Retailers who participated in Produce Marketing Association’s May 20 Virtual Floral Roundtable say that optimism is strong for summer and fall floral sales. Several expect certain categories to continue to grow based on recent sales data, the homesteading trend and desire for products that last longer, as well as consumers’ desire to connect and celebrate moments and occasions both big and small.
During the roundtable, three U.S. retailers gave updates on floral sales trends and consumer attitudes, and the retailers fielded questions gathered from suppliers. Also, Gina Jones, PMA’s vice president of insights and analytics, shared consumer data and information on buying habits as a result of COVID-19.
Consumer trends and behaviors
Jones said, according to Nielsen, we’re now beginning to rebound. Behaviors are driven by health considerations, financial constraints, there’s an interest in patronizing local businesses, and people appreciate the essentials. Jones said consumers will become more risk averse and price will be important. People are focused on hygiene, physical health and well-being.
Buying local remains relevant, and people are turning to DIY. This presents an opportunity for floral, said Jones. People can purchase bunches and make their own arrangements or bouquets. Count on less vacations, and more staycations. People are homesteading, and retailers can take advantage of sales for spring, summer and early fall planting. Get creative and consider bundling floral products.
Jones said consumer perception about sustainability has shifted, and buyers are more concerned with products being clean versus “green.” According to researchers, fewer SKUs are expected to remain a trend. The retail panelists, however, said that while SKU rationalization helped get through the initial weeks of the pandemic, they are not currently planning to make significant, permanent changes.
Floral sales overall are picking up, and one retailer reported seeing similar pre-COVID volume sales on 50 percent of store floral SKUs. All ecommerce is performing well, including delivery and curbside pickup. Online shopping will continue to grow. Some researchers predict 4-6 percent of grocery sales will be online, with 10 percent of shoppers buying groceries online. More than half of consumers polled said that whether they purchase online or not, they still enjoy going to the market.
Industry optimistic, consumers eager to celebrate
Retailers say they expect summer holidays that are typically slower in sales to present more opportunity this year, including Father’s Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. High school and college graduates are intent on celebrating proms and graduations in some way. In addition, memorials and weddings postponed until later in the summer or fall will present opportunities for floral. People are even participating in drive-by celebrations for all occasions.
Consumers are still shopping less frequently, purchasing more, and are picking up items for neighbors or family members and dropping them off. Store signage includes calls for consumers to brighten someone’s day. They are thrilled to see floral back in stores. Retailers see people purchasing more floral for their own enjoyment. People want to celebrate even little things, and other people. Retail panelists said easy grab-and-go items such as a potted plant or small vase arrangement that could be dropped into a handled bag are popular for doorstep drops.
Shift in growth categories
One retailer reported that prior to COVID, roses, bouquets and cut flowers were positive sales drivers. In the past few weeks, positive categories include potted herbs, seeds, home décor like candles, balloons, orchids and potted foliage. In fall, outdoor mums and grasses are expected to be strong sellers, as well as home décor. Retailers on the panel expect orchids and green potted plants to see the biggest increases over 2019, with bouquets also expected to perform well, and rose sales to stay about the same. One retailer did say his store worked with a rose grower to offer a special recently on 400 cases of a dozen roses. Value-priced items are expected to jump.
Retailers were unanimous that they appreciate the role of their distribution centers in getting flowers to market, and none on the call indicated they plan to change their transportation and distribution models. Direct-store shipping was done out of necessity in the early weeks of COVID-19 in the United States; however, retailers said they value ease of execution and DCs are here to stay.
Also, PMA shared that USDA indicates that floriculture and horticulture relief is expected to be in the next round of financial aid. More information should be available by end of June.