Floral sales at retail had another strong week, up 6.2% over the same week last year. With the exception of the week of June 14, sales have been in positive territory since the third week of May.
COVID-19 has emphasized the consumers’ desire and demand for a business to present a strong digital presence. As consumers began to stockpile staples and leaned into online ordering, the fresh floral industry gained insight into the necessity of a strong online presence for the future. In the July 29 virtual roundtable, panelists from Tesco Ireland and Royal FloraHolland (RFH) discussed how sales have been impacted by COVID-19, what their companies have learned from these changes and what other future changes the floral industry can expect to see.
PMA’s IRI and consumer sentiment data confirms that despite being hit hard in the early stages of COVID-19, floral sales are showing a strong rebound, with sales at retail up 6.6% over the same week last year. Representatives from Tesco Ireland and RFH are seeing similar floral sales patterns in Europe.
Tesco Ireland saw a healthy 4% growth pre-COVID-19 with sales taking a plunge to -18% below 2019 in March and April. Despite these low numbers, floral sales have steadily grown since the end of April and now sit at 7.8% above 2019.
RFH has seen a 10% decrease in sales versus 2019 in the first semester, with cut flowers decreasing by 14%, houseplants decreasing by 7.1% and garden plants seeing an increase of 8.8% due to good prices compensating for the loss. Despite lower sales numbers in 2020, RFH is optimistic for following years and looking forward to what they can do to make their operations more efficient.
Members of the floral industry are witnessing a shift in long-term changes, both in consumer purchasing patterns and to the industry.
Consumer purchasing changes that participants are seeing include:
As a result of shifts in consumer behaviors, industry changes that participants are experiencing include:
Companies throughout the floral industry are making changes to adapt to shifting trends. Tesco is looking to create a cleaner-looking, more streamlined front-of-store display with less range to confuse shoppers, and higher-quality product to appeal to consumers new self-care mentalities.
RFH has plans in place to implement 100% digital, one clock and international payments for employees as soon as possible. They are looking into developing new digital services to appeal to the online shift, and remain fully committed to sustainability. RFH plans to have every supplier commit to digital environmental registration by the end of 2020 and by the end of 2021 all suppliers must have a market-compliant environmental certificate.
Both participants cited looking into cost-saving measures and are putting plans in place for potential secondary impact from COVID-19.
It’s been a very bumpy ride for floral since COVID-19 turned the world upside down, but retailers believe and data shows sales moved to the positive starting in May 2020. Though sales took a significant hit early in the pandemic, Mother’s Day seemed to be the turning point, and sales trends now were positive for some key items through summer 2020.
During a recent PMA Floral Roundtable and subsequent online interviews, we asked floral retailers their thoughts on the current situation and the future of floral retail marketing. Optimistic voices noted the desire for healthier homes, celebration opportunities, and general well-being and happiness as reasons for the turn. Here’s what they had to say.
Floral sales at retail had another strong week, up 6% over the same week last year. With the exception of the week of June 14, sales have been in positive territory since the third week of May.
Members of the fresh floral supply chain connected in a virtual roundtable on July 15 to look at demand across the pandemic timeline and predictions for the future.
IRI data confirms – It’s been a very bumpy ride for floral, but we are on the positive side now. Though sales took a significant hit early in the pandemic, Mother’s Day seems to be the turning point as sales have risen over and above last year and that trend is projected to continue.
Retailers came together to share their comments:
The group of more than 60 floral professionals broke into four discussion groups, revealing the following themes:
Floral sales had a strong Father’s Day week and kept the momentum going into the last week of June. Dollar sales were up 3.4% versus the same week year ago.
Sustainability has been a hot topic for businesses and consumers alike for several years now, and while COVID-19 has impacted consumer behaviors around packaged goods to a degree, being more sustainable is still a consideration, including for the floral industry. Cost-containment and price for both packaging and shipping are often primary drivers; however, participants on PMA’s June 24 Virtual Floral Roundtable shared information on several packaging alternatives that can be considered both sustainable and cost effective.
Panelists also discussed the importance of creating box standards for shipping floral product, which they say will increase efficiencies across the supply chain, lower costs, improve packing and transport, and protect product from damage during shipping and distribution.
For floral packaging, there’s no easy or perfect solution, but changes can be made to move the needle regarding sustainability, according to the panelists. Retailers and suppliers need to gauge their market to determine what’s most important. Price points vary by option, and price is often a primary driver for suppliers. Packaging options include paper packaging that’s compostable and recyclable plastics. Packaging can be considered sustainable based on materials that are sourced, such as FSC paper and bio-based resins made from corn or sugar cane versus fossil fuels, which are not renewable.
