The Future Is Not Florists
About four years ago I sat down in a room with five of the biggest players in the Dutch flower and plant export market. My task was to deliver a presentation on the needs of florists today. As I sat there explaining mentalities, needs, and the current status quo, I was quickly sat down and lectured on how florists, although a priority, were not qualified business people who didn’t really have much hope in evolving. According to them, the future was retail and the growing trend in their sales wasn’t coming from florists.
Four years later, and rewinding to about two weeks ago, I listened to a live video on a social media channel where I heard that from the 80,000 florists currently in Europe, 40,000 would not survive the coronavirus crisis. This came from somebody in the sector with no florist experience.
About 240 years ago my family started out in the flower business in the Netherlands as Huguenots. That’s roughly eight generations ago. In the last three we’ve been doing the same but in Madrid, Spain. Our success factors? Being ourselves, believing in our company, and being passionate about our style and flowers.
Sir Richard Branson, a highly respected entrepreneur which I’m sure almost all of you have heard of, stated that Passion is key to entrepreneurial success: “Give your business a purpose and try to make a positive difference. Not only can this help people and the planet, but it also gives customers a reason to buy from you and other businesses a reason to collaborate. When you're launching a business today it’s not enough to just have a product with the aim of making a ton of money (…) If you’re not excited about your business, why should anybody else be?”
Yet as florists, it’s not that we’ve forgotten to be passionate. We’re extremely passionate about what we do. If waking up at 5 am, working all day, closing shop, and continue to work and being 'alert' about our business until we sleep wasn’t passionate enough, I think some need to rethink who we are.
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Yet, it’s the subtle changes in 2008 that have set us back and put us in the wrong footing, although we do have a huge opportunity to thrive today with the COVID crisis.
The years 2008-2012 were years that changed retail and florists. All florists saw that their retail numbers started falling. New players started taking the market share – supermarkets to diversify their product offer, startups, with vast amounts of investor money focused on selling flowers online because of the huge opportunity in that sales channel, and wedding planners started to offer their own floral services. Florists were being squeezed from all sides.
Yet some way we lost our way, and, actually, the real solution was actually right in front of us. The real change hadn’t come because of the internet revolution, or, in fact, wedding planners. The competition was not to blame.
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It Was Actually the Sector
The sector had, or, in fact, hasn’t changed since the 1970s. The sector is still stuck in an extremely old way of looking at flowers, and have put the florists, the traditional sales arm of a production-based sector as part of the 1950s mentality. The mentality is the Ford model of 'we produce, we place the product in your shop, you put a price, and you promote it'.
Yet, what we haven’t done as a sector is learned and accepted the world has changed and that this product push culture of this sector has had an incredibly detrimental effect on how the florist works.
Consumers Want Uniqueness and Creativity from Us
Today’s consumer is not consumer-based from the glory days and styles of the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s. And they are not seeking a product pushed from the back and put at a shop. Today consumers want uniqueness and creativity. It’s product transformation and creativity. That this is only done through passionate florists.
In fact, over the past decade, the best florists and flower businesses are exactly those who developed their own style and been themselves. They didn’t listen to others, replicate internet businesses, or copy and paste simple solutions or floral designs that worked for others. They were themselves and made their decisions based on their style and business needs, streamlining their business along those lines and not on the push and imposition culture starting from the back part of the sector.
And today, during this unprecedented COVID crisis, florists stand in front of a huge opportunity to become even stronger. COVID has changed society, technology, and as a result consumer behavior to become more local, digital, and service orientated.
Marketing today couldn’t be easier for florists if they concentrate on themselves and put their business and passion in their driving seat, and not let others make the decisions for them.
And how can florists get there? It’s not an easy task. It’s about undoing all of the past experiences and learning new ways to change and adapt to today’s world. I went down this path 13 years ago. Believe me, if I can do it you can, too. Because 13 years ago I had no idea about marketing and business. But through experience, I’ve managed to understand and adopt an old, crippled business to survive in today’s world.
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Mike The Florist
And that’s why I’ve started Mike The Florist. Mike The Florist is a website that translates today’s changes in business and marketing and helps florists understand these changes from a consumer’s perspective. It’s about learning how to create, and the value-driven business model based on today’s consumer segmentation needs along with personal and passionate marketing and craftmanship. The objective is to inform and teach florists how to develop the know-how and implement this 'new' model through articles and courses.
The essential factor for us to move forward and be in the driving seat is, actually, just driving your passion and listening to yourself. As Richard Branson said: “If you’re not excited about yourself, why should anybody else be?” That driving on the love of bigger sales numbers and not trusting those 80,000 florists to be the true drivers, may need to rethink their passion. Because florists are passionate enough. Through the right training and information, I know florists can lead the way towards tomorrow’s Floral Revolution.
Mike The Florist