"Mother's Day is an important floral holiday in North America, and while there was a great deal of enthusiasm and hope going into spring this year, we felt that the felt that there was some unbridled optimism for Mother's Day that had to be tempered by reality." This is explained by Lawrence Hopman of the Hopman agency, a manufacturer's rep that helps primary floral producers sell directly to mass retailers.
Strong pre-book demand
The run-up was going well. According to Hopman, the pre-book demand was very strong. "In 2022, we cautioned our farmers and category managers to refer to their 2019 data when making plans. Our advice was to completely disregard the Covid years (2020-2022), which were outliers, and prepare for a return to normalcy. Still, we saw 100% repeat bookings which are absolutely key, with some new business added."
Good quality crops
And from the growers' side, the run-up was looking good. "They have a good supply, exceptional quality with very few crop quality issues."
Consumer demand lower than expected
Unfortunately, consumer demand was lower than expected. "First, a flat Easter caused panic with some category managers, causing some cutbacks on Mother's Day pre-books. And still, there was excess material in the marketplace leading up to Mother's Day, which is difficult to sell. A real Catch-22 dilemma. Buyers are locked in with pre-bookings at the correct holiday cost pricing. Growers, therefore, are loath to destroy their margins with discounts in weeks 16-20. For many flower farmers, this period is key to profit or loss for the year. Thankfully almost all of our retailers view the vendor/customer relationship as a true partnership, and we were able to execute strategies to protect our partners from any real losses."
Pre-covid consumption levels
According to Hopman, consumption levels are back to pre-covid levels, like he and his team forecasted last year. "Work from home is ending for many companies or at least a switch to hybrid models. This will slow the demand for home decoration that we saw during Covid."
This weekend marked the big start of the gardening season in the northern states and Canada, and when looking at the years to come, Hopman is optimistic. "There was a lot of talk of inflation and unemployment, depressing demand. However, the jobs data is looking great moving forward - giving us a great deal of confidence. On top of that, we are very bullish on the North American market. One obvious reason is that the US government just passed a massive (much-needed) infrastructure bill, the largest since the Eisenhower interstate project in the 1950s. This will literally produce millions of jobs with a positive economic knock-on effect for decades to come. We think critically in terms of decades, not in quarters, and thankfully we currently have very stable, sensible, and predictable governments in Canada and the USA ensuring strong measured growth."
Taking floral consumption to the next level
Hopman's team, their grower, and retail partners are determined to bring floral consumption to the next level. "Our little team is grateful for our grower and retail partners and the trust they have put in us. Our results are directly tied to our collaboration with growers who have ethical business practices, high-quality standards and who think not in terms of commodities but place the consumer experience first and foremost." However, he stresses, "As an industry, we have a lot of work to do if we are to coach Americans and Canadians to buy flowers like Europeans."
For more information:
The Hopman agency