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Store Profile

Lamb's Markets:
     
Wedding Success


Upscale Oregon independent grows its nuptial business by providing the best in flowers and service.

by Cynthia L. McGowan



Savvy brides in the Portland, Ore., area know that they will get high-end flowers and personal service at the Lamb’s Markets store in Wilsonville, one of the company’s five locations. But they also know they need to book their dates early because the demand for the store’s wedding services is so strong.
The independently owned Lamb’s Markets, with approximately $60 million in sales in 2007, stresses service and freshness. The upscale stores have wine stewards to help customers with selections. The bakeries are locally famous for made-from-scratch cakes and other treats. The seafood departments get deliveries twice a day, six days a week.
Floral is a key part of Lamb’s focus on quality. “It’s a tool to establish our image of service and freshness,” confirms Jim Olson, director of the Wilsonville store. “It fits our upscale niche.”
It’s also a growing department. Four years ago, the company hired Mark K. Morrow, who has 30 years of experience on the retail, wholesale and grower sides of the floral industry, to manage the Wilsonville floral department and supervise floral at the four other stores. Mr. Morrow has brought in experienced designers, sought out high-quality floral sources and added a high-end home-décor line, resulting in a doubling of floral sales at the Wilsonville store, to $450,000 last year.
 
  lamb's markets

 
 
LOCATIONS Five, all in Oregon: Lake Oswego, Portland (two), Tigard and Wilsonville
OWNERS Bob Lamb, president; and Gale Lasko, general manager
AFFILIATION Lamb’s Markets is part of the Thriftway advertising cooperative
SALES Approximately $60 million in 2007
established 1972
WILSONVILLE STORE’S SIZE 46,500 square feet
WILSONVILLE FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE 2,000 square feet
EMPLOYEES 400 companywide; 150 in Wilsonville
FLORAL EMPLOYEES Four full-time in the Wilsonville store
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral departments including weddings, funerals, events and FTD flowers-by-wire service
BIGGEST FLORAL HOLIDAYS Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day
FLORAL'S CONTRIBUTION TO STORE SALES Averages 2.4 percent at the Wilsonville store
AVERAGE WEDDING FLOWERS PRICE $2,000
STORE DIRECTOR, WILSONVILLE STORE Jim Olson
FLORAL MANAGER, WILSONVILLE STORE Mark K. Morrow
WEB SITE www.lambsmarkets.com

 

 

thriving wedding business
Also growing is the company’s wedding business. When Mr. Morrow started at Lamb’s, weddings weren’t an important part of the floral operation, but they now contribute about 17 percent of the Wilsonville store’s floral sales.
“It’s taken me a couple of years to get the business built up,” he confides, “but now I’m turning brides away right and left” because they didn’t book early enough. In early February, August was completely booked, and only one weekend was available in July. In 2007, the store handled 90 weddings, and by February 2008, it had booked 27 already.
Mr. Morrow attributes the store’s success with weddings to fresh flowers, technique and what he calls the “wow” factor. “It’s just got to look perfect,” he says. And although he handles weddings costing as much as $10,000, he strives to give all brides, including those on smaller budgets, that wow effect.
Flower selection is also a draw for brides. “If there’s something specific customers are looking for and I don’t have it, I’ll get it,” says Mr. Morrow, who adds that his long ties to the floral industry help with floral procurement. He uses his contacts through Oregon’s wealth of local growers; through the Portland Flower Market; Lamb’s primary supplier, Unified Grocers, Inc.; and global suppliers to get the flowers brides want.

  2008: year of the hydrangea?

 
 
Brides are “big into Hydrangeas this year,” says Mark K. Morrow, floral manager at Lamb’s Markets in Wilsonville, Ore. Almost every bride has Hydrangeas in her wedding in some fashion, he observes. For an upcoming wedding, he adds, “that’s all the bride wants: Hydrangeas everywhere.”
Callas are in demand, too. As for color, “I’m getting a lot of white this year,” Mr. Morrow notices.

 

 

getting the word out
Satisfied brides tell friends—and, thanks to the Internet, the world—about their flowers, and that good word-of-mouth is one of the primary methods of Lamb’s floral advertising. A recent posting on The Knot.com, a Web site for brides, said, “We’re doing our flowers with [Lamb’s] ... I HIGHLY recommend them.”
Lamb’s also gets the word out through The Portland Bridal Show every January. Although Mr. Morrow acknowledges the expense of participating in bridal fairs—taking into account booth rental, staff salaries and product costs—the payoff makes them worth the cost. Lamb’s bakery, catering and floral departments showcase their wedding services at the three-day show, and when it is over, “the phone is just ringing off the hook to make appointments” for consultations, Mr. Morrow says.
Another lucrative source of wedding referrals is a local country club. In just one week earlier this year, Lamb’s booked two weddings thanks to that connection. In each case, the mother of the bride is from out of state—one in Montana, the other in Massachusetts. Each called Mr. Morrow and booked the wedding without ever visiting the store. One of the mothers told him, “We’ve heard all about you. How much money do you need down?”
 
  wedding flower prices

 
 
The average prices for wedding flowers at Lamb’s Markets (about 1,000 stems are used for an average wedding):
• Bridal bouquet: $125 to $150
• Boutonniere: $8
• Corsage: $20
• Centerpiece: $50 (for a $2,000 wedding, they go up from there)
• Altar piece: $200
Source: Mark K. Morrow, Lamb’s Markets

 

