Trends with Benefits

If you are reading this article, it’s obvious you rely on The Cut Flower Quarterly as an important source of information, but what other magazines do you turn to for insights? I have several favorites, not all relating to floral, but all of which devote considerable space to trend watching. It’s the first section I scan because I’m curious about the next big thing. Who isn’t? In our industry, it’s critical to know what colors, products, conveniences and materials trigger consumer purchases and make changes accordingly.

When it comes to floral, it is safe to say that the United States follows European trends with a lag time of 5 to 7 years. Green flowers were trendy in Holland long before the American consumer could break out of the color’s association with St. Patrick’s Day and accept green roses, dianthus, bupleurum, molucella, amaranthus, and chrysanthemums in designs. Feathers, wire and beads were showing up in Dutch designs in the early 1990s, but took another 10 years to catch on here.  Until a few years ago, any shade of orange was relegated to a tiny sales window between September and Thanksgiving.

Over the past few months, Floral Management magazine has featured several viewpoints on trends that are spot on. J Schwanke (August 2012) says that floral professionals don’t need to set trends or be a slave to them, rather we need to talk about current trends and how they relate to floral choices.  Another article written by Tim Huckabee (February 2013) shared a quote from a New York Times interview with Gene Pressman whose family owns the iconic New York luxury department stores Barneys. Pressman says, “Barneys has never been about giving customers what they want. It has been about education, expanding horizons, presenting the unexpected. The fact is (customers) don’t know what they want. Finding out what they want is one reason people still go to stores. One doesn’t search Amazon for ideas and inspiration.” 

The same comment can be made of people buying flowers. They want to convey a feeling or sentiment with flowers, but rarely know what blooms they want, how long they will last or how to properly care for them at home.  It is our job as flower experts to guide and educate consumers. I thought the Arnoskys did just that in the slide show presented at the March meeting in Blanco. By the time the barn-raising slides appeared, it was clear that a sense of community is one of the keystones of the philosophy of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

The idea of expanding horizons and presenting the unexpected fits so well with all things floral, so why then are sales efforts often lackluster? Regardless who’s selling to whom, the conversation generally starts with a flat question like “Do you need anything today?” Any salesperson worth her salt knows it is a big no-no to start the conversation with a yes/no question. Another big mistake is selling customers what you they think they want. I’ve been guilty more than once of rolling my eyes at crazy tinted orchids, painted poinsettias and sparkled roses only to find out they are top sellers!

How do you know what customers want? Shelter magazines are great sources of all things trendy, but also check out Pinterest. The site allows customization of specific topics so you can scroll non-stop through trend-setting ideas shared among all age groups of enthusiastic social networkers.  Attend wholesale shows whenever possible—especially if there is a design show offered. Wholesalers welcome vendors who will set up a trade booth to show off products.  At a recent Northwest wedding design event, floral designer and event specialist Loann Burke recommended Pinterest to the 100-plus audience of florists as the go-to location for trends. She shared her interpretations of this year’s wedding trends that include bouquets and arrangements with cyclamen, hydrangea, clematis, callas, garden roses and anything cascading. Berries and foliage were hot too. According to Loann, gypsophila is resurging as the trendy filler for brides leaning toward a nostalgic design style. Depending on the bride’s style, non-floral materials include everything from burlap, felt and muslin to crystals, metallic wire, pearls and other “bling”.

As J suggests, rather than trying to predict the next big thing, work with what you know. Customers are hungry for information about what you grow, eco-friendly methods used from seed to market, how blooms are handled after harvest, and how they can get the most vase life at home. Turn ideas into profits. Knowledge is power and unlike a visit to Amazon, people do visit farmers’ markets for ideas and inspiration!

Gay Smith

Technical Consulting Manager

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