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One of my first jobs was to sell bouquets of lily of the valley in the streets of Toulouse on Labor Day (the first of May) in France, as it is the tradition to offer the flower to mothers and wives on that day in France.
This story first appeared in the February 10, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
I started at the age of 17 and sold flowers for four years in a row. It was a great source of revenue for a student. Every year, thanks to a great location and bit of creativity, I made at least $2,000.
Now that I think about it, without any knowledge of what I was doing (other than basic common sense), I was implementing very basic but powerful marketing techniques which made this little initiative very successful: My product was superior in quality. At 3 a.m. every morning, I went to a farm to buy beautiful flowers—the best I could find. My offer was better than the other street sellers. I had simple bouquets of lilies, but I also made a more sophisticated mini-arrangement by adding a rose or a tulip, which increased my average unit sale from $5 to $25.
Also, my location was fantastic. I spotted a traditional French bakery where every year on Labor Day there was a long line of customers buying bread and cakes for the traditional family lunch. So I politely asked the baker if I could install my little self-made stand outside of the bakery and consequently the people queuing were all buying my flowers. Finally, most importantly, I was really enjoying it, which consumers could see. I learned a lot from this experience, and still today, when I visit stores, I always make sure we’re offering our consumers the right products and the most pleasurable experience in the perfect location.