"Together we are stronger." It seems to be the motto of the floral industry these days because they are all in this together. All over the world, flower business are affected and initiatives - on a small and larger scale - are being taken to support the industry.
Panel Discussions - PMA
Yesterday, Produce Marketing Association (PMA) held a 25 minute virtual panel discussion to get an insight in how floral businesses - not only US, but international - are adapting to the current environment and how they are telling their story. On April 1, they will organize another - then an hour long - virtual discussion and in the meantime, they stay in communication with their partners and are working with their representatives in Washington, and on other efforts, to support our floral members.
Updates on impacts to the mass-market floral industry will continue to be posted here.
The last post they shared was on March 25
"There are currently no federal mandates or restrictions regarding production or transport of floral and potted plant products.
Individual states determine what falls under essential services. In California and Delaware, for example, nursery and floral farms qualify as essential and may continue operating. Check your respective state’s mandates regarding status for floriculture operations.
Also, supermarkets are deemed essential nationwide in the U.S., and goods, including floral, can continue to be transported to supermarkets. Cut floral and potted plant production and supply remain strong, including in Colombia, California and Ecuador, which is experiencing import challenges into Europe.
Some retailers have needed to scale back or cancel floral orders due to store-level logistics challenges or other extenuating circumstances outside their control. Others have been able to continue accepting floral products, however, in reduced amounts or targeted SKUs. Much depends on the unique and unpredictable circumstances of individual retailers and what’s required for them to be responsive to consumer needs.
Society of American Florists are also working hard in supporting the industry. Earlier this week, on March 23, they organized their fourth webinar session in the Society of American Florists’ new series on COVID-19; “Sourcing Fresh Product — The New Normal”. "Spring crops are planted. Trucks and planes are still moving — on modified schedules. But with states and municipalities strengthening social distancing measures and government-mandated business and school closures, demand for cut flowers has plummeted — and that reality is straining the supply chain." These insights along with resources and workarounds to help florists get the flowers they need, emerged in this fourth webinar session. All in all, the problem seems to be the demand. Click here for the key takeaways from the session that relate to the current supply chain.
In addition, SAF has created a robust suite of online resources to support the floral industry through the COVID-19 crisis. Information available includes state-by-state links and guidance, updates from national companies, marketing materials, best practices, the latest on government relief efforts, and more. (Click here for more information)
Keep flowers and plants top of mind with consumers
The list of initiatives to keep flowers and plants top of mind with consumers keeps getting longer and longer. In Europe, Flower Council of Holland, for example have been very busy with launching and implementing a number of activities over the last weeks in the Netherlands. With Royal FloraHolland and the VGB for example, they carried out a giveaway of flowers to healthcare staff which received a lot of regional and national media attention.
Currently, they working on a publicity campaign aimed at maintaining consumers’ awareness of flowers during the coronavirus crisis. "The plan is for the campaign to go live in the four core countries very shortly, and it will be boosted through (social) media in various ways in each country, depending on the degree of availability of product in the various sales outlets in each country."
For breeders growers, florists, wholesalers and all others in the chain, promoting their own varieties, products and services isn't priority anymore. It is about promoting the industry and show the beauty and health benefits of flowers and plants to the world. Ecuadorian rose grower EQR, for example shares the 3 reasons why one should have fresh roses in their homes. The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) has even pulled together the scientific evidence that flowers will help to keep you well.
Health benefits is great to share in marketing campaigns nowadays, but there are more marketing options. Jessica DeGraaf or Meghan Owens, regional account managers for Proven Winners, for example had the chance to catch up with Dr. Behe to ask her for some ideas that IGCs can implement over the coming weeks. In the email that Jessica sent out to their plant community yesterday, she shares more ideas, regarding digital marketing, creative programs to engage children, and selling while maintaining social distance. Also Suntory Flowers shared digital marketing resources for growers and retailers in their email that they've sent out yesterday.
And even though demand is low and sometimes even lower due to government restrictions, ways are found to bring the joy of flowers. In New Zealand, for example, thousands of Aucklanders received surprise bouquets of fresh flowers before the country went into lockdown from a wholesaler who saw a last chance opportunity to bring joy to people before isolation.
And what about this 'Unbelievable Act Of Kindness’ in Needham, a town in Massachusetts (US), where a mystery man bought up Needham Florist's inventory. "Afraid that Needham Florist would be forced to close because of new restrictions related to the coronavirus, he bought everything they had left and had 10 large bouquets delivered anonymously to people in town."
A big thank you
In these difficult times, great efforts, flexibility, and patience is expected throughout the chain and it is given. Even though the industry is still in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis and doing their utmost best it is never too early to say thank you. Marco van Zijverden, CEO Dutch Flower Group, for example, shared a YouTube video in which he says a big thank you to all colleagues, customers, growers, suppliers and the healthcare heroes.
"To be honest, these bizarre times will continue for a couple of weeks, but if we stand shoulder to shoulder, we will overwin."