Valentine’s Day might be the single busiest day of the year for your business. Whether you’re a florist, chocolatier, or jewelry maker, Valentine’s Day is an excellent opportunity to boost sales and bring new customers to your store. In fact, Valentine’s Day sales reached an all-time high of $19.7 billion in 2016 – according to Entrepreneur.
How can small business owners capitalize on the holiday? OnDeck customer and small business owner, Gerald Palumbo, does the following things to prepare his florist shop for the holiday:
- I take a look at what I ordered last year. If I ran out of something last year, I make sure to buy it in bulk this year.
- We hire additional staff to help during the holiday.
- We pay attention to what day of the week the holiday falls on. A weekday is great for us because we’re in the city and people come here after work.
For more Valentine’s Day tips, read the full interview below. You can also hear from more OnDeck customers on how they’ve grown their business here.
Paul Rosen: Hi, I’m Paul Rosen, Chief Sales Officer for OnDeck. I’m here with one of our great customers, Gerald Palumbo from Seasons, A Floral Design Studio. Gerald, thanks so much for hosting us today.
Gerald Palumbo: My pleasure!
Paul: Now how did you get started in the business?
Gerald: Well, I have had this store for about 27 and a half years. I started working here many years ago, 28/29 years ago, just as a part-time employee on Saturdays and, as it turned out, the owners sold the business and I managed to step in and take over the business back in 1989, so I’ve had this store ever since then.
Paul: Nice! Now, Valentine’s Day is coming around the corner (effective my math is correct!). That’s not two weeks away!
Paul: How does this holiday differ from other holidays that you have?
Gerald: Well, Valentine’s Day is our single busiest day of the year. People that don’t typically buy flowers on a regular basis come up, show up for Valentine’s Day, so it’s our once-a-year customer sometimes but, with that said, we’re prepared. We hire additional staff, we sort of take a look at where we were in the past as far as what we ordered in the way of flowers, we increase our numbers or decrease our numbers depending on how the holiday falls during the week. This year it’s going to be an incredible Valentine’s Day because it falls on a Tuesday, which is ideal for us. We have a lot–our location here in midtown Manhattan–we are near offices, we’re near residences, so we’ll really capitalize on the fact that it’s on a Tuesday. So that’s our best possible scenario.
Paul: Cool. Now, while I’m here I need to get something for my wife, Sherry. For Valentine’s Day, do you have any special promotions or special deals?
Gerald: Well, one of the things we are really well known for our arrangements. Yes, roses are a traditional sort of thing that people go for, but our customers are regular customers. They come to us because our arrangements are so special and we have a very lush European style that we do and so what I suggest to a lot of our clients is that we bring in the reds, the pinks, the whites. It has a feel of Valentine’s Day without being a dozen roses in a vase, which is pretty–
Paul: That’s what I want!
Gerald: Okay, well we can help you with that! Let me, let me get started. I’ll pull some things together and we’ll see.
Paul: Now, do you mind if we continue to talk.
Gerald: I don’t mind at all!
Paul: Alright, so you mentioned you had this business for 28 years – what changes or trends have you seen you know over the last several years and how have you adapted to them?
Gerald: Well, flowers, like many things, it’s kind of like a fashion – certain things come in style, there are certain things that go out of style. Over the years, we’ve watched the style go from in the nineteen eighties that was kind of a modern tropical contemporary style, to the late eighties and nineties it became more of an English and European style. Now we’re seeing it trend a little bit back towards that contemporary style and you’re seeing people that want to see one type of flower and above, you’re seeing it get a little bit simpler. The people are all also looking for a little more of the unusual, so that’s where we try to step in. We always want to have a very large selection for people to choose from. We import flowers from all over the world, we get a majority of our flowers coming from Holland but we get flowers from France, we get flowers from Italy, we get flowers from South and Central America, we occasionally get flowers from Japan, and we want to–we do get a lot of things from the United States as well, but we also want to have this incredible variety that sets us apart from other flower shops that maybe have just the standard flowers that are pretty common.
Paul: That makes sense and, for those of you that are just tuning in now, I’m Paul Rosen, Chief Sales Officer for OnDeck. We’re here working with one of our great customers, Gerald Palumbo, from Seasons, A Floral Design Studio and I believe you have two locations. You have this one in New York City, Manhattan, and then one in Irvington, New York.
Paul: Talk to me a little bit more about how these locations are different.