As for end of use, considerations include whether the floral packaging is biodegradable, compostable or recyclable. Paper is compostable, but if consumers don’t compost voluntarily, have access to or use an industrial composting center then paper packing can end up in the trash. Some stores have their own drop-off recycling centers for flexible plastics. Paper sleeves are being used in Europe, but mostly for potted plants. Most European retailers are opting for reducing the amount of flexible plastic packaging used. Flexible plastics, including floral packaging, represents about 18 percent of the $145 billion plastics industry. Reducing the size of floral packaging, including thickness, can make a significant difference. One panelist said such changes resulted in a 10 to 38 percent reduction in the amount of plastics they use.
The COVID-19 pandemic has, at least temporarily, increased consumers’ desire for single-use packaging. One panelist said consumers are concerned about products and packaging being touched multiple times. Grab-and-go bags with handles have been popular with consumers wanting to get in and out of stores more quickly. Labeling is another consideration, and a panelist noted that all-natural, edible stickers are on the market, as well as dissolvable stickers made from cellulose and wood pulp. Options need to be evaluated; however, since floral products are placed in wet packs and buckets.
According to participants on PMA’s June 24 Virtual Floral Roundtable, not having a standard box size for shipping “fails the flowers.” Growers, a retailer and shippers shared their experiences and the benefits they’ve seen using standard-size boxes for transporting floral. While the shift does take adjustments at the farm level, panelists said it does work, creates efficiencies, eases handling, saves money and results in improved flower quality.
Up to 20 percent more flowers per pallet can be shipped if boxes are the same, standard size. Standard-size boxes of flowers packed in a pallet become one unit. The pallets can be configured more easily to fit in plane cargo holds and the integrity of the pallet is maintained. In addition, up to 20 percent more flowers per pallet can be shipped if boxes are the same, standard size. “Too many box sizes cause havoc from the landing point on,” said one supplier. “If everyone uses the same sizes, we won’t have issues with the structures of pallet. Once you have issues with the structure, you damage the product.” Standard-size boxes improve efficiency and handling at the distribution center and store level as well. Standardization is critically important for sea freight, which requires cold airflow to circulate from the bottom of the pallet up through holes in boxes that are aligned.
PMA has convened a task force to gather information and work with the industry to develop box standards.
Floral sales rebounded to right around last year’s levels after dipping to more than 30% below normal during the last two weeks of March. Sales started to recover as we headed toward the Easter holiday, but then dropped back off compared to Easter 2019. Since, sales climbed back slowly, rebounding for Mother’s Day. Currently, sales are right around last year’s levels for the past few weeks.
Our June 10 virtual floral roundtable featured ecommerce experts and entrepreneurs who stressed that the right tech, sound data, the ability to continually evolve, and finding ways to differentiate or serve a niche are among the keys to business success.
Ecommerce gaining traction is a trend PMA identified prior to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, stay-at-home orders across the United States from mid-March through late May/early June in many states bumped online floral sales significantly among consumers who gifted flowers, whether for themselves or others.
Panelists said March sales were negatively impacted because of consumers’ uncertainties and concern for the unknown, as well as disruptions in the floral supply chain. Across the board, however, sales for April, May and the Mother’s Day holiday, and into June were up for direct-to-consumer deliveries.
The panelists shared personal stories about the unique challenges they and their companies faced in the three months since the pandemic forced changes to consumer behaviors and daily living, the marketplace, and business operations. Adapting required making ongoing modifications to the supply chain, leaning into relationships with supply and transportation partners, and simplifying where possible, including making SKU rationalizations.
Where did demand come from? Closing of retail florist shops and supermarkets initially shifting focus to stock essentials played a part. In addition, consumers were looking for ways to stay connected to their network of friends and family. Ecommerce helped make those connections when social distancing limited in-person gatherings. Panelists said they expect the strong market to continue through September.
Panelists, which included representatives from Poppy, Urban Stems, FTD’s new CEO Charlie Cole, and distributor DiMare Fresh, listed several factors that were key to business continuity and success during the lockdown:
For those considering getting into digital sales, panelists cited the following musts:
One of the ecommerce panelists on the roundtable focuses on the wedding and events market and serves independent floral creatives, many of whom work from home. The niche serves a “white space” that existed in the market and caters to brides and event planners who want more cost-effective, yet beautiful floral for special occasions. The etailer connects floral suppliers and wholesalers with this pool of “latent talent.” The company provides marketing and other back-office operations to their designers. Because of the strong relationship with their grower, the etailer was able to quickly pivot during the pandemic and within two-to-three weeks shifted to direct-to-consumer sales.
Other attributes today’s consumers care about include transparency, ethical and local sourcing, product quality, their customer experience, and availability of on-trend products. Establishing clear expectations with sourcing partners and working with growers so they know what’s on trend are also important. What’s not necessarily imperative to succeed in floral ecommerce; however, is a background in floral. While it’s important to have people who understand floral design and merchandising on staff, successful ecommerce teams also include those with varied experience like tech, marketing, design and even fashion backgrounds.
