What's the Next Big Thing?

Small purple flowers
Wave on emerald hillsides
Laughing, I wave back! 
– Anonymous

A Peek at the Numbers

By the time you read this article, Mother’s Day hoopla will have passed, Venus made its transit across the sun, and we’ve experienced the longest day of the year, as the sun hesitated during the solstice before starting its annual retreat to the southern hemisphere

Before closing the chapter on the first half of 2012, let’s take a quick look at Mother’s Day sales. If holiday success is an indicator of economic recovery, the future looks bright because both Valentine and Mother’s Day sales were ahead of last year. Every wholesaler I spoke to said Mother’s Day sales were great and florists super busy! The majority of supermarkets had record sales increases, too.

Grower reports were mixed: most said the holiday was great, but some described this year’s sales as just slightly stronger than last. Poor product availability from off-shore was a huge boost for domestic growers. Strong demand for gerberas, peonies, lilies, tulips, wax flower, sunflowers and fillers prevailed right through Memorial Day weekend and tight supply kept prices high. Retail prices (speaking about supermarkets here) indicate that the trigger prices on mixed bouquets were in the $14.99—24.99 range. Rose dozens (unadorned) sell at $9.99—the holiday AND everyday price. Everyone I spoke to said that sales didn’t stop on May 13th. In fact, several bouquet companies (in California and Oregon) say they didn’t expect things to slow down until the end of June.

View from the Street

Trendy floral products I noticed during my travels to (mostly supermarket) customers this year include terrariums, potted orchids and succulents. These three categories are not new trends, but continue to top popularity lists. Best-selling cut flowers are rainbow mixes (both natural and tinted) of statice, poms, gerberas, roses, and mini carns. Incredible as it sounds, floral clerks claim the more garish or neon the color, the faster the bunch sells! Monochromatic color blends sell ahead of rainbow bunches as income levels move up the ladder. Cut cyclamen, a longtime favorite in France, is starting to gain a foothold as a cut bloom in California markets. Tulips were as popular as ever this spring but without any price increases over last year, and lily sales were slightly up to flat compared with 2011.

What about new marketing trends? A recent edition of greenProfit magazine suggests piquing customer interest by featuring oddball aspects of plants, flowers or veggies staged as a “weird” event. QR (quick response) codes are increasingly showing up on plant tags, flower food packets, and signage as another way to promote services, specific products and information.

Statistics show that men ages 18-34 are the biggest users of QR codes, which often direct them to Facebook, company websites and videos to inform, entice and educate information-thirsty consumers. Another look at the numbers shows that the flower buying community is mostly populated by women 35-55 years old, not the 18-34 year-old male group, a consideration if you plan to incorporate QR codes on materials.

There is no doubt that all roads lead to social media when discussing marketing trends, but beware of the time sink involved in staying current on Facebook or Twitter, and carefully consider the audience at whom your messages are aimed before deciding the best social avenue to pursue. For example, Pininterest is the latest rage, but are your customers using it to make purchasing decisions or for personal interest?

Identify your target market prior to diving in because done properly, social media venues require time. Steve Miller, of Two Hat marketing consultancy puts it this way, “…you want to play on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn? Figure one to two hours per day MINIMUM. And don’t think you can post something and walk away. Social media thrives on current and new information.” He continues to say that in the B2B world, if anyone tells you social media is working for him, don’t ask how many friends, fans, or followers he has. Ask him to show you the money.

Certification Labels—Still Trendy?

Tired of reading about sustainability programs? Wondering if it is a fad that’ll disappear? Or are you applying to receive a label from Veriflora, MPS or USDA Organic? The green-washing bluster in flowers seems to have waned a bit in popularity, but the concept of sustainability is here to stay because environmental impacts have financial costs for companies. Sustainability is an ongoing process based on the idea of continual improvement, and is tied to critical resources including water and energy. Water and energy are the two most important resources connected to money and availability issues in our exploding world market. As the certification playing field became crowded with different programs, duplications diluted the identification seals, frustrating growers and confusing consumers. Regardless, sales analyses show that consumers appreciate the opportunity to vote with their purchase dollars when it comes to supporting sustainable agricultural practices in the U.S. and abroad. Certification focuses on three areas—environmental integrity, social and economic sustainability, and product integrity—with the emphasis shifting slightly depending on the program chosen.

No one disagrees that best practices and sustainable use of resources make sense, but when the playing field became so crowded, consumers couldn’t stay up with the next best thing. In response to the confusion, a group in the Netherlands called Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI) is working to produce a tool to eliminate duplication and make it easier to compare different certification programs. “The tool will increase transparency and comparability of existing floriculture sustainability standards” says Herman de Boon, chairman. The 19 founding stakeholders of FSI include companies based in northern Europe, Kenya, and the Dutch Flower Group, Rainforest Rescue and MPS. FSI is welcoming other organizations to join, but to date, no U.S. group is involved. Stay tuned to find out how the initiative will play out in this country.

 

Gay Smith

Technical Consulting Manager

Gay Smith is the Technical Consulting Manager for Chrysal USA. Contact her at [email protected]