Upscale Oregon independent grows
its nuptial business by providing the best in flowers and
by Cynthia L. McGowan
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
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.
all in Oregon: Lake Oswego, Portland (two), Tigard and
OWNERS Bob Lamb, president; and Gale Lasko, general
AFFILIATION Lamb’s Markets is part of the Thriftway
SALES Approximately $60 million in 2007
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
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
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:
Callas are in demand, too. As for color, “I’m getting a lot of
white this year,” Mr. Morrow notices.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (800)