In addition to the roundtable discussion, PMA presented floral sales data from IRI for the period March 15 to May 15, which includes Easter and Mother’s Day. Sales heading into Easter began to uptick, but in addition to challenges presented by COVID-19, timing of the holiday also impacted Easter sales. Heading into Mother’s Day, sales crept up to -5 percent compared to last year. That tells us supermarkets brought product in and it was sold out. Post Mother’s Day data indicates floral sales are up 4 percent overall compared to this time last year.
The June 3 virtual floral roundtable featured discussion for PMA members around the mass-market floral industry’s action plan for continued recovery post-COVID-19 and what’s needed to identify and maximize opportunities for the remainder of the calendar year.
Communication, collaboration, advance planning, connecting with consumers seeking new ways to celebrate, and uniting in the effort to make plants and flowers part of U.S. consumers’ daily lives are key drivers for success, according to the panelists.
Growers and wholesalers report continued improvement in business since Mother’s Day, with consumer demand for floral and potted plants extending past the holiday. Some panelists think the trend is reflective of U.S. consumers now becoming accustomed to having plants and flowers in homes, and adopting a more European mindset as it relates to blooms and plants becoming a normal part of everyday décor and creating comfortable, happy surroundings.
At the height of impact from COVID-19, plant growers in Canada had to discard some product. One reported having to discard 500,000 violets. In addition, they cut back or eliminated cuttings ordered from Holland for spring and summer production. The result is a current shortage of flowering potted-plant availability in the U.S.
Margins on poinsettias for the winter holiday season are small, and prebookings typically take place in June and July. Growers who need to try to make up for lost sales of blooming plants are evaluating options.
One breeder said they will see an impact to business later when they send out invoices and see losses from growers who had to reduce plantings from March to May. They plan to offer farms a discount. Increased demand for U.S.-grown and flowers from local farms will also impact breeders’ revenue. At least one breeder reported business as usual in terms of testing new cultivars, however, and they’re getting ready for future production.
Challenges and Opportunities
Transportation and getting cut flowers from Ecuador and Colombia continue to be a challenge. Leading up to Mother’s Day, some got innovative and used seating areas of passenger airlines to get product to U.S. markets. Less airfreight availability and capacity remain challenges, and costs therefore increase. Sea Freight dropped off leading up to the holiday for some growers because of the instability of the market in March and April; however, growers see sea freight as a strong potential method of transport with proper advance planning.
Labor also continues to be a challenge for growers, who are complying with government mandates and requirements regarding health and safety precautions for workers. Some have reported cases of COVID-19 illness, which requires additional adjustments in schedules and precautions. Many growers have cross-trained employees to ensure more people have needed skill sets. Finding ways to operate more efficiently and effectively across the supply chain was born from necessity, but the learnings have resulted in improvements to operations.
Growers are finding it difficult to plan, know what to grow and what to be ready for. Panelists said, that increased communication and collaboration across the supply chain is needed. Repercussions from COVID-19 have impacted growers of all sizes, with some smaller growers who typically have smaller profit margins incurring significant product and sales loss. Some smaller cut-flower growers integrated production during the early stages of the pandemic.
One cut-flower grower said he read an article about “the never normal” and how life will never be the same after this inflection point caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a new reality that requires agility, ability to adapt and pivot, think differently, and in some cases operate differently. A wholesaler said they are looking to grow their mass-market retail floral business, and alternatives include assisting retailers with transportation, wet packing and other services.
Growers, wholesalers and breeders see opportunity and are optimistic. People are holding micro weddings, postponed funerals will turn into life celebrations held later in summer or fall when people can gather more, and other events present opportunities for mass-market floral providers to help people celebrate. Flowers bring joy; everyone has a need for joy these days, said one panelist. American Grown Month in July and PMA’s The Joy of Fresh™ campaign also present opportunities for growers and retailers to connect with consumers. Longer forecasting, feedback and communication, and collaboration across the supply chain from farm to retailer are also key.
During the May 27 virtual floral roundtable, floral retailers, growers, transportation and processing experts discussed logistics of sea freight and floral consolidation centers and how both can help create efficiencies, reduce carbon footprint, and help get high-quality cut flowers to market for U.S. consumers.
PMA has facilitated conversations about sea transport of floral for a couple of years, and – like much else – repercussions from COVID-19 on the industry have brought the conversation to the forefront again and could accelerate change. Our role is to provide access to transportation information so retailers have a better understanding of options and general considerations as they consider alternatives.
Many floral imports to the United States from Latin America come by air. As a result of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions and limited southbound flights, some air cargo carriers are facing significant financial stress, including potential Chapter 11. In normal times during peak floral holidays, airlines stretch in order to meet floral transport demand to the United States. Fuel costs for airfreight are a concern during peak demand times. Also, as the dollar goes up, fewer cargo flights head south and availability of planes declines, which drives up cost.
