Neville On The Level

Do You Have a Case of “Prom Itch”?

“Here they come! Quick! HIDE!”

I know you’ve ALL shrieked that at one time or another upon seeing the “flock” (or coven) of your brightest and lightest customers heading toward your shop, phones in hand, hair all “did,” and attitudes sharpened, ready for a fight. Just thinking about it gives me hives, or “prom itch,” as I term this seasonal floral illness.

Now, I know we can’t run and hide, so let’s medicate, I mean motivate, ourselves so we are best prepared. We have many ways, including meditation, to help get ready, so let’s chat about some.

Here’s the thing: We are the experts that these darlings rely on to get the perfect thing for them! As experts, we need to know the new hot colours and styles, as well as the dates of each glorious gala.

Call the schools and ask to speak with the student council at each. You might even offer a deal if they order early. You may consider setting up a time to come to the schools—if you have the nerve, that is—and set up a table of samples. The modern thing to do would be to make some samples and photograph them for your website, but you know they’ve already pinned about 324 inspiration images for you to look at on their phones.

Talking to the princes and princesses (if they get off their phones long enough) can be challenging, but nothing’s as rough as when the MOTHER comes in, announcing, (Help us all!) “I want something SPECIAL for my little girl!” Look Lady, I want a full head of hair, a 32-inch waist and a trip to Tahiti, but let’s get real, Sister!

They are all special jewels of our future, and we know it. With careful, well-worded advice and guidance, we can help them get the best. I like to speak to the person who is wearing the flower if possible, and if it’s some pimply-faced boy getting a corsage, I try to gracefully remove the mother so he has more of an investment in the decision. (The operative word is try.) Have you ever been to a farm and seen a hen with her chicks? Try and separate them…go ahead.

Anyway, I was at an event not too long ago and talked with a lady who reminded me that I did that very thing two years ago, when she hovered over her son as he chose flowers for his date. I thought for a second that I was going to get an earful, but she actually thanked me, much to my shock. All I wanted to do was get the kid interested in buying flowers so perhaps he could actually do so on his own one day. (Never stop grooming new clients!)

The money spent on a prom is obscene. Remember this, Petals, when you talk flowers and don’t let them suddenly be poor! They’re spending big bucks on a dress, shoes, hair and makeup, jewellery, a limo, protection, or whatever else they need, and the floral choices must complement their other attire. I also find that using expensive-sounding words like, “dramatic,” “classic,”and “unique” make for a better sale. Sell the sizzle to these folks!

Here are some fun facts: Apparently, corsages were once worn on the bodice, usually at weddings, and consisted of flowers and herbs to ward off evil spirits. Also, Victorian ladies carried small bouquets of fragrant flowers called “tussie-mussies” whilst gentlemen had a bunch tucked in the top of their walking sticks. This was so when they encountered a naturally “fragrant” person (no Speed Stick in them days!) they could hold the flowers to their noses.

Who wants a boring old corsage anyway, right? And a boutonnière? Please! Most people can’t spell, let alone pronounce, this old-fashioned word. When consulting with your clients, try this: call every piece “floral jewellery” instead! A lot of younger folks don’t want to wear what Grammie wore, but really, who doesn’t like a bit of jewellery? This also opens up a big ol’ box of opportunity to be creative! Think of an armband, something on the jacket pocket, or perhaps in the hair. We are even seeing some students start to carry small clusters of flowers like the Victorians did. By using the term “jewellery,” we allow for more options. We can discuss traditional looks, contemporary styles and unconventional approaches. So, even if they still want a wrist piece with two roses and baby’s breath (which is fine), you, as the floral expert, come across as in touch and ever so smart.

There are so many floral opportunities with this demographic that we can exploit, from all the graduations, weddings, and formals. I heard a good one last year: kindergarten prom. My gay nerves can’t take it! I asked if the kids were getting coloured ruffles on their Pampers for the event. I was in a mood that day, as I laughed until I needed my own diaper! And, no, I did not get the order, in case you were wondering.

Nip over to the dress shop on your lunch break and have a look at what’s going on. This will give you more ammunition when the onslaught starts! Good luck with this season and remember how pretty and always in fashion that sound of the till is!

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Neville MacKay
Neville MacKay, CAFA, PFCI, WFC is the owner of My Mother's Bloomers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a design director with Smithers-Oasis North America. He designed flowers for the 1988 Winter Olympics, as well as a long list of celebrities including Glen Close, Sir Elton John, and members of the British Royal Family. MacKay appears regularly on Canadian TV and travels internationally giving presentations about the impact of flowers.
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