Considering that 69% of gifts for Mother’s day is flowers, and florists count on $1.9 billion in sales, Covid-19 has disrupted not only the floral supply chain but a financial lifeline for bouquets of bucks.
Complicating matters, each state had strict rules regarding what is an essential worker. Although we at Flower Power Daily consider florists essential workers since flowers scientifically ease anxiety and help cheer and comfort people, not all governors agreed.
Agricultural states where flowers are a huge industry such as California were more lenient while Michigan was uber-strict and didn’t even allow no-contact curbside delivery until just recently.
But heading into Mother’s Day, most florists now are playing triage as they plan for Mother’s Day deliveries.
Clients are being gently told, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Florists will deliver curbside but with less flowers available as a result of importing issues and floral availability. Furthermore, there is a reduced staff in all the flower shops.
“Clients wanting French tulips won’t get them this year,” says Robbin Yelverton of Blumz by JRDesigns in Detroit, Michigan. “What we are doing is providing specific looks and selling color schemes like green and white or pinks and not specific flowers. There won’t be a beautiful Mammy Blue rose that has lavender with a fuscia edge available.”
Although local florists rely as much as “40 percent” of their profits from drop-ins, this year their on-line service and phone calls are driving the business.
This also made it difficult to anticipate the quantity of flowers to purchase for Mother’s Day bouquets.
“We normally do 150 bouquets a year and offer 30 varieties,” says Theresa Colucci from Meadowscent Flowers in Hudson Valley New York. “This year we decided to only do 8 to 10 selections. Instead of a staff of 10, it’s me and my daughter.”
Getting the staff to come to the stores has also been an issue for some because of generous unemployment benefits.
“Some are making more money not coming to work,” adds Yelverton. “They don’t want to lose unemployment. As a business owner, our job if they refuse to come to work is to report them but we come out as the bad guy and they get less money. We’re all screwed.”
Then there is the issue that even with states that allow employees, social distancing must be implemented limiting the amount of staff at the busiest time of year.
Many florists decided to shutter for Mother’s Day because these variables made their business model too risky.
Banchet Flowers, with stores in both Greenwich, Connecticut and New York City, spent extra hours calling customers to let them know she was open for business and flower deliveries.
“Everything has been much harder,” says Banchet Jaigla. “I have a delivery that was supposed to come today but now is sitting in Miami.”
But she says that as artists, the pros will be able to find ways to accommodate these limitations with creativity and talent.
Furthermore, florists are reporting that customer demand is high for a variety of reasons.
“We are all starved for human emotional connection and can’t do it in person so the best alternative is to have flowers with a wonderful note,” says Chris Drummond, who owns Penny’s by Plaza Flowers in Pennsylvania and is also president of the Society of American Florists. “Every time someone sees those flowers they will feel connected to loved ones.”
In fact, he is seeing a 30% increase in online sales this season.
Customers are also more forgiving of a florist’s capacity. “What you can’t get a delivery by 2 p.m.!” is not a comment heard these days.
For example, Michael Grim and James Osburn of The Bridgehampton Florist have a weekly client who always wanted white flowers and nothing else. Because of Covid-19 deliveries, sometimes they provided white flowers with blooms like pink peonies and ranunculus. “The client realized that we were doing the best we could and actually discovered that he liked having more color in the house,” said Grim. In fact, the client is giving them carte blanche to create a Mother’s Day bouquet.
The established online florists like Teleflora, FTD and even 1-800-Flowers will benefit from this COVID-19 crisis since their business model is more focused for on-line distribution which is a highly complex operational process.
As a spokeswoman for 1-800-Flowers said, “This is also a holiday where we see customers buying gifts for multiple mother figures – moms, moms-to-be, grandmothers and caretakers.”
Other florists are having to play catch-up, having to fly the plane while refueling at the same time since their on-line business wasn’t as much of a focus. However, florists, like nature are adaptive. They are in the business to bring joy through their art.
“We are a passionate industry and when something starts to stifle that passion, our members respond,” adds Drummond, who in his SAF role effectively encouraged florists to write local officials to open up flower shops as essential workers. “We are seeing the positive effects like never before. The stress and depression caused by isolation trickle down but flowers relieve stress and make people happy.”
As he and others said, “We’re getting a lot of thank-yous.”
Because as Lady Bird Johnson said long ago, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD.