As we head into the holiday season, the demand for flowers is continuing to grow like crazy. The wedding season was hectic, as so many people held their previously postponed ceremonies. And demand for fresh flowers shows no signs of slowing down. This is excellent news and shows the power of flowers and the resilience of the floral industry!
Yet, we face the continued reality of supply challenges. Supply shortages are ever-present, at a time when demand is reaching a peak. SAF recently published an article about the challenges facing the floral industry as we head into the holidays. We’ve summarized the key points from that article here, and we also offer some ideas on how you can rise above the challenges and succeed.
South America Farms Face Supply and Weather Difficulties
With the onset of COVID-19 last year, many farms anticipated the worst and decided to pull plants and cut production. These drastic yet necessary measures left the farms scrambling to meet the demand when it took off just a few months later. And now, even though farms have planted new crops and have started to recover, the continued high demand is stressing the supply.
What’s more, the weather in South America this year has been more challenging than usual. Rain and cold have curtailed the production of roses, carnations, delphinium, lilies, and stock, delaying them by several weeks. Fortunately, the output of carnations, alstroemeria, statice, spray roses, pompons, and hydrangeas has begun to increase.
Roses have been hit particularly hard this year. Per Lenny Walker, vice president of sales and operations at Kennicott Brothers, this is due to a few factors: The cold weather slowed the growth of new shoots; some rose plants were pinched heavily so that enough would be available for the holidays; many rose plants are in the beginning stages of their growth cycle; and in Ecuador, there is a shortage of mother plants. On a positive note, Walker stated that rose production should increase by the end of September.
Logistical Issues Will Continue
The ripple effect from COVID has created huge backlogs at container ports throughout the world. As a result, some exporters are now moving their goods by air, taking up valuable flower space. And as the holidays draw near, holiday merchandise will fill more and more of that cargo space.
Then there’s the issue of flight delays, and fewer flights, because of worker shortages. These delays affect fresh flowers far more than less perishable goods. Additionally, product is being held up in Miami waiting for customs inspections, and once released, there’s a national shortage of truck drivers to move the product to its destination.
Competition for Flowers is Fierce
The increasing demand for flowers means that there’s a lot of competition for a limited supply. One of the biggest competitors is supermarkets, whose sales were up more than 26% this year versus the same period in 2020. According to a report from Information Resources Inc., as of June 13, floral sales at supermarkets were $6.6 billion, with $269 million being roses.
And the competition for South American flowers isn’t just coming from the US. According to a report by the Ecuadorian Flower Growers and Exporters Association, exports to North America are up 4% from last year—yet exports to Europe are up 8%, and exports to Eurasia are up 5%.
How to Move Forward and Succeed
While all this sounds challenging—and it is—it’s also excellent news! People finally understand what we in the floral industry have been saying: Flowers are vital for health and happiness!
Oscar Fernandez, Director of Sales here at Equiflor-Rio Roses, put it this way: “I’d much rather be in this position than have an oversupply and no demand. This is a great position to be in. We just have to have the patience to deal with it.”
So, how can you keep moving forward with all the supply challenges and meet the increasing demand for flowers? Here are a few tips:
- Be transparent. Your customers already know about supply shortages across all industries, so it’s best to be clear and up-front with them. Let them know that those white roses they desire may not be available, and if they are, they will be at a premium. By being honest, you will gain their trust.
- Offer creative alternatives. Now is your opportunity to showcase your design skills with floral arrangements. Use what you have available to create new and exciting combinations and palettes and showcase them in your marketing. Your customers will appreciate the creativity and how they have something unique and special for their occasion.
- Raise your prices. As with supply issues, customers understand that businesses must increase their prices; they may not be happy about it, but they know it’s a reality because they see it everywhere. And flowers should be no different. “The prices for flowers right now are extremely high, said Oscar Fernandez, “prices that you’ve never seen outside of a holiday.” He urges florists to increase their prices to cover these costs: “This isn’t something that is going away. People are going to have to pass [the cost] on.”
We genuinely understand how challenging things have been, and we’re consistently impressed with the resourcefulness of everyone across the floral industry. So, while this may be an “interesting” holiday season, we know that you will rise to the challenge. In doing so, you’ll only make your customers happy but set yourself up for even bigger sales in the new year!