Industry unites to boost sales of flowers and plants

It is clear that the ornamental industry is experiencing hard times due to COVID-19. Worldwide, the demand for flowers is historically low, affecting the producing countries. As a result of the high throughput percentages and the poor price formation on the clocks, Dutch flower auction Royal FloraHolland tightened the supply regulations, all Kenyan farms reduced their volumes to below 70 percent (according to the Kenya Flower Council) and the demand for flowers in Ecuador was down by almost 60 percent (Expoflores reported yesterday).

Despite the challenging situation the industry is in, it's not stopping them from spreading the joy of flowers. Bunches are being donated and initiatives arise to stimulate flower sales. The Netherlands is probably a forerunner in this, but also in other countries, the sector is doing their utmost to keep flowers and plants in the minds of the consumers by also pointing out the (mental) health benefits of flowers and plants.

Source: Royal FloraHolland on LinkedIn

Handing out flowers
On Tuesday, the Dutch horticulture sector started a joint action to give aid workers a helping hand. In cooperation with the Association of Wholesalers in Flower Nursery Products (VGB) and the Flower Council of Holland, employees of the Royal FloraHolland flower auction visited hospitals and nursing homes in the Aalsmeer and Naaldwijk region and handed over flowers to thank care staff for their efforts during the time of the coronavirus.

And more growers and exporters delivered flowers to nursing homes as they now get less visitors (as a result of the precautionary measures), like AVB Export, see picture below. 

Source: AVB Export on Facebook

Also in Belgium growers gave flowers to people in retirement homes, as shown by the Flemish info center for horticulture and agriculture (VILT).

Source: Vlaams infocentrum Land- en Tuinbouw

Charity for tulip growers
For Dutch tulip growers a charity (Tulpen voor Toppers) has been set up. People can donate and with this donation, the charity will deliver a bunch of tulips to healthcare workers.

FlowerBoostChallenge goes viral
The #FlowerBoostChallenge is going viral. With this hashtag, created Van der Ende Groep, companies challenge each other via LinkedIn to buy flowers for colleagues, friends and family. And several companies took part: Westland mayor Bouke ArendsKUBO Greenhouse ProjectsSchermNed B.V. and A1 Tuinbouwtechniek B.V.

Mayor Arends participates in the #FlowerBoostChallenge

Another hashtag, created by West Country Media, is #BuyFlowersNotToiletPaper. In many countries that are in lockdown or where the government urges people to stay home, people are starting to stock up, and toilet paper seems to be particularly popular. Also in the Netherlands, toilet paper is flying off the shelves even though there is enough for everyone. For this reason West Country Media created this ironic but serious hashtag and made a video to match it. In their video, they show the impact of the crisis on the demand for flowers, and the result of 50 percent of the flowers being thrown away at the FloraHolland auction. They're asking consumers to buy flowers instead of toilet paper. 

And speaking of toilet paper, some florists make the best of this challenging situation and bring some humor. US florist Blossom Events and Florist out of Trumann (AR) rolled out a special edition tissue-paper bouquet, during a time when many stores have wiped out shelves. 

Flower and plants good for your mental health
A hot topic online and in international media is stressing the benefits of having flowers in your home or plants in your garden. In times where people in many countries of the world are asked or urged to stay home, flowers and plants are said to make their lives better.

US farm Sun Valley Group refers in their blog post to studies (from Rutgers University as well as the Society of American Florists) that have shown that flowers can lower stress, boost your mood, and increase overall well-being. "Bringing nature indoors is going to become a bigger priority as the CDC continues to urge self-isolation and practicing social distancing."

Also in the UK, JFH Horticultural Supplies posted a tweet in which they stressed the importance of flowers for one's mental health:

At US grower Resendiz Brothers, the importance of flowers on one's health is being stressed. On their website they point out some studies explaining the benefits of flowers, like helping us get a good night's sleep, boosting our creativity, increasing our productivity, making our tolerance to pain higher, boosting our health and even improving our attention span.

Garden centers going the extra mile
Also for garden centers times are hard. Like many industries, they are facing major challenges. People are being advised to stay home and not to go shopping unless it is for essentials. Several therefore had to or decided to close their doors, and many are therefore offering free delivery.

Heeman's in London, Canada (ON), decided to close the doors of their garden center as a response to help flatten the curve. However, their mission to be the local connection to flowers, flavour and fun does not change. This is why effectively immediately they are launching two new initiatives, online shopping and curbside pick-up. 

Also Newent Plant Center, a UK retail plant nursery on the outskirts of Ledbury promoted their free deliver in a Twitter post, see below. 

Besides delivering their products for free, Minnesota Gardens in Chaska in the US is an example of a garden center that is going the extra mile for their customers during these challenging times, reported. The state is mostly in a lockdown, and the company is therefore now offering to go out to customers' homes to design and plant their pots for free. On top of that, they are also offering free delivery on any plant purchases made on the company's website. "We think it is a win-win for everyone, people that are wanting to stay in during this coronavirus outbreak could just call, use our app, or use our website to purchase our plants and have them delivered for free."

The garden: a project to work on
In the UK, people seem to be snapping up plants and seeds from a garden centre in case they have to self-isolate from coronavirus, reports. Although there has been a 'drop off' in the number of customers at Welland Garden Inspirations in Uppingham, director and owner Annie Burns said people were still buying items. “So if they do need to self-isolate, then they have a project to work on."

In order to stimulate gardening in the US during these times, the National Garden Bureau sent out an e-mail with tips and ideas to make something out of the consumer's garden.

And on Social media, one can already see posts on spending time ni the garden when being 'housebound', see below for example. 

What to do to help farmers and floriculture industry?
The floriculture industry is going through one of the most difficult and challenging times right now. Many growers have asked for help from the government to sustain and survive this crisis. But what to do to help farmers and the floriculture industry? In an article posted on LinkedIn, Shabistan Khan shares the following ideas: 

  • Use social media to spread the beauty and benefits of keeping flowers and plants at home.
  • Promote and encourage buying flowers and plants from local shops to keep at home and office space.
  • A call to send flowers to each other, not on a specific holiday or occasion but to cheer up each other and spread smiles and joy.
  • A flower shop can offer a special price on a particular day of the week to get momentum on the sale.
  • Sending flowers to NGOs and workers, doctors, nurses and police officers who are tirelessly working to control the spread of the coronavirus.

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