"The consumer wants quality, so longevity. However, this goes counterintuitive to some consumer trends: they want flowers like peonies, dahlias, zinnias, which are all not that long lasting flowers. That's where chrysanthemums come in. Breeders have done so many amazing things with the shape, the look, the petals, all those things to mimic that look and still give the customers longevity. So, Chrysanthemum Week is becoming more and more important to us because of the ability to alter that crop to look like the things our customers want and still continue deliver all of that longevity", says one of the US retailers during the Chrysanthemum Week webinar that was held last Wednesday. But more was discussed during the webinar, like the Colombian flower market, the changes in consumer priorities and of course the experience of 5 other retailers.
Last day of Chrysanthemum Week
Today is the last day of the Chrysanthemum Week and Asocolflore's President Agusto Solano recognizes, congratulates and thanks the nine breeding companies for their effort to make this event possible. "Every year, I think this is going to be the meeting point for those who want to see the best showcase of chrysanthemums. Innovation of these companies and the breeders is the energy of the flower industry."
Colombia's floral industry
Vice President Export at Pro Colombia Juliana Villegas told more about the importance of Chrysanthemum Week and flowers in general, to Colombia and the world. "Chrysanthemum Week has become a key activity since 2015 and has gained more strength in the last years. Floral is bouncing back and the perspectives beginning to look positive for the coming months. This is one of the sectors that we've prioritized in our Economic Reactivation plan between now and 2022. Flowers, foliage and life plants sector represents 10 percent of Colombia's non-mining energy exports. Fresh flower exports reached 769 million dollars as of June 2020 reaching more than a hundred markets worldwide, among those, USA, Japan, UK, Holland and Canada. A large percentage of the cargo shipped is air but the growth of maritime shipping for varieties such as chrysanthemums has allowed us to position ourselves with price and quality in markets such as Australia and Chile. Events like this in which we have the opportunity to share our knowledge, our potential, large buyers in the American market they allow us to learn more every day about the needs of the market and consumers and be more ready for the challenges that this normal implies"
To continue consolidating these sales figures that she's mentioned, she invites breeders and exporters to continue working together with Pro Colombia. "In this way, we can let the world know that Colombian flowers are of high quality and of great variety."
Changes in today's consumer priorities
PMA's Director of Floral Becky Roberts discussed the changes in today's consumer priorities. She mentions the following four changes;
Limited touch points
At PMA, they are seeing how consumers are shifting how they are purchasing items. "They are now looking to explore options where they do not necessarily have to do everything physically. So we are seeing them increasing their online purchases. And of course, they are using multiple devices and many different ways to purchase their items."
She stresses that the big thing to remember is, it is about the experience. "So, today's consumer wants you to deliver a perfect experience whether that's in the store or online. When thinking about that experience, today's consumers are expecting us to deliver, convenience, multiple price points, high quality, service and variety."
On top of the experience, the industry needs to remember that floral is an impulse buy, she explains. "We have to do is make sure that we capture today's consumer attention. In order to do this, we need to make sure that we have that array of product and how we showcase or merchandise it and whether that is in store or online."
"Today's consumers are looking for the ability to browse and sample, through multiple channels, they want immediate fulfilment and all with limited touch points. The grab-and-go items are really being successful. We need to question, how are we addressing this need for limited touch and it needs to be addressed whether it is in store or online."
The second change she mentions is that today's consumers have more focus on health. "It is all about trying to be very healthy, limiting their risk about contacting the disease, but they really want to be very mindful and thoughtful about their health in general. We know from China and Sars, when coming out of it, we see that consumers still did have a very much high profile around their health and hygiene. We're seeing some of that in the States. In 2019, we saw about 47 percent of consumers buying packaged produce. Once Covid-19 hit, it rose up to 51 percent."
Also in this change, flowers and plants are playing a major role. "We know that research has proven that flowers and plants can help consumers with their health concerns. We know studies have shown how flowers can help to be a stress reliever, improve mood, aid relaxation, increase energy and help oxygenate air. It is important to consider how to communicate this to the consumers."
People spending much more time from home and given travel restrictions and working from home, all of a sudden, the home becomes a much more focus for them. In turn, this also has a positive effect on the floral and ornamental sales. "We know home decorating and gardening provide our industry opportunity to grow. In home retail segment, home decor and indoor gardening is one of the fastest growing segments for them. Today's consumer are connecting more and more with flowers and plants for home decor. We see plants are resigning with today's consumer. "
Also the floral industry certainly has the benefit from this new trend of consumers really trying to connect with green, nature and bringing the beauty in their home. "We know that plants and flowers can help bring the outdoors in. So, we need to make sure that we are communicating that our plants and flowers are going to provide the beauty, the color and that warm welcoming decor they are all looking for right now."
Virtual Before Physical
The final change noticed in consumer priorities is the shift towards doing things virtually instead of physically. "Today's consumer are exploring the how and the why and the where they can purchase items. They are questioning how often they need to do it in person. This certainly increased the support to increase online sales."
However, they will remain doing shopping in person, so in the floral industry, it is important to know that the consumer wants to shop in person and online. "We have to ensure that our floral products are visible, available and easily obtained no matter which channel they are looking to purchase from. With floral being an impulse buy, we have to be sure we are exploring new and different merchandising and marketing techniques to make sure our floral products are showing up virtually as well as physically to get those sales."
From a retail point of view
The United States Supermarkets National Panel consisted of: Debbie Zoellick of Walmart, Debora Steier of Albertsons, Jennifer Lien of Kroger, Courtney Young of Sprouts, and Kate Kennedy of Wholefoods. They shared their experiences regarding the trends that affected the business, their biggest challenges to increase sales and how they foresee the future of floral sales.
When looking at the trends, they saw that COVID-19 had a positive effect on their online floral sales. At the same time, many mentioned that they've needed to improve the pictures of the flowers they offered online. For all, the sales in store increased and they saw an increase in all segments of the floral department, for both the cut flowers as well as the plants.
The biggest challenge they encountered and are still encountering is getting the floral products in store as there is still a lack of air freight capacity. Therefore, some retailers are also looking into the sea freight options. In a reaction, Augusto Solano, mentioned that it the airfreight challenge is on top of Asocolflores' list. "We want to remain to be the reliable partner we've always been, so we want to find a solution as quickly as possible."
All in all, for the coming months and year, the retailers are positive and expect the demand for flowers to stay. Part of this expectation is also based on the expectation that working from home will stay for a while and that consumers created a habit to buy flowers. However, the retailers point out that when creating this habit to last for the future, it is important that the consumer has a positive experience every time they buy flowers. So, maintaining a good quality throughout the chain is key.
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