Why Bigger isn’t Always Better in the Interiorscape Industry

Do you enjoy watching the DIY Home & Garden channels like me? If so, you may have noticed the tiny house movement where families are downsizing from their standard three bedroom home into a five-hundred square foot box.

While the average person may find this life-style change difficult and maybe even ludicrous, there clearly are some benefits to going small…like affordability.

This got me thinking how “going small” in the interiorscape industry could be beneficial.

Bigger is Not Always Better

The first example that came to mind is a particular account I share with my competition. This is a major building with several floors in which my competitor has the majority of. Their plants always look great. And as an interiorscaper walking in for the first time, there is no way I would attempt to take over their domain. What I did acquire was the restaurant located downstairs. All I do for this account is supply tiny arrangements for their table tops. This is small potatoes considering there are over sixteen floors in this building. However, due to the fact these arrangements are constantly getting broken, damaged, and lucky for me—stolen, this one room brings in just as much revenue as some of my three-story accounts.

SMALL IS CUTE

In my retail shop, I try to keep a good selection of dish gardens. Sometimes they will sit around for months and end up leggy, pale, or even need replacing. Instead of chalking it up as a complete loss, I replant the individual healthy foliage into tiny one inch containers and promote them as a “World’s Smallest Palm Tree” or a “Cubicle Buddy.” While the entire dish garden sat for weeks, these individual plants get a lot more interest and most will sell simply because of the novelty. The cool thing about tiny plants is the variety of options available. Air plants / succulents are perfect for creating novelty items such as refrigerator magnets, shot glass fillers, or living Christmas ornaments.

It’s all in the Numbers

Selling those big ticket plants can be a nice revenue boost, when it does happen. But the longer that beautiful seven foot Rhapis remains in your shop, the more the profits start to fade as you continue to maintain it and hope it stays just as beautiful as the day it arrived. In this cautious economy, I find it hard for the average person to justify purchasing an expensive plant that requires a large living space and sometimes tricky transportation when that plant also comes with the risk of dying. Even if you offer delivery and a guarantee, it still may not be enough to convert the sale. Investing in a plant that fits in the palm of your hand is a much easier decision to make. It is simple to transport, requires little space, and costs the same as your favorite gourmet coffee. This is much easier to swallow if the plant doesn’t make it.

The same is true for acquiring interiorscape clients. It may take years of continuous solicitation, marketing expenses, and meeting the right people to land that big account. If you add up all the work, time, and money, you may realize you could have acquired ten or more smaller accounts with much less effort. Being in this business for over fifteen years, I find it extremely important to have several little accounts in your portfolio otherwise; if you lose that dream account you worked so hard for, it can be devastating to your spirit and especially to your finances. Losing two or three small accounts probably won’t break your heart and more importantly – your bank account. Finally, I think our industry needs to come up with more tiny plant ideas for those tiny houses.

Images by Elevate

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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  • I work in the NYC market where large and small accounts are abundant. Long ago, I stopped chasing the larger accounts that tend to do a lot of price shopping. I found my niche with very small accounts that average about 15-20 minutes per week of maintenance. On a per hour basis, these small accounts are far more lucrative than larger accounts. However, because these accounts are small, any missteps with service and replacements are much more obvious so attention to detail is critical. The reward is client loyalty because they appreciate quality service and are not inclined to put good service out to bid.

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