Sea freight has been in place in Europe for many years. Since 2017, sea freight coming into Miami, Fla., and into Los Angeles, Calif., on the West Coast of the United States has increased. Other viable ports for floral import include Philadelphia. There are risks, and it’s vitally important to choose the right supply partners who know what the protocols are for sea transport, which can take about nine to 12 days. Certain flower types and varieties are better suited for transport by sea than others. Longer lead times require retailers to plan and order earlier.
Post-harvest treatment is critical, including need for high water quality. Some farms have dedicated teams that handle only crops to be transported by sea freight. There are added costs from farm to shipping container; so cost savings isn’t a driving factor during nonpeak floral holidays. Infrastructure for sea transported crops incudes temperature-controlled rooms.
Sea transport requires special sleeves, ventilated boxes, low-vibration containers and the proper cooling systems to let relative humidity leave the product. Modified atmosphere packaging is precooled, and the number of bunches per box is limited to facilitate air circulation. Vent holes must line up, and pallet-loading protocol must be followed. Shippers also use remote monitoring for temperature control.
Cut flowers that are suited for shipping by sea and are properly shipped with an unbroken cold chain are high quality and have good vase life. About 80 percent of flowers coming by sea from Colombia are now x-rayed for inspection rather than boxes being opened, which maintains the cold chain and improves flower quality. Other factors that improve quality are having knowledgeable people on the receiving end, such as inspectors, as well as processors who know how to rehydrate flowers. Cut flowers shipped by sea aren’t as fully bloomed, but they open beautifully once rehydrated. Getting flowers to distribution centers quickly is also important.
Retailers on the call said there is an opportunity for retailers of all sizes across the United States to evaluate options for sea transport and get a better understanding of benefits and challenges. Improving product flow and ensuring high-quality flowers are available year-round will benefit everyone.
Some growers are further advanced than others in terms of planning and post-harvest of flowers destined for sea transport, but there’s an opportunity for other farmers to learn and advance as well. Understanding which varieties can be shipped by sea, partner capabilities and ordering schedules is important to make any directional shifts.
Floral consolidation centers can also be helpful to both suppliers and retailers. Such centers, of which there are about 20 in the United States, are an extension of floral growers’ operational teams. Consolidation centers can receive dry-packed floral product by air, sea or truck. Flowers are processed closer to retailers and are in water much quicker. They can be especially helpful for retailers who are light on labor and are unable to process dry-packed flowers at store level. Processing at consolidation centers helps alleviate labor issues at the store and promotes freshness and sustainability. Consolidated transportation improves routing efficiencies as well.
For more information on transporting floral by sea freight, see this presentation, which was shared during our roundtable. Bottom line for retailers considering receiving product by sea freight: research transportation, get a sound understanding of varieties that ship well, explore growers’ capabilities and expertise regarding planting and post-harvest, and plan ahead.
Retailers who participated in PMA's May 20 virtual floral roundtable say optimism is strong for summer and fall floral sales, with several expecting certain categories to continue to grow based on recent sales data, the homesteading trend and desire for products that last longer, as well as consumers’ desire to connect and celebrate moments and occasions both big and small.
During the roundtable, three U.S. retailers gave updates on floral sales trends and consumer attitudes, and the retailers fielded questions gathered from suppliers. Also, Gina Jones, PMA’s vice president of insights and analytics, shared consumer data and information on buying habits as a result of COVID-19.
Consumer trends and behaviors
We’re now beginning to rebound, according to Nielsen. Behaviors are driven by health considerations and financial constraints, there’s an interest in patronizing local businesses, and people appreciate the essentials. Consumers will become more risk averse and price will be important. People are focused on hygiene, physical health and well-being.
Buying local remains relevant, and people are turning to DIY. This presents an opportunity for floral, said Jones. People can purchase bunches and make their own arrangements or bouquets. Count on fewer vacations and more staycations. People are homesteading, and retailers can take advantage of sales for spring, summer and early fall planting. Get creative and consider bundling floral products.
Consumer perception about sustainability has shifted, and buyers are more concerned with products being clean versus “green.” According to researchers, fewer SKUs are expected to remain a trend. The retail panelists, however, said that while SKU rationalization helped get through the initial weeks of the pandemic, they are not currently planning to make significant, permanent changes.
Floral sales overall are picking up, and one retailer reported seeing similar pre-COVID volume sales on 50 percent of store floral SKUs. All ecommerce is performing well, including delivery and curbside pickup. Online shopping will continue to grow. Some researchers predict four to six percent of grocery sales will be online, with 10 percent of shoppers buying groceries online. More than half of consumers polled said that whether they purchase online or not, they still enjoy going to the market.
Industry optimistic, consumers eager to celebrate
Retailers say they expect summer holidays that are typically slower in sales to present more opportunity this year, including Father’s Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. High school and college graduates are intent on celebrating proms and graduations in some way. In addition, memorials and weddings postponed until later in the summer or fall will present opportunities for floral. People are participating in drive-by celebrations for all occasions.
