Today’s floral customer never lacks for choices of flowers nor of flower varieties. That can be a good thing; as 18-century poet William Cowper observed, “Variety is the spice of life.” It sometimes seems, though, that this abundance of choices has surpassed consumer understanding. Which flowers are truly best for each situation? Which variety will provide the largest, most beautiful, and longest-lasting blooms?

This lack of understanding can lead unrealistic expectations. This is usually not a good thing; Alexander Pope, a different 18-century poet, offered this caution: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”  But these days, expecting nothing is not in our consumer lexicon, is it? We pay, we get, and we expect to get what we pay for – if not more.

Managing Expectations

A wise retailer knows that one critical component of retail success is in Managing Expectations.  Take the flower shop. A customer walks in and orders lavender roses. They’re beautiful. They smell intoxicating. They match the color scheme perfectly.  And they last and last… oh, wait.  Looks like this customer’s expectations for this variety is about to suffer a disappointment.

Common Knowledge? Think Again.

In this instance, we know that most varieties of commercial roses, and cut flowers in general, have been bred primarily for size, color, and vase life for decades now. As we have progressed toward these goals, flower fragrance has diminished almost to the point of non-existence.  The lavender rose happens to be a variety that has maintained much of its scent genes, but it achieves this at the expense of hardiness and vase life.

Well, YOU may know this, but your customer doesn’t. So, with their dashed expectations, they come back and complain – if you’re lucky. Getting a chance to make up for “your” error is actually preferable to the alternative: your customer never returning but warning their friends, family and the entire internet about your sub-par flowers.  Is that how this story ends – with bitterness and social media infamy? It could happen!

Education as a Sales Tool

Clearly, this episode illustrates a missed opportunity – the opportunity to manage customer expectations of flower varieties with a little friendly floral education. It begins with a conversation. “What’s the occasion?” you might ask. If it’s a reception on Saturday – and it’s only Tuesday – it may be time to manage those expectations!

The message for anybody who makes their living in flowers is this:  whatever the occasion, whatever the flower variety, it’s critically important to educate our customers and manage their expectations. We need to make sure that customers are buying the flowers that are most appropriate for their needs in each instance and giving them the proper care for that variety. (And, just to assure you that FLORALIFE® follows its own advice, this is the purpose of the educational sachet packaging in the Flower Food for Thought campaign.)

Never Miss an Opportunity to Educate

An educated consumer will benefit the entire flower chain, from grower to retailer. Customers will enjoy a better buying experience, with fewer disappointments, and are more likely to become a source of repeat business.  A friendly caution, however: consistently meeting realistic customer expectations for quality and service may cause those expectations to rise. Alexander Pope won’t like that, but we do!

To learn more about care and handling from the flower care experts visit us at

About us Floralife®, a division of Smithers-Oasis, is a worldwide leader in postharvest flower care and handling. Floralife® has been for 80 years and counting, the flower care experts. Inventors of the first flower food in 1938, since then we’ve continued to partner with our clients to address specific quality concerns and create a line of floral care products suitable to feed, hydrate, nourish and protect at every level in the distribution chain. As a globally positioned company, we are proud to offer our expertise, consultation and education to anyone in the floral industry seeking knowledge and the tools necessary to provide only the freshest, long-lasting flowers to their customers.