The Business of Bouquets

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To Carlos Oramas, floral bouquets are much more than just bunches of pretty flowers. And his company, The Gems Group Inc., a Miami-based lifestyle business that helps create demand for fresh flowers from growers like Jardines de los Andes in Colombia, makes sure that people know that every single day.

The Business of Bouquets

“When you take away the things we must all do to move the product from farm to shelf, we really see ourselves as a marketing company in the flower industry,” he says. “Through our integrated relationship with Jardines de los Andes, we grow and design flowers into bouquets that help people express emotion, how they feel about what matters to them.”

That may seem like a tall order for a bouquet of flowers, but in reality, it truly captures a lot of what bouquets are able to do for people. But that magic doesn’t just happen on its own. Growers and designers put plenty of thought, time, labor and love into everything from planning and growing flowers to designing popular bouquets and keeping up with – or ahead of – the latest floral trends.

“The look and feel of bouquets are rooted in the flowers,” Oramos says. “Here’s the key, though: All of that happens way before a consumer picks that perfect bouquet that spoke to him/her.”

BUSINESS ARRANGEMENTS
In the supermarket/grocery world, bouquets are still big business. According to “Trends in Mass-Market Floral,” a 2015 study from the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) that surveyed more than 15,000 stores, bouquets had the lead position among the most popular floral products, with 29 percent of total sales. Bouquets were followed by roses (16 percent), consumer bunches (14 percent) and all other cut flowers and greens (15 percent). They were also the top floral product across all market types, including chain supermarkets, independent supermarkets, grocery/service wholesalers and other mass marketers.

The Business of Bouquets
Sun Pacific Bouquet
The average value of a floral transaction was $12.55 in 2015, the most recent year that data were available.

The survey also found that full-service operations within supermarkets and grocery stores had overtaken self-service and mixed-mode operations between 2003 and 2015, which highlights the growing importance that service needs to play in floral departments.

Beyond service, however, consumers are also looking for high-quality products, a wide variety and a great value. Those who deal in bouquets take all of that into consideration when determining what kind of flowers to offer. “It all depends on what the customer is after and what season we’re aiming for,” says Rodi Groot, manager of Sun Pacific Bouquet (SPB), the bouquet production company of The Sun Valley Group, based in Arcata, Calif.

Groot says SPB uses social media, customer feedback, Internet research and consultants to track and execute on bouquet trends. Oramos says Gems Group has a team of designers who blend elements of “line, color, form, space and texture” when conjuring people-pleasing bouquets.

“All of those are important, but here’s the bottom line: Most consumers are not aware of those elements,” Oramos says. “They are looking for something that ‘makes sense.’ At times, that may be a price point that fits the budget; on other occasions, it may be the presentation or style.

Some purchase instances are largely driven by story, and in just about all cases, color matters. We find there are three key factors that drive bouquet category growth: color, style and story.” Some of what’s popular now include American-grown bouquets, wildflowers and “farmer’s choice” bouquets.

BEYOND THE TRENDS
Though following trends is important, Oramos notes that what’s currently popular flower-wise may be more important to other sectors of the floral business, such as event and wedding planning.

The Business of Bouquets
Rodi Groot, manager of Sun Pacific Bouquet Arcata, Calif.
“For those of us in the ‘consumer package floral’ space, the trends seem to have wider amplitudes allowing for adjustments along the way without having to pull out the entire farm. We can make subtle changes to flower mix, packaging and more to stay relevant. Keep it pretty. Present it well. Make the connection.”

In addition to staying on top of what is popular, bouquet suppliers and buyers also have to work closely with growers to make sure the flowers they need are in the pipeline. Groot says SPB gives direction to growers on what they would like grown for their bouquet customers. Some of those customers are planning for a year ahead; others create new ideas that they want to act on in just a few weeks. “So being in tune with future trends is vital,” he says.

Because the floral industry is not a “manufacturing” enterprise, products cannot be changed on a moment’s notice – or even with a year’s notice.

Oramos says he works with growers on five-year paths and planting programs that extend out two or three years. “Research; field work; and insight from shoppers, category managers and European partners all flow into the funnel that leads to what we plant and when we plant it,” he says.

CHALLENGES AND PROMISES
What to grow – and when – are only a few of the challenges that face the bouquet market. Groot says labor and shrinkage are constant concerns. Buyers’ habits are also impacting sales. For example, more people are eating away from their homes more frequently these days, which impacts their grocery shopping habits. Oramos says that online sales and delivery also are playing larger roles in the market, as is the rise in the number of bouquet operations that are paying more attention to quality, consistency and service.

“What may have been a competitive advantage five years ago are, among the primary players, the price of admission today,” Oramos says. “Differentiation will need to come in other forms.”

That said, Oramos is optimistic about what’s on the horizon for the bouquet business. “I believe our greatest days lie ahead,” he says. “Americans . . . consistently manifest a high affinity for flowers. More occasions are being celebrated today by everyday people. The fast-paced electronic world, often characterized by digital, is inadvertently nurturing a need for what is natural, simple and real. The relationships between humans, although more digitized today, still rely on personal expressions and connections. And overall, consumers want products that make lives happier and healthier. Simply and genuinely better. Put all this together, and we have a product and an experience that makes sense.”

The Business of BouquetsBy Jon Bell
Jon Bell is a writer, photographer and author of the book, “On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon’s Perilous Peak.” For nearly two decades as both a staff journalist and a freelance writer, he has written about everything from the outdoors and travel to business and sustainability. He lives in Lake Oswego, Ore., with his wife, two children and a black Lab. www.jbellink.com.