Consumers are still shopping less frequently, purchasing more, and are picking up items for neighbors or family members and dropping them off. Store signage includes calls for consumers to brighten someone’s day. They are thrilled to see floral back in stores. Retailers see people purchasing more floral for their own enjoyment. People want to celebrate even little things, and other people. Retail panelists said easy grab-and-go items such as a potted plant or small vase arrangement that could dropped into a handled bag are popular for doorstep drops.
Shift in growth categories
One retailer reported that prior to COVID, roses, bouquets and cut flowers were positive sales drivers. In the past few weeks, positive categories include potted herbs, seeds, home décor such as candles, balloons, orchids and potted foliage. In fall, outdoor mums and grasses are expected to be strong sellers, as well as home décor. Retailers on the panel expect orchids and green potted plants to see the biggest increases over 2019, with bouquets also expected to perform well, and rose sales to stay about the same. One retailer did say his store worked with a rose grower to offer a special recently on 400 cases of a dozen roses. Value-priced items are expected to jump.
Retailers were unanimous that they appreciate the role of their distribution centers in getting flowers to market, and none on the call indicated they plan to change their transportation and distribution models. Direct-store shipping was done out of necessity in the early weeks of COVID-19 in the United States; however, retailers said they value ease of execution and DCs are here to stay. Also, PMA shared that USDA indicates that floriculture and horticulture relief is expected to be in the next round of financial aid. More information should be available by the end of June.
Brian Numainville, Principal with Retail Feedback Group, shared findings of a U.S. consumer study of 2,000 shoppers (online and in-store) who purchased groceries at least once in the 30-day window from late April to mid-May 2020. Of those purchasing less flowers, consumers cited shopping less frequently, financial concerns, and safety/cleanliness concerns as primary reasons in that order. Learn more in RFG’s “Floral Purchasing During COVID-19 Pandemic” report.
PMA's consumer sentiment research aims to provide insight into how COVID-19 pandemic is impacting consumer shopping trends for floral. This is directional information that can help guide PMA and its members with their messaging to consumers during this uncertainty.
The majority of U.S. retailers that participated in our virtual floral roundtable on May 13 reported that Mother’s Day floral sales were better than expected, with many saying they ran out of floral products by around noon Sunday, May 10, and others selling out Saturday. Retailers continued to adapt, innovate and try new tactics.
Consumers purchased more higher-end products than usual, say retailers, perhaps reflecting a desire to splurge on moms with floral. Demand has continued post-Mother’s Day weekend, and retailers are working on replenishing and making plans for summer sales. Restocking for the near-term does present challenges. Many are optimistic that post-Memorial Day sales will be better than in years past, with consumers looking to beautify homes and wanting to celebrate the little moments, not just special occasions.
True to predictions, retailers did experience different sales patterns than normal for Mother’s Day. Customers were buying all week, so sales were less holiday-centric or one-day centric. Friday-Saturday sales were very strong, moving into Sunday. Retailers’ strategies varied. Many reported trying new approaches. Sales tactics included full-service and self-serve in stores, online sales, prepaid curbside pickup, and home delivery. Brick-and-mortar stores that used e-commerce said they limited SKUs for online purchases, anywhere from one product delivered through Instacart to a choice of six products. Leading up to Mother’s Day, consumers were buying value products; more expensive flowers also sold well for Mother’s Day.
Retailers reported the quality from growers was outstanding:
Retailers who used curbside pickup reported using some of the same tactics as foodservice takeout. In one example customers prepaid, pulled up, called the store catering desk, and an associate delivered the floral purchases to the car at the curb. Another retailer that had less floral product focused on serving customers in store. Floral, outdoor products, and balloons have all been selling well, the retailer reported, with outdoor making up for some loss in floral unit sales. Consumers are also purchasing balloons and floral for drive-by graduation and birthday celebrations.
One online retailer said sales were also strong leading up to Mother’s Day week, with product running out by the Tuesday prior to Mother’s Day. The e-commerce platform is seeing more volume planning. Consumer buying patterns are shifting from impulse to planned purchases. People are taking time to plan, browse, and buying further in advance. The shift reflects a consumer base that’s being thoughtful, considerate and has a desire to stay connected with friends and family.
Demand for floral is carrying through following Mother’s Day across all channels, and retailers expect discretionary spending to continue. Regarding product offerings, the need to meet consumers where they are is still important; however, one retailer said there’s an opportunity to funnel new products as shopping patterns reflect a pent-up demand for celebrating, connecting and buying floral “just because.” For the remainder of spring, outdoor plants and gardening products are expected to continue to do well. Retailers expect curbside pickup to continue to expand. Collaboration and communication across the supply chain will continue to be key.