Gerald: Well, our store here in the city is relatively small but we do a lot of, a lot of business out of this store. In addition to being a retail store, we also do special events and galas and things like that. We are in in the Theater District right here in the Broadway area, so we’re involved with a lot of the theater producers. We do Broadway show openings; for example, we have a roundabout theater gala coming up at the end of this month. That’s going to be 600 people at the Waldorf-Astoria, so we’re doing all the décor, all the linens for that. In addition to doing weddings for people, we also do television and film work. We work with–for years we did the flowers for “The Good Wife” television show. There’s going–their new series is coming out this month in just a few days called “The Good Fight,” which is the spin-off. We’re doing all the flowers for all those episodes with “The Good Fight,” so that’s something else that we do as well. My background as an interior designer has helped me sort of work with set designers, decorators, event planners to get a better sense of floral design that works with its environment.
Paul: Cool. Now, how did you find OnDeck or how did we find you?
Gerald: Well, it was just kind—it was just by chance. I was–I got a card in the mail. I got a letter from OnDeck in the mail and I read the letter and I said, this can’t possibly be this easy! This letter makes this sound like applying for this loan is really easy and–I said, well we have some things going on, we were looking at that point our first loan with OnDeck. We were just looking to consolidate, we were looking to do some capital improvements in the store, we were looking to improve, and some advertising and I said, well let me give these people a call and, lo and behold, within two days the money was in our account. I was pretty impressed, and then our second loan we took out with OnDeck is when the opportunity came to take over a store in Westchester and moving to New York and that is our location called Seasons on the Hudson. The woman that had owned the store for many years was looking to retire and she’s a friend of mine, she asked me if I’d be interested in purchasing her business, so I again called OnDeck and I said, well what can we do? And again they very quickly pulled the money together with a deal that had to happen quickly. At that point, I also talked to my own bank, which it just seemed like it was going to be weeks and weeks, and the process was a little unclear. They didn’t—they couldn’t even give me an answer whether or not it was gonna happen. And, excuse me, you have a customer walking through. You can go head on through to the back–but so we were a little put off by the bank, and so I went to OnDeck and I said, “we want to do this” and they said, “Great! Let’s look at it, you’re a good customer, you have a good reputation with us,” and, again, it was just a couple of days and the funds were in our account. We were able to make this transaction happen very quickly and that was the key – this deal with not going to stick around for a long time. It was either buy this business or they were going to sell it to someone else.
Paul: Well, we are greatly appreciative to have you as a repeat customer. A lot of our customers find us through direct mail, through some of our distribution partners, referral partners, and brokers and a lot of customers find us on our website www.ondeck.com but again we really appreciate you as a customer. Now, what do you like best or love most about being a small business?
Gerald: Well, I really enjoy working with the public. I like the retail end of it, I like working with customers. Being in New York, we have such a diverse clientele, we have people from all over the world so I think that’s really fascinating. People have very diverse tastes and we get the chance to meet a more sophisticated client, which I think is a lot of fun, but I also enjoy the display. I have a person that likes to do the visual display, so our visual displays, our window displays, here at Seasons in the city, are always beautiful and they always get bright comments. And in our store in Irvington, Seasons on the Hudson, also has beautiful window displays, which people like to take note of, really draws people in.
Paul: Well, now, last question. Many, many years ago I was a small business owner and I used to have friends and people come up to me all the time and say, “Oh, being an entrepreneur must be great! You can work whatever hours you want to make your own schedule,” and I’d be like, yeah you know I could work any 90 hours a week I decided to work. Do you feel the same way?
Gerald: I do. You know you never, you never really walk away from it. It’s, it’s your business. In the bottom line, when you’re an owner of a business, the box stops with me. So, if there’s a customer that is unhappy about something and my staff can’t seem to appease them, then it comes to me and I have to sort of solve that problem. If something happens, the window breaks, I’m the person that has to deal with calling the Glazers to get the window replaced. I have to deal with the insurance company when my employees are sick or something, I’ve got to make sure that I’ve got the coverage. So, I handle the ordering, I handle the problem with the ordering, if their flights delayed, our flowers didn’t arrive, we had a big party, I need to find another source to buy those clouds to make that party happen. You know, I’m pretty good at the problem-solving part of it—
Paul: It’s a lot!
Gerald:–but as the business owner that’s where it always lands on you, finding you’re working all the time, even when you’re on vacation!
Paul: Good, well, Gerald thanks so much for hosting us here at OnDeck and on Facebook Live, this looks awesome
Gerald: thank you!
Paul: Really excited and really appreciate your continued patronage as a customer.
Gerald: Oh, my pleasure, my pleasure.
Paul: Thank you.