To say that this year’s Mother’s Day season was an odd one for the floral industry might be an understatement. And yet, growers and suppliers involved in the industry (those who were open, at least), made enough adjustments to the challenges facing them with the coronavirus pandemic that, by many accounts, the season was a success.

Just look at the numbers: A recap of Mother’s Day week ( click here for more information ) by the Society of American Florists (SAF) showed that roughly 70% of flower retailers (including independent garden centers, florists, and specialty/boutique retailers) reported increased sales this year despite working with a limited staff. For many of them, the numbers were high enough that new orders had to be suspended.

So what can we learn from this holiday season? SAF recently hosted a webinar featuring a group of floral retailers, distributors, and others in the supply chain. Here are some insights they shared. Lesson 1: It Is Possible to Innovate on the Fly

“Our business went from solid to zero on March 13,” said Liza Roeser of Fifty Flowers , an online wholesale boutique that sells flowers primarily for events. It’s a statement echoed by many in the industry.

“We were forced to innovate on the fly, with no beta testing, and had to make rapid changes,” said Chris Drummond of Penny’s by Plaza Flowers in Norristown, PA, and President of the SAF Board of Directors.

“We had to reinvent our brand,” Roeser said. “But by communicating with our grower partners, we were able to do so quickly.” Lesson 2: Creativity is Critical

“Our first goal was to make sure our florist partners were open and able to do business online,” said Patrick Busch of Len Busch Roses . “From there, we got creative with the products we were offering.” This included a Minnesota-Grown bouquet line and a “Bloom Box” that featured seasonal gift items along with flowers.

This sense of creativity isn’t limited to products either.

“We cross-trained all our employees and reached out to our supplier community with webinars offering tips on anything from using social media to applying for COVID-19 relief funding,” Busch says. Lesson 3: Consider Consolidation

With a smaller staff to work with, Kaitlin Radebaugh of Radebaugh Florist and Greenhouses in Towson, MD, had her packing team work on one line rather than across many lines.

“We’ll keep this approach moving forward, as it actually helped us become more efficient,” Radebaugh said.

Radebaugh also consolidated its inventory, developing gift crates that mixed floral arrangements with items such as candles and wine. Lesson 4: A Good Gesture Can Go a Long Way

We’ve heard several stories about growers and retailers offering donations in the form of unsold inventory to their communities (for example, Milgro Nursery in Utah ). Busch took this route. Faced with destroying a significant lily crop, he instead loaded up his trucks and started delivering them to local retirement communities.“I’m still counting the thank-you cards we’ve received,” Busch said. “We saw first-hand the close connection people have […]