James Crompton has had his own shop for six years since he was 20. He is one of those lucky enough to be born into a florist family, so he inherited his shop when his parents retired. Here’s James in the first of our run of Christmas interviews, about how he juggles everything over the festive period:
It wasn’t always the plan for me to take on the shop, I had other ideas when I was younger. But from the moment I started my first day of work, I knew this was going to be the career for me. I couldn’t imagine myself for a second doing anything else now. This industry is the best.
I like to think of ourselves as being a versatile shop! Our style ranges from traditional, vintage to ultra-modern depending on customer requirements. For Christmas, I like to keep it traditional. I feel it helps keeps my options open when buying and keeps my huge majority older clientele happy. Nine times out of ten traditional designs will sell over contemporary, The creative side of me wishes this were different but the businessman side of me is pretty happy as my traditional designs always move really well over the Christmas period.
Pre-orders, pre-orders, pre-orders are the key to Christmas! You need to get your sales hat on and drum up as many pre-orders as you can prior to Christmas. This is the difference between achieving a well-organised, profitable peak period, and not. Think about it, every industry puts a massive focus on pre-orders for the Christmas period; butchers, furniture stores, toy shops, even the supermarkets and their sales tactics are all very, very similar. Put real hard emphasis on the idea of “not missing out” and “guaranteed availability” all over your ad campaigns. Put together pre-order Christmas packages and get that money in your tills. The benefits of running pre-order campaigns from late November are endless. You’ll have a great idea of order quantities to help your flower buying and you can plan those all-important delivery routes and staff rotas weeks in advance. Get samples together early on and get selling!
We charge extra for Christmas Eve delivery. It helps keep the workload spread evenly throughout those mad busy few days and often means deliveries can be done and dusted, allowing us to get home at a halfway reasonable time on the 24th! We don’t hire any extra drivers and we use Strelitzia Software to organise our delivery routes. This saves so much time and work and has actually meant we can manage all our deliveries with just two drivers out on automatically pre-planned delivery routes.
We prepare our own specific Christmas designs and have two colour scheme options for our customers to choose from. One is a traditional Christmas colour scheme which always involves reds and the other option will be something a little more offbeat. Within those colour schemes, customers can choose either a hand-tied, an aqua design or a basket arrangement. We name each colour scheme something festive. Mulled wine, frosty mornings, gingerbread and cranberry have all been used. All designs will be on our website and all designs are available on the shelves for customers to choose from.
When it comes to plants, I’ve always done well with Anthuriums; the purple ones always sell incredibly well for me around Christmas. Dendrobium orchids and daffodil or hyacinth bulb planters go really well. Pink & White Poinsettias have also proven a smash hit with customers more recently!
In terms of add-ons to bolt onto my bouquet sales, candle sales are always really strong over Christmas but I find chocolates and wine harder to sell with customers really looking after the pennies more than usual, so harder work is required to move regular year-round add-ons. Having said that, putting together packages works well here. We sell a really cool range of bath bombs that have proven to serve really, really well as an add-on product to flowers.
We always run a good-sized social media advertising campaign in the 4-5 weeks building up to Christmas. The purpose of this campaign is to direct as much business as possible to our online store. If people are finding our ads on Facebook then it stands to reason that they’re often only too happy to order their flowers online, therefore keeping our phone lines free.
My employees will almost all really appreciate the additional hours over Christmas so I’ve never needed to hire a freelance florist. We work longer days, often favouring early starts as opposed to late finishes where possible.
One thing I do love at this time of year is doing the Christmas window display. We have huge second hand auction rooms at the top of our road and I have a really great relationship with the owner. He lets us pinch things for our Christmas Window display! One year we found an old sledge, so we made a display using loads of artificial snow with artificial winter trees, old shovels and a few other nick-nacks we found. We added loads of traditional Christmas lights to create an amazing white Christmas themed window which I really fell in love with. Creating a window display is an interesting thing, there’s a balance to find between creating something beautiful and eye catching to stop people in their tracks whilst also leaving enough space for potential customers to be able to see inside the shop. So I guess my advice would be to get super creative and use your imagination and window space effectively but also don’t overdo it, less is sometimes more!
As Christmas is so crazy, we close between Christmas and New Year. Like many self-employed florists, I’m guilty of overworking and not taking any holidays whatsoever. That weird time between Christmas and New Year is perfect for me to kick back and take a few days to recharge my batteries before the inevitable Valentine’s and Mother’s day chaos. Trade has been slow in previous years between Christmas and New Year, so taking the decision to close and relax has been a good decision for me. Our opening hours remain 9-5 right up until the 18th-19th when we extend opening hours to 8-6 as I believe the demand is there for early business and for people to do a bit of Christmas shopping after work.
I’m partially ashamed to admit one year I agreed to a Christmas day delivery for a £450 order! Table centres, gift arrangements and a fireplace garland. I was even invited in for a game of Mario Kart and a couple of mince pies! I was pretty pleased with myself but needless to say my staff thought I was insane. Money’s better in my till than anywhere else though, right?!
Finally, to whoever might be reading this: I wish you a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones and assuming you’re a florist too, I hope trade is more than good to you! Work hard and take the odd moment to enjoy this wonderful job we’re lucky enough to have, there’s nothing else out there quite like this amazing industry!