the artistic craft of the floriculture profession. In the hands of floral designers, floral crops are transformed into the products desired by consumers (Figure 15-5). The floral designer must posses a sufficient knowledge of postharvest plant physiology to prolong the life of cut flowers and foliage as long as possible. The designer must also be able to select and assemble colors, shapes, textures, and materials for floral arrangements tailored to the needs of each client. The designer must have the vision of an artist, yet be comfortable repeating many of the same tasks dozens of times.

Floral designers are usually expected to be salespeople also. Waiting on customers, taking orders on the telephone, consulting with future brides, expectant fathers, and bereaved families require sensitive

figure 15-5. Floral designers use their skill to convey feelings and sentiments for their customers. (©Tom Prokop, 2009. Used under license from Shutterstock. com)

interpersonal skills. Knowing when to offer a suggestion and when to just listen are desirable qualities in those who would sell as well as design.

The position of floral designer is highly important in any shop or garden center that offers floral arrangements. The designer may or may not be the owner of the business, and may or may not be the only designer on the staff.

Floral designers are trained in several ways. Courses are offered at two – and four-year colleges as part of degree programs in ornamental horticulture. A course or two may also be offered as electives in nonhor­ticulture programs, but they are usually directed at hobbyists and are of limited use. Floral design training schools also exist where aspiring designers receive concentrated training. These are noncollege programs that provide the graduate with a certificate on completion.

Landscape Floriculture Specialist

Corporate center landscapes commonly use lavish floral displays to convey their image to their employees, their customers, and the gen­eral public (Figure 15-6). Developers will use flowers as one means of

figure 15-6. Large floral displays are now expected at many commercial facilities such as this condominium complex. (Delmar/Cengage Learning. Photo by Jack Ingels.)

marketing their properties to prospective tenants. Many cities are now­using extensive floral displays to enrich their downtown zones and their gateway entries.

As a result, many landscape contractors now have specialized crews that focus their efforts entirely on the floral displays at the client sites. A typical floriculture crew would be composed of a crew leader who is knowledgeable of the handling, installation, and seasonal care of the flowers being installed. The crew leader may also be responsible for designing the layout of the beds and preparing the contracts with the growers who will produce the large quantity of plants needed. The crew leader may also be required to train the crew members who will install and maintain the plantings.