In each issue of LivRio, we feature a different floral wholesaler and give you information on what they offer and the benefits of working with them. However, this month, we wanted to go a bit deeper into the retail florist/wholesaler relationship.
A strong, successful partnership between a floral retailer and wholesaler can significantly benefit both parties. In part one of our two-part series, we will give you some insight into choosing a floral wholesaler, setting up an account, the wholesale delivery process, and general pricing information.
Choosing a Wholesaler
One of the most important issues when choosing a wholesaler is finding a partner who understands your specific needs and can answer your questions, plus provide a quality product when you need it.
Your first step in this process is to register with a few different wholesalers, either by phone, online, or in person. If you can visit the wholesaler’s location, that’s ideal. If not, talking to someone on the phone is the next best solution.
Here are a few steps to take when visiting a wholesaler:
- Ask to meet with any available sales rep, even if it’s not the rep they will eventually assign to you. This will give you an idea of how well their reps can communicate and answer your questions.
- When talking to the sales rep, discuss the ordering process, lead times on products, and how to get pricing information.
- Walk through the warehouse and check out the coolers and live plant/botanicals section. Look at the product quality and varieties.
- If other customers are in the warehouse, watch their interactions with customer service and sales reps. Note if these seem friendly, helpful, and upbeat.
If you have a positive experience during your visit, setting up an account will seem like the right next step. However, if you have any concerns, it’s best to get answers to any lingering questions to ensure this wholesaler is the right fit.
Opening an Account
Once you’ve chosen a wholesaler to work with, you’ll need to provide the various items to open an account, such as a business license, a seller’s/reseller’s permit, or a tax-exempt certificate. You’ll also need to fill out specific forms provided by the wholesaler, including a resale certificate. And you’ll need to provide a credit card for their files.
After you apply, the wholesaler will review your paperwork and check to see that you truly operate as a florist. Then, once approved, they will assign your sales rep, and you can move forward.
As a note, it’s important to ask a few questions when opening your account:
- Do they charge a membership fee or require you to wear a badge when visiting their location?
- Can you add another person to your account, and can that person order and pick up?
- What are their shipping and delivery policies and fees?
- What are their sales tax policies?
- What’s the best way to order from them (phone, fax, email, website)?
- Do they carry products from local flower farms?
- How do they handle poor products, wrong orders, or cancellations?
You will also want to make sure and get on their email lists for pricing updates, specials, and general information. And if possible, get the name of your sales rep in advance.
Why Cold Chain Delivery is Vital
A flower’s shelf life is short, so it’s essential to ship them as quickly as possible and keep them at a consistent temperature. That’s what the cold chain process does, and it works like this:
- At the farm, the harvested flowers go into a refrigerated room to be graded, bunched, and packaged.
- A refrigerated truck takes the flowers to the airport, and then they’re loaded onto a refrigerated cargo plane.
- Once the flowers arrive at their destination, they’re held in a refrigerated hall before going through Customs. Then they’re put on a refrigerated truck or plane for shipment to either distribution centers or a wholesaler.
Your wholesaler should follow this same cold chain process when shipping flowers to you. Make sure they send their flowers in refrigerated trucks and have them explain their procedure to you in detail. That way, you can ensure your flowers will arrive as fresh as possible.
Wholesale flower pricing depends on various things, such as grower’s prices, consumer demand, the season, weather, growing conditions, and global impacts on staffing and transportation.
These prices can change weekly, by season, and around holidays. And with the supply chain issues created by the pandemic, prices are fluctuating more than ever. Therefore, when discussing pricing with your wholesaler, keep these points in mind:
- If you’re ordering online through a wholesaler, you may see the pricing right online or receive a quote by email. Check with your wholesaler on their online ordering system.
- Ask your rep if shipping costs are incorporated into the stem count, as some point-of-sale systems do that, and you’ll need this information when determining your overall flower cost.
- Make sure you’re getting current price lists by being on your wholesaler’s email list. They can then send you weekly price sheets and specials.
- If you want to special order a particular flower, check with your sales rep on the price before ordering. That way, you won’t get a surprise that will put you over your budget.
- Keep old price lists as a reference to note when certain products were in season, so you know how to budget correctly for that season the following year.
- Ask your rep what the minimum flower order should be to provide the best shipping costs to you.
We hope this has given you some helpful information about wholesaler/retailer relationships. Next month, we’ll go into flower ordering in detail, as well as how to successfully communicate with your wholesaler. Our goal is to help you achieve a successful, profitable, long-term partnership!