IRI presented top-level U.S. floral sales data during the May 13 floral roundtable, including a 52-week, 13-week, and four-week snapshot. A full report will be available in the coming weeks. According to IRI, the industry is set up well at this juncture based on floral performance over the 52 weeks ending March 29, 2020. IRI expects floral spending to rebound from COVID-19.
According to IRI’s Market Advantage report, dollar sales for floral in the 52-week period is worth $5.2 billion-plus, which grew by +$154.5 million, partially due to distribution and dollar velocity. Potted plants followed by roses and arrangements are the key categories driving the overall dollar growth. Unit sales were 0.7 billion and declined by 10.5 million, which is attributed to increased prices. Except for outdoor plants, the other top-five categories have seen dollar growth in the latest 52-week period. A strong Valentine’s Day sales helped offset the March sales slide. Since COVID-19, sales of outdoor floral increased. That trend is expected to continue.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will host a webinar on Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 1 p.m. ET, for producers interested in applying for direct payments authorized through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). USDA is hosting this webinar to share what information is needed to apply for direct payments through CFAP, once the application period begins. The webinar is an opportunity for producers to learn about the general application process and required documentation prior to the official beginning of signup. Producers who are new to participating in FSA programs are especially encouraged to join the webinar. Register here.
During PMA’s May 6 floral roundtable, panelists shared that:
Euromonitor reported they expect the GDP to drop deeper than the 2009 recession; however, they also expect a better rebound. Supermarket shopping occasions have become much more structured, says Euromonitor. Casual shopping is out. Instead, consumers are coming with lists and minimizing time in the store. In some locations, consumers are scheduling grocery shopping with restaurant reservation-type apps. Impulse buying is down. COVID–19 accelerated trends that were already underway, according to Euromonitor.
Consumers are turning to digital channels. There’s a sharp shift toward online buying, including for grocery retail. While consumers may not continue to shop online with the same intensity they are now, e-commerce will remain a strong channel. Supermarkets need to capitalize on ways to drive impulse categories while consumers are ordering online, says Euromonitor. For example, at checkout or when a receipt is delivered, offer an impulse item at no additional service fee. Also, highly experiential in-store tactics will need to be rethought. Stores will either need to convert to creating a digital experience or drop altogether. For a copy of Euromonitor’s May 6 presentation, contact Info@Euromonitor.com.
Consumers are making fewer supermarket trips and buying more. They are shopping on different days of the week, not just weekends. Retailers report sales of seeds, bulbs, herbs, and outdoor lawn and garden products remain strong. One retailer said balloon sales were strong because party supply stores are closed. Other gift-type items like candles are also selling well. Another said indoor potted product sales have been strong. People are shifting toward basic commodity items. Bunches and bouquets have taken off again. Lower-priced, fresh-cut items are selling better. Arrangements are less popular.
Retailers also said e-commerce has been very strong, with some reporting record sales through the channel. To maximize online sales, stores must make it easy for consumers to purchase floral. Offering limited SKUs has worked for some, along with sound pricing and working with marketing and advertising staff to ensure consumers know they can buy floral online. Even those with strong online floral sales, however, say it’s critical for supermarkets to find ways to make floral more visible and easier for e-commerce customers to buy.
Occasion buying will continue for floral; however, there are challenges to capitalize on impulse buying. For example, one retailer reported that floral sections in some stores are taped off to direct traffic flow and maintain distancing. Another, however, said their queue for registers runs through the floral department. Floral departments are being staffed in some stores. Retailers also say that people want to celebrate, even if social distancing limits gatherings. One retailer suggested supermarkets need to focus on being a solution for consumers.
A representative from the Dutch Flower Group shared that supermarkets in Netherlands, Germany and the UK did a great job selling floral during the pandemic. They are seeing increased floral demand in the United States, but it’s difficult to get airfreight from Europe. Volume is back to normal, even a little higher, for floral in China. Italy has picked up. The outlook overall is more positive now than two weeks ago. They are at 90 percent normal volume. Assortment is different, but people are buying flowers.
Luxury flowers are cheaply priced. However, because of freight costs on imports, roses are triple in price at auction in Netherlands. Labor is still challenging. With floral sales expected to be strong, there could be a shortage of flowers in Europe. If people are home, they are buying more flowers. Online sales are really growing. They expect it will subside once restrictions are further lifted, but e-commerce will remain an established channel. Customers were cautious to order perishables online previously. COVID-19 has changed that.
As we head into Mother’s Day week, the outlook among retailers is positive. During PMA’s April 29 Floral Roundtable, several retailers reported that relationships with supply partners, communication, collaboration, and ability to adapt and act quickly were key to problem solving and will continue to be important. SKU rationalization has been helpful, with retailers limiting stock to best sellers, seasonal items and some stressing importance of supporting local growers and carrying regionally grown product. Examples of collaboration include sharing freight to get supply to stores.
