"I have never seen the US flower consumption this high", says Joost Bongaerts of Florabundance, who has 40 years of experience in the floriculture industry. Over the last year, he has seen the flower industry collapse, bounce back and is extremely pleased with the change in buying behavior; from holiday purchases to everyday purchases. "Even though the costs increased, many florists report large sales increases this year, without doing any advertising campaigns."
Florabundance is a certified American Grown wholesaler, based in Carpinteria (CA) and supplies florists, flower markets, floral designers, special event companies, and other professionals in the floral industry all over the country. They source a majority of their cut flowers from American flower growers during the peak growing season March and October and in addition, they import as well. When the pandemic hit the country, their clients were impacted severely as they had to close their doors. In turn, Florabundance was impacted as well, but they never had to close their doors. "We decided to give away flowers and invest in keeping flowers top of mind in the community."
Flower industry bounces back
Fortunately, after two months since COVID-19 hit the country, the industry started to recover and bounce back. "The sales started to increase, and particularly via the online channels", he says. And when looking at last year's sales, it has been a good year for florists from all corners of the country. "Florists from the East, West in urban areas or from the country side - you name it - they all did a very good job and increased overall flower sales .'We can't get enough is what we often heard."
Higher costs, but consumers willing to pay
The sales increased, but the costs of Flowers did as well. "First let's look at the costs. In the USA about 80 percent of the flowers are imported and since the pandemic, the costs for logistics, due to the lack of capacity, has increased sharply. Gas prices are way up and so are fuel surcharges, cardboard boxes, sleeves staples everything cost more. On top of that, other factors pushed up the price. In South America, for example, we are dealing with a production gap. When the pandemic impacted the growers, several decided to cut back the crop or decrease their cultivation acreage. In the Netherlands, prices at the clock have been high dues to worldwide demand. However, also in California costs increased due to the higher minimum labor costs, transportation and logistics and the more expensive packaging materials."
All in all, the costs to get flowers increased, and the consumer will have to pay more. Fortunately, they were and still are willing to do it. "Usually, in the US we see a good amount of advertising in the run-up to holidays. However, this year, we did not have to see as much. The demand remained - and is still - high. The public want flowers and are willing to pay for it. And flower companies have become more efficient in order to have a bottom line."
From holiday to every day consumption
Bongaerts is pleased with the change in trend that he is noticing. "The American flower industry as well as the consumption is usually very holiday focused. Now, however, we are seeing a great and constant demand for flowers throughout the year. And I do hope this trend will stay. The event business will gradually return as all parts of the country start opening up and weddings and events return. However, it is important that we, as an industry, continue to fuel this trend. So, in the future, I expect that advertising will be needed and we should focus on promoting the everyday consumption of flowers instead of promoting the holidays, like we used to do." Fortunately, initiatives are being developed for floral promotion campaigns, by California Flower Growers and Shippers (cafgs.org) for example, in which Bongaerts has been serving as a one of the Directors.
Increase in demand for garden cut roses
Garden roses are hot and for five years now, Florabundance is cooperating with Colombian farm Alexandra farms, to supply their David Austin garden roses directly to the florists & event designers. "The advantage of doing it in this way is that our clients receive a fresher product." The demand increased sharply over the last year, but supply is limited. For this reason, Florabundance is always advising their clients to order early, often and be flexible on their color scheme. "In this way, we can deliver them the freshest products." Lately, they launched a new website.