I was contacted earlier this year by a new grower who was having a difficult time making sales at a farmers’ market. Because there was a long-established flower farmer already there, it was difficult to get enough sales to make the market worth the effort. Boy, does that take me back to days gone by. Not that I had to deal with a successful, already established flower grower—I had to deal with customers who don’t buy flowers. I have loved the challenge of growing my farmers’ market stand. It didn’t happen overnight or even over a year, but it did happen.
Selling flowers at a farmers’ market is a great “springboard” to getting your business off and running. It will lead to opportunities and fresh ideas, and open new doors. All you need to do is get your product into the hands of customers so that they can see and experience YOUR quality firsthand. Then you want them coming back week after week for YOUR flowers. That’s the challenge, so let’s talk about the nitty-gritty of grabbing a part of that market share.
It’s intimidating entering a farmers’ market as a vendor. You’ve no doubt heard countless stories of that “fly-by-night certain farmer” who came in, undercut everyone, couldn’t make a living, is now gone, and hurt everyone’s sales in the process.
Well, I’m going to say something that may be a little taboo. Do what it takes to get people to try your flowers. That just might mean that you need to have a price point that will attract some customers who otherwise may be stuck in routine buying habits. I’m not suggesting you undercut across the board but surely you could come up with a “special” that would attract some customers. How about “Zany Zinnia Bouquets” when you have them coming out of your ears? Make up something simple and fun, price it low, make a very large sign, and see what happens. Chances are that low price point will lure customers into your booth where they talk themselves into something a little more spendy. You may end up tossing “Zany” bouquets in the compost but it got people into your booth.
Next, do not take a chair. You don’t have time to sit down (even if you do have time to sit down). You get only a couple seconds to engage a potential customer and you’d better be on your toes. If someone pauses in front of your booth to admire the flowers, do not hesitate to give them a business card and say something like, “BeeHaven is a new flower farm here. Check us out online or try some of our flowers. You won’t be disappointed, I guarantee it.”
People are attracted to activity, so bring flowers and sleeves and work some of your flowers right there so that you look industrious and creative. And while you’re putting that bouquet together make sure you are tilting the flowers in a way that your customers can see what you are putting together. They will stop to watch you and it will be very likely that you will sell it right out of your hands, so don’t be too shy to say, “This one is for sale too, I’m taking it to $15.00.”
Another reason I like to take bulk flowers is so that I can custom make bouquets. People love to have something custom made, and it is an opportunity for a bigger sale. If they ask for something custom (most of my bouquets are at the $10.00 price point), I will say, “Suuuurrre. Nooo problem. Step into my office (which is behind my table where all the bulk flowers are). How big do you want it, $15?, $20?, $100?” They will laugh and usually say “$20 to $25, please”.
You may need to have flowers that are unique and different enough to catch people’s attention and make you stand out from your competition. I make a habit of always throwing something funky into my mixed bouquets so that when the bouquet gets home there is some little design element to play with that is fun and interesting; something you would never get in a grocery store bouquet, or from the vendor down the way. Grasses are good for this, as well as small interesting flowers like scabiosa with their pods or a cool and funky foliage.
But chances are your competition probably already has a lot of the same flowers you have, so how about coming up with a nifty way of wrapping that will attract attention? I change my wraps throughout the year to complement the flowers as they come and go out of season. For instance, when the colors are really vibrant and bright in August, I like to use clear sleeves so that you can see all that wild color. When September hits I will go to kraft sleeves and bring out the brown, rusty fabric sheets. Things always look new and different at our stand, so you’d better stop and take a look.
Signage. I think I read somewhere that you can overdo it with too many signs, but that was probably written by some college student who has never run a business and is perpetuating bad information he or she read somewhere in a marketing text-book. I love signage and I would say most vendors have a problem with not enough rather than too much. I created a simple publisher document for 8 ½ x 11 paper that, when cut in half, makes two signs. I can easily create a sign to list the name of the flower or bouquet and the price. It’s quick, easy, and do-able.
I also invested in some bright card stock and a laminating machine to keep things clean, neat, and professional. I attach the signs to the buckets with wooden clothe pins. I also have several signs that I change out regularly that help kinder the spirit of buying flowers in my customers. A
few of my favorite are:
Where are you going tonight that you could take flowers?
Flowers: the all-natural mood enhancer.
Flowers are food for the soul.
In the doghouse? Stop here.
Having a good display is important to enticing people to stop at your booth. I keep playing around to discover “the ultimate layout” and I still don’t have that down but what I will say is this: Get a flower or bouquet stand. I am POSITIVE that once I got one, my sales went up. It displays the flowers slightly forward facing so that customers can easily be lured from a distance.
Mine is from Floral Supply Syndicate and holds twelve bouquets. I highly suggest the 12 over the 8 because 1. You should be thinking big, and 2. You want to portray “abundance” and “variety” to your customers.
My final bit of advice for getting and keeping a customer, and being a successful market vendor? Be kind to people because they are people, not because they are potential customers. I have plenty of customers who do not buy every week but will stop by to check out the flowers and say hello. I want everyone to enjoy the flowers I have grown and brought, and besides, it looks good to have people milling around the booth; it attracts others. I know it’s more convenient to buy flowers at the grocery store so finally I tell people, “Thank you for buying my flowers.” or “Thank you for coming to the market to buy flowers.” I want to foster a relationship of “Let me be your flower grower.” I really do appreciate it