Some department managers are fearful of ordering too much floral product. Minimizing shrink is top of mind, as is having high quality product in stores. Canada, which imports from the United States, must deal with a 45 percent exchange rate, which is a struggle. Staffing floral departments continues to be a challenge. Supplier challenges include curfews in non-U.S. countries, and in a few cases flower farm workers in the U.S. are not reporting for work. Summer is typically not strong for floral sales. There’s consensus we will likely see consolidations and some floral farms closing by summer.
Floral makes up a small percentage of overall store sales, and the floral department is the underdog in the store. Floral is also resilient. There’s a belief we can get it done and will recover. One retailer reported they posted their first positive floral sales day in seven weeks on 4/28. The belief is that consumers will be conservative in spending. Marketing and social media will be important tools to show people how floral can help them celebrate.
PMA shared a new Joy of Fresh™ digital asset, a printable sign that says there are NO LIMITS on floral purchases. One retailer said we need to show consumers the “why” behind buying floral. Floral is still considered a nonessential, luxury item. Floral departments must work together in house with other departments and marketing to create a need for floral. Looking at assortment, price point and value will be important now more than ever.
Consumers are making fewer trips to the supermarket but are spending more. Researchers expect this trend to continue for the next 12 months. Of those who online shop, half say they will do so more often in the next 12 months. Globally, there’s been a significant increase in internet sales/e-commerce. Whether shopping in store or online, consumers say they are purchasing less floral. The predominant reasons are they are doing less shopping and financial concerns.
Consider keeping most popular items and longer-lasting plants in SKUs. Contactless shopping is the new normal; the fewer touch points, the better. Shoppers did share positive sentiments: they love floral, it’s inexpensive, there’s a pandemic but flowers are still a good gift. One shopper commented that floral is the first stop/section inside the store and “happiness is in your face” when entering the supermarket.
Economists believe the lockdown will last about three months in each country, with gradual reopening starting in May. We’re seeing some openings in the U.S. and Europe. The cocooning effect during this phase should have a positive impact on sales. Global GDP is expected to be down about -3 percent this year, but next year we will see economic growth. There will be extra costs across the supply chain for floral production due to several factors, including social distancing requirements and increased cost of air freight. The crisis will also have a negative impact on sustainability goals.
A small business advisor shared advice on financial relief options for U.S. small businesses. Over 5 million applications were submitted for EIDL in the U.S.; those applications are no longer being accepted. For those who secured funding through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), if used appropriately and documented, the money doesn’t have to be repaid. There are funding options if small businesses did not secure PPP money.
In this week's floral virtual roundtable, presenters shared some great information about the floral economic recovery and the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
View presentation on floral economic recovery
View presentation on small business financial aid guidance
Several buyers and suppliers provided updates on readiness for Mother’s Day sales during PMA's April 22 virtual roundtable for the mass-market floral industry, and participants agreed that collaboration and communication are essential for near-term success and ensuring the industry emerges stronger, more unified, nimble and reliable following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original first responder has always been Mom, shared one participant. Attendees agreed the messaging is on point for celebrating mothers and motherly figures this May. Suppliers report growing conditions have been good and flowers are high quality. One industry member suggested that the “stay-at-home” policy will mean people have more time to view and enjoy Mother’s Day floral gifts, and that experience might be a tipping point that sways consumers to want to enjoy floral products more often and not just for special occasions.
Overall, the outlook moving forward is positive. Participants were optimistic that the postponement of spring and summer events and celebrations will take place during late summer into fall. And people are still finding alternate ways to celebrate special occasions in the interim.
There was some downward adjusting of goals, but retailers are still optimistic. One retailer recommended putting the 80/20 rule into practice, meaning stock 20 best-selling SKUs that generate 80 percent of sales. Remember Mother’s Day is a much different holiday than Easter, when sales can fluctuate depending on weather and other factors. Collaboration across the supply chain is key. Challenges at Distribution Centers (DCs) vary among retailers, depending on size and other factors.
Participants advise to stay flexible if challenges arise and look at all avenues to get product in stores. One retailer partnered with other suppliers to co share to fill trucks rather than ship a partial load. Another said flowers and produce coming into their DCs on different days. Keeping it simple allows anyone working the floor to assemble floral products. Outdoor gardening across multiple retailers is showing strong increases, retailers are also reporting spikes in ecommerce, and contactless, curbside pickup and delivery are on the uptick.
The outlook for production is very good for the most part. Labor issues have been worked out in most locations, and producers are adding hours and shifts to adhere to social distancing requirements. There are some challenges securing hard goods, but producers are working through those. Customs seems to be flowing well for imports. In Canada, growers are starting to see orders pick up again for Mother’s Day. Overall, growers report simplifying the offerings has been helpful. Producers say shipping is/will be the largest hurdle. All agreed being nimble and able to adjust and learn from current challenges and issues is critical.
