I had walked by it probably a dozen times before I realized it was there.
The only reason I did is because they had sprinkled rose petals all over the sidewalk outside.
(I had thought to myself, at the time, “that’d be so cute outside of a flower shop.”)
Turns out, it was outside of a flower shop.
When I brought it up to my partner, he said, “I didn’t realize there was a flower shop there.”
So I know I’m not the only one.
And frankly, it’s no wonder: it’s an incredibly dark facade and, though the shop has huge windows, they are just slightly above eye level and often too dark to see through. Even when the lighting inside is brighter than the exterior, permitting a glimpse inside, you don’t initially see flowers. The storeowner has them tucked away from view, leaving it up to the passerby to draw conclusions on her own.
I went inside the flower shop one day.
To do so, one must climb up half a dozen steps to open a door that’s been painted black – an elegant touch, really, were it not for its effect on making the whole storefront seem a bit more gloomy than was likely intended. It doesn’t help that the door is unnecessarily heavy and a bit stuck in the frame. So far, they’ve got an inconspicuous storefront and a door that’s too heavy in too gloomy a color. Not a charming start.
Once inside, I saw that the flower shop’s floorplan has two adjacent rooms, with most of the merchandise arranged near the walls, leaving the floor in the first room open and a bit awkward to be in. The merchandise, incidentally, is predominantly potted plants (some with flowers) and, inexplicably, jewelry. And cards. Perhaps even bags. Certainly more non-floral items than actual flowers. Very awkward.
The second room, adjacent and open to the first, houses the cooler and a large table where three employers were constructing arrangements. “Hello!” They greeted me. “Welcome!” With a smile, too – a pleasant contrast to the rest of the store. And the florals, finally apparent back here, seemed to be of impeccable quality.
But by this point, I felt so disoriented, I felt it necessary to ask: “do you actually sell flowers on a walk-in basis?”
Which, to be clear, isn’t the sort of question you want asked when you’re in that very business.
“Yes,” came the answer. And, they added, I can order ahead if I want something special. Judging by the sparseness of the flower cooler, I concluded that that’s how they must prefer to conduct transactions.
I wandered around a bit, which, given the awkwardness of the floorplan, manifested itself in simply turning around in a circle once or twice.
I then felt compelled to enlighten them:
“So, I live just down the street, and it took me weeks to realize there was even a flower shop here.”
One of the employees laughed, and offhandedly answered, “yea, we’ve heard that before.”
Which, given her casual tone and all, seemed like a weird way to respond.
I mean, shouldn’t it concern a small owner if potential customers are unaware of its existence?
“Oh, I bet,” I added. “The storefront is a bit… disguised.”
“Yea, we think it’s the glass. It’s tinted or something. We need to look into it.”
“Oh.” I agreed, pretending to eye the glass. It looked dark even from the inside.
I stood there another moment, wanting to say something. Something like – “the glass is just the tip of the iceberg, ladies. Nearly everything in here is a catastrophe… apart from the flowers, thankfully, though you don’t have any to sell to me. That’s a problem. I like to buy flowers spontaneously. I think other people do, too. I don’t want to have to call up a shop two days in advance when I just want something nice on the way home.”
Incidentally, I thought: get rid of all the cards and purses and jewelry and kitch. Nobody coming in here to buy flowers is going to buy a consolation handbag instead. We’re not going to say, “oh, you don’t carry flowers? That’s okay, costume earrings will do.” No, we’re going to feel confused at best. More than likely, we’re going to feel disappointed. Our consumer feelings are hurt. I personally feel uncomfortable, because suddenly your potentially elegant store seems like a pyramid-scheme party at a friend’s house.
Now all of this is, of course, assuming we found the store at all. Here’s the thing: your windows are too dark. But you’ve also lined them with, what is that – plants? Wrought iron furniture? A purple tote bag? No good. Were it not for the flower petals, I would’ve written you off as housewares.
The final frontier is the name. If it’s not apparent in your storefront, your core business should be stated in your name. We all know that “fleur” means flower, but “fleur de lis” doesn’t.
Fix just a few of these things and I think you’ll have winning walk-up business.
Unless, of course, you’re killing it with call orders.
But if that were the case, you probably wouldn’t be trying to lure me in with flower petals.