By Tonneli Gruetter
For so long, it felt as though the floral industry was set to brave the storm of both supply-chain shortages and increased wholesale prices in relative silence. What began as sporadic outages in 2020 escalated in summer 2021 to a full-blown supply crisis. Suddenly, flower shops across the world were noticing the same things: higher prices, harder-to-find fresh goods and seemingly unending backorders on hardgoods. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, the entire situation reached its current apex, the worst fear of an entire industry: a severe rose shortage occurring at the peak of a strongly rebounding summer/autumn wedding season. Right at the very time many floral professionals were excited about the opportunity to work through the backlogged demand of 2020, our supply chain began to falter. In the aisles of wholesalers and backrooms of flower studios, designers have been comforted only by the knowledge that we, as florists, have a shared experience with our peers and are ultimately “in it together.”
Always one to authentically carry the flag of “community over competition,” our industry came together. One by one, the leading stars of the floral scene—like Holly Heider Chapple and Mayesh Wholesale Florist, to name two—opened the conversation on social media platforms about addressing these challenges as positive trade-offs to floral consumers with tips like, “Be flexible with substitutions,” “Order supplies well in advance” and “Embrace permanent botanicals when fresh is not an option.” All excellent pieces of advice, these tips spread like wildfire, even among hometown florists. Through these social media threads, floral professionals sought comfort and support in each other, armed with the knowledge that it would be extremely unlikely that floral consumers would have any idea what they were up against unless we were the ones to tell them. Traditionally in our industry, when a specific fresh material has become hard to source, we, as florists, have individually assumed the responsibility of educating our customers, which we could only hope they would accept understandingly.
That is, until now. Not since the “tulipomania” that spread from the Netherlands throughout Europe and Asia in the 1630s has the inner workings of our blooming industry garnered such global mainstream attention. Suddenly, it seems, every major news and media outlet has something to say about flowers, from online media company Insider (formerly Business Insider) to broadcast network ABC News, everyone is talking about flowers. If you google the phrase “flower shortage,” pages upon pages of news stories will appear from local news channels across the world, with headlines like “There Is a Massive Flower Shortage Right Now” (Washingtonian magazine) and “A Flower Shortage Is Causing Florists to Scramble While Prices Skyrocket” (Toronto’s The Globe and Mail newspaper).
As if the fact that news outlets have mentioned our shortages was not incredible enough, in an industry so accustomed to absorbing our own challenges, we have been doubly blown away by the care and quality of reporting by the mainstream media to educate consumers about what is happening within our ranks. Never before has the floral industry experienced such widespread support—which leaves us to ask the question: “How can we harness the power of this widespread attention into a long-lasting and positive culture of consumer awareness?”
As florists, we have a responsibility to keep telling our story. Here are a few ideas for preparing your customers for the best shopping experience possible during coming holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and even Valentine’s Day.
1. Begin sharing about early-ordering options one month prior to each big holiday. Share at least three times, spaced a few days apart, to increase consumer awareness. Be specific about what you share, give customers real-life visuals of what you will have available and keep them in the loop if stock is limited, to incentivize purchasing.
2. Share exceptional designs highlighting easy-to-source and unexpected materials. When certain colors are tough to locate, consider playing with modern DIY color enhancement tools. Your creativity has the power to inspire hyper-local and even regional trends.
3. Do you have something to say? Reach out to your local media; even the smallest local newspaper can be a powerful voice to give your message credibility and reach beyond your current audience of consumers and followers.
4. Go old fashioned! Keep a sidewalk sign or reader board updated with what’s new in stock and what’s available to reserve. If it’s something that excites you, there is a good chance that enthusiasm will be passed on to your customers.
5. Share relevant news. When you see a story in the mainstream media that feels authentic to your business and the conditions in your community, share it.