Reports show there is high quality fresh floral moving through Miami from Latin America. Protocols are in place to ensure fresh-cut floral products meet consumers’ expectations. It’s an expensive year to move flowers. Airlines will be a large hurdle due to fewer flights heading south, which will add cost. There’s limited availability for DSD, but suppliers are working through ways to get flowers to market more efficiently. A New Jersey-based operation reported their geographic region will remain in shutdown for the holiday. They saw a drastic change beginning March 23 but are now seeing a slight uptick from florists and supermarkets getting ready for Mother’s Day. There are some concerns about post-Mother’s Day as proms, graduations and weddings have been postponed or canceled.
More funding was approved for the Payroll Protection Program. Also, agricultural producers are now eligible to apply for EDIL loans. Some money is allotted for domestic floral growers in the United States; however, the pool is much less than other industries. Money is once again expected to go quickly. PMA will share more information when we get details on the application process.
During PMA’s Virtual Town Hall Floral Roundtable on April 15, PMA Chief Marketing Officer Lauren M. Scott gave an overview of PMA’s new The Joy of Fresh™ floral marketing toolkit for members, and highlighted how the mass-market floral industry can use the assets to promote a unified message about the benefits of floral during this time of transition and recovery.
The Joy of Fresh™ is an interim step to help the industry navigate uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic, explained Scott, who said PMA will work with floral growers and retailers to refine and build on the toolkit to meet member needs. Scott emphasized Joy of Fresh does not supplant growers’ own advertising and marketing and that they should continue their respective efforts to build brand identity, loyalty and consumer demand through their own marketing. Joy of Fresh instead is meant to help those across the global floral supply chain tell a consistent story about the benefits of floral and “bringing the outside in” to homes, workplaces and interior spaces, said Scott.
The Joy of Fresh™ for floral is a consumer-centric campaign that includes three key components:
Scott and PMA’s Floral Council leaders encouraged members to:
Even companies without a social media team can join the conversation. Use personal LinkedIn or Instagram accounts. If each member of the global floral supply chain seeds the effort and shares the unified message, everyone can benefit. Attendees expressed optimism that Mother’s Day will be strong, and that retailers need to continue to innovate to generate sales. Suggestions included using outdoor spaces to market flowers while still maintaining physical-distancing requirements. Retailers were asked to consider ways to include floral in online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup. There was a consensus to keep energy and enthusiasm up and maintain positive momentum. Participants also discussed continuing conversations about creating a market order campaign that could be used globally to support a resurgence of floral and grow demand in the aftermath of the pandemic and when market conditions rebound.
Sign up for PMA’s next Virtual Town Hall general session scheduled April 22 at noon EDT (U.S. and Canada). Be sure to select the floral roundtable to follow and join your colleagues in our ongoing conversation about floral from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
This report details the latest COVID-19 state-by-state legislative actions on non-essential businesses ordered closed, stay at home orders and additional business restrictions.
The floral supply chain and retail market was upended in the latter part of March due to disruptions caused by COVID-19 and “panic buying” from consumers for essentials like food, cleaning products, toiletries and paper goods. Floral orders were cut or cancelled consequently as retailers freed up space for high-demand products and staffing was shifted to restock essentials.
Flowers and potted plants have amazing power to nurture the soul – and, in fact, the feelings they evoke help people feel better mentally, emotionally and even physically, according to researchers. Flowers and plants do not transmit COVID-19. Experts in virology, food safety, and exposure science interviewed by PMA – as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control – are unanimous that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through food or food packaging.
Although no studies have been conducted specifically on the persistence of the virus on flowers, based on all that we know about how it behaves on other organic material we can safely say there is a less than negligible chance that flowers, plants or any other organic surface can transmit the virus that causes COVID-19, says Dr. Max Teplitski, PMA’s Chief Science Officer.
Hear more from Dr. Teplitski and other experts on the virology of COVID-19. (You may need to scroll.) The videos are all close captioned in Portuguese, Spanish and English.
PMA hosted a Virtual Floral Roundtable on April 8 with about 125 members from across the global floral supply chain participating.
Top themes discussed for floral include:
Three U. S. retailers who participated in the floral roundtable and one who participated in the opening session project holiday sales to be down Easter through Mother’s Day; however, the outlook has improved from what they originally anticipated a few weeks ago. U.S. retailers expect shopping for Mother’s Day to come earlier than years past, with higher anticipated consumer traffic on Thursday/Friday instead of typical Saturday/Sunday sales.
Retailers are limiting SKUs across the board for Mother’s Day to ease inventory management at stores and make it easier for distribution centers and growers. Retailers reported their common goal is to drive units and take care of growers as much as possible. Labor is still an issue at the store level for floral. Retailers are following protocols for keeping employees and customers safe. Each part of the world will see a different time frame for peak of COVID-19 and how that will impact each segment. Some retailers report that cases of COVID-19 are expected to peak in their area and/or nationally around the week of Mother’s Day.
Retailers’ priorities: safety of employees and customers, including merchandising to accