When I first started in the business over three decades ago, it was pretty straight forward and a lot simpler than it is today. Florists sold flowers and floral related products, competition was usually the next flower shop down the street, and a dozen roses typically sold for $60.00 and up. Business basically came from three sources , walk-in, phone-in, and wire services. Generally life was good for a florist as long as they had a bit of business savvy.
Fast forward 30 years and we have a whole different ball game in the retail flower industry. The flower shop down the street is the least of your worries as the local supermarket offers their customers $14.99 roses and $0.49 carnations as they shop for their groceries. In most shops the walk-in and phone-in portion of sales has diminished and been replaced with a higher level of wire-ins, and and to a smaller extent online orders. All of this has meant that in order to survive in today's world florists have had to hone their existing business skills but learn news ones as well. The average florist now has to be a floral designer, book keeper, purchasing agent, advertising agent, webmaster, and social media guru, all rolled into one. Did I miss anything?
It's no wonder we have seen our ranks decimated over the last decade. Many of our fellow shop owners who entered into the business in a simpler time and out of a basic love for flowers simply could not cope with the changes required to survive in today's "dog eat dog" retail flower sector. So how do any of us survive in the long term?
Well first off, we are not the first retail sector to suffer through this "culling". Just think about it, two decades ago a lot of us shopped at the family owned bakery, butcher, hardware store, or toy shop. Most of those have now gone by the wayside, crushed by the dreaded "big box store".
However..... there are survivors, individuals who upped their game to compete with the big guys. They didn't do it on price, but on product knowledge, customer service, and by offering unique products and services that the big players had no in interest in or time for.
I think that is the road that the astute florist needs to travel to ensure they are amongst the last men standing. Those of us truly interested in our business and industry are already traveling this road and I suspect that in many cases our business has actually improved as some of our weaker competitors were taken out. Now while most of us would not intentionally wish any ill will on our fellow shop down the street, the bottom line is better the other fellow than us.
So where does that leave us?
Looking for ways to make our shop stand out from the crowd (or what's left of it) by bring perceived value to the consumer. Unfortunately, not many of us can or are willing to take the big boys on in the pricing arena. So what can us little guys offer?Customer service, product knowledge , and unique product offerings.
Now I realize that there is not a shop alive that does not feel they already offer all three, but what most of us overlook is the fact that it is not up to us to determine if we do, that determination is left to the customer. So take a moment and ask yourself, are you the kind of retailer that you yourself as a consumer seek out? Take off your retailer hat for a moment and put on your consumer cap, you may be surprised at what you see.