SAF leaders review key trends and challenges

Posted On 23 Sep 2012
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PALM BEACH, USA, September 22, 2012: Sales peaks and valleys and the growing significance of event business and social media were among the top floral industry trends highlighted at an industry gathering held as a precursor to SAF Palm Beach 2012, the association’s 128th Annual Convention.
Chairs from the Society of American Florists’ Retailers, Wholesalers and Growers Councils summarized discussion points from meetings held at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. on Sept. 18, during which they identified the biggest trends in their segments. Here are a few highlights from those sessions:
Retailers Council:
Weddings continue to be regarded as a promising area for growth, with traditional retail florists reporting more of them (including DIY brides), albeit with smaller budgets and shorter planning periods.
Hiring habits have changed. Some florists are using recruiters to find fresh employees and mentoring programs to shape their style to fit the shop’s aesthetic. Others are hiring employees specifically for social media or bridal sales.
Cause marketing is taking hold among floral retailers, who incentivize purchases by donating a portion of the sale to a charity.
Retailers still struggle to get loans. Banks that do grant loans make them jump through many hoops. As a result, florists are looking for creative ways to cut costs.
Marketing dollars are shifting from print to online, particularly social media.
Wholesalers Council:
A strong Valentine’s Day sales and robust spring were followed by dismal summer sales, likely brought on by the record-high heat. Recent signs of an uptick hint at an upswing for the fall and holiday season.
Renting out warehouse space, cooler space and delivery drivers for event planners is a new form of business for some wholesalers.
Wholesalers trying to mitigate high receivables have started accepting credit card payments rather than extending credit.
As wholesale closures continue, survivors in the not-too-distant future may be the niche players or large, merged operations.
Reported challenges include: struggling to attract young people to work in the wholesale floral business, competing with dollar stores (particularly for hard goods suppliers) and adjusting staffing for slow seasons.
Growers Council:
A very strong spring was followed by a stagnant summer for domestic plant growers, during which growers were forced to do deep discounts in order to move product.
Growers both on the East and West coasts are benefiting from the “buy local” trend. California growers specifically noted the “California Grown” marketing campaign as a driver of sales.
Consolidation continues as a major trend. Growers feel pushed to be “one-stop shopping” providers for the big box stores. Contracts demand a wide variety of products, and some growers have had to source from other growers to fulfill this.
Downy mildew on impatiens has resulted in as much as a 50 percent drop in 2012 sales, especially on the East coast. Impatiens traditionally are the top selling bedding plant in the U.S., so this is pressuring growers to learn — quickly — how to grow other types of bedding plants.
The Florida housing market is starting to recover and residents are doing small landscape jobs again, which is good for the floral industry.

Consolidation was a big trend being discussed by members of the Growers Council, including John Donati (left) of Ocean View Flowers, Lompoc, Calif., and Augusto Solano, of Asocolflores, the association for Colombian growers.



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