Managing a Flower Shop in the New Milenium: the Changing Floral Marketplace

I have been working in and around local flower shops for close to ten years. My Sister-In-Law has been a florist for almost 15 years, and 5 years ago, my fiance and I became the newest Winnipeg Florist, in a different area of Winnipeg. Anyone who is close to a florist will know that holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day require an elevated level of staffing a delivery drives, so I had the opportunity to witness the mayhem first hand. Having been exposed to the florist business over these years, I have witnessed some major changes in the market.

Going even further back, before getting involved in the flower business, even as soon as the late 90’s, flower shops were fairly typically a local business. Mom and Pop type stores run by families or groups of friends that spent a great deal of time building their clientele by providing good service to their usual customers. With the exception of some of the larger florists and franchises, most of the marketing was done by word of mouth and through the expectation that you could go to your local florist and have a chat with them while they got your order ready, and if you spent some time there, they may even know the names of your kids or ask how your spouse was doing. Very friendly, “down home” types of atmospheres.

During this time, consumers also had access to wire services like FTD and Teleflora. These types of services have been around for almost 100 years, and started as a legitimate way for florists to connect with each other and send and receive orders from other areas of the country and subsequently, the world. During the 90s this all changed. Telephone services became a way for affiliate marketeers to advertise outside of their own area with local phone numbers that are forwarded to call centers somewhere else. These orders are then fulfilled by local florists who subscribe to the wire services, leading to a reduced market share for other local florists, and highly reduced profit margins and quality from the fulfilling florist.

Now in the late 90’s comes the Internet with a roar. While the wire services like FTD are still around, the Internet now created a new market for both the wire services and the local florists. Now a flower shop could be found world wide. You live in Australia and want to send Valentine’s Day flowers to your Sister in Holland; No problem! Just search online and you could find a great deal of flower shops that could send them whatever you need. In fact, during certain times of the year, like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, “flowers” will often hit top 10 search rankings in the world!

You may be thinking, wow that’s great! “I have just expanded my market from 700,000 people here in Winnipeg to over 6 Billion around the world!” The Internet is truly astounding in this way isn’t it, but read on…

In the beginning, this market was also dominated by the wire services and continues to be dominated by both wire services and order taking affiliate sites. Gradually the concept is catching on with real local florists, and with a global market, you can find literally thousands of ways to send flowers online. That’s right, thousands! How many of those thousands of ways to send flowers online link back to your store? How many link to wire services and order takers who take a 20%-30% cut of the consumer’s order to take a phone call and send a fax to the fulfilling florist? Who has the means to do it? Just type in the keywords, send flowers in Winnipeg, and you will see the results in the sponsored links. (Try your own city)

I recently heard some stats about Internet shopping that may astound you. Over the 2007 Christmas holidays, consumer spending in the brick and mortar retail world stagnated or maybe even slightly declined, while Internet shopping went up a whopping 25%. With the ever expanding Internet market and ever decreasing standard retail market, locals florists, along with all other retail businesses MUST have an online presence or at least have a plan to do it.

The really good news is that while we local florists may be somewhat behind the times when it comes to eCommerce web sites and a strong Internet presence, the Internet is no longer only available to rich and powerful corporations. There are many ways for local florists to get online and in direct contact with the consumer, where they should be.