 

productive consultations
Consultations, which are free, take place in a room that has a refrigerator stocked with drinks for clients and a large table and several chairs to accommodate multiple family members. Mr. Morrow shows brides pictures of work the store has done in the past as well as wedding books from companies including FTD Group, Inc. “We show them everything,” he comments, including flowers in the nearby floral department, “so they get a good idea.”
He usually gives brides estimates at the end of the consultations and asks them to pay deposits to hold the dates. Mr. Morrow prefers to handle one wedding a weekend if it is a large ceremony but will take as many as three if they are in the $1,000 range. Wedding services include delivery and set-up for a nominal fee of about $35 for the average-size wedding.
No matter the size, though, the emphasis is on quality. “My No. 1 concern is that the bride is taken care of and that we do a good job for her,” Mr. Morrow declares.
 
  keys to success

 
 
EXPERIENCED FLORISTS Lamb’s Markets hires designers with experience. The four full-time designers in the Wilsonville location all work together on weddings to produce high-quality florals.
DEPARTMENTAL COOPERATION The floral, bakery and catering departments work together on weddings, and representatives from each department sometimes meet together with brides during consultations.
SOURCING LOCALLY Oregon is a “green” state, and buying locally is important to the state’s consumers. Lamb’s Markets floral departments buy local flowers and plants as much as possible.
COMMUNITY TIES Lamb’s Markets is known as a good partner to the community, says Jim Olson, director of the Wilsonville store. The company supports local schools and groups, and the goodwill generated “has been a big part of our success,” he says.

 

 

taking care of customers
That’s the kind of care Lamb’s Markets puts into all its floral services. “We’re very, very, very customer oriented,” Mr. Morrow stresses. “We just take care of every whim.”
He will visit customers’ houses to decorate for Christmas or give advice on floral décor. He has gone to a customer’s home to check on a troublesome Ficus. People bring plants into the store to be repotted. All these services are free. “It’s just customer service,” Mr. Morrow offers. “You take care of them because they’re going to come back to you.”

a memorable wedding

Mark K. Morrow, floral manager at Lamb’s Markets in Wilsonville, Ore., describes a wedding last year that required $10,000 in all-white florals as his most memorable. “It was gorgeous,” he recalls.
The bride’s parents live on the Willamette River, and the bride and her father flew in on a float plane, and he then walked her up the dock to the wedding in the back yard. Enhancing the processional were 75 gallons of cream and white rose petals sprinkled from the dock to the ceremony site.
The ceremony and reception featured a dazzling array of white flowers. Dozens of Gardenias hung in trees from gold wires. About 150 vased centerpieces held various combinations of white varieties of orchids, roses, Dahlias, stocks, Lisianthuses, Freesias and more. The bride’s bouquet featured white Dendrobiums and Anthuriums. The bridesmaids’ bouquets matched the ostrich feathers in the bride’s dress.
The bride and groom live in Vail, Colo., so the wedding required long-distance coordination, but the results were worth the effort. Mr. Morrow recalls the bride’s reaction when she came into the store a few weeks after the wedding. “She gave me a big hug and said it was just perfect,” he remembers. “She said, ‘It was exactly what I envisioned.’”
 
  home décor is a hit

 
 

Customers can’t get enough of the stylish offerings in the Wilsonville Lamb’s Markets’ upscale home-décor and gift line. Floral Manager Mark K. Morrow scours gift shows in Seattle, Florida, Los Angeles and Las Vegas for high-quality products including upper-end giftware, lamps and furniture. The results? “The stuff just sells,” Mr. Morrow says. “I’m a little bit amazed.”
Lamps range from $49 to $500. He recently sold a pair of 4-foot-tall French panels for $565. The secret to the line’s success, Mr. Morrow shares, is quality. “It has to have quality,” he declares, “or I won’t sell it.”

 


 

top products
Thanks to its location in the Portland, Ore., area, Lamb’s Markets has access to a wide range of sources for flowers and plants, including local growers.
“I get as much as I can local,” comments Mark K. Morrow, floral manager of Lamb’s Wilsonville location and supervisor of the floral departments in the company's four other locations. In cuts, that means locally grown roses and bulb flowers including tulips, lilies and Alstroemerias. Tulips, azaleas, peonies and Irises are among the locally grown plants the store stocks.
That local connection is important to customers, offers Jim Olson, the Wilsonville store director. Oregon is an environmentally conscious state, and buying locally helps customers “feel they’re doing their contribution,” he says.
Mr. Morrow also visits the Portland Flower Market nearly every day to purchase flowers and plants for his department. In addition, the company procures products from global vendors and from its main distributor, Unified Grocers, Inc.
Jamie Witbeck, floral merchandiser with Unified Grocers, says the distributor makes deliveries four times a week to Lamb’s Markets and is the company’s primary bouquet supplier. Mr. Morrow sits on the distributor’s advertising committee, composed of 10 to 12 stores. The members choose products to feature in weekly newspaper ads and also help choose bouquet recipes.
Customers want “lots of color, lots of punch,” in bouquets, Mr. Morrow says. Bouquets line the entrance to the store, and “People come in with their arms full of flowers,” he observes. The store sells 200 to 250 bouquets a week, with prices ranging from $8.99 to $24.99. Best-selling bouquets average $12 to $14.
Top-sellers in consumer bunches are ‘Stargazer’ lilies for $4.99 for two stems, or three stems of Asiatic lilies for $4.99; five stems of California-grown Gerberas for $3.99; and dozen roses for $13.99.
Arrangements average $50, but “we always have something at least $75 in the cooler,” Mr. Morrow says. Customers can call head for custom designs or have them made while they shop.
Begonias are popular blooming plants at $11.99 for six-inch pots. Six-inch Anthuriums also do well, selling for $19.99.
A huge seller for the store is lucky bamboo. “I bet I go through $1,000 in lucky bamboo a week,” Mr. Morrow declares. “We just sell a ton of it.”


You may reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan by e-mail at cmcgowan@superfloralretailing.com or by phone at (800) 355-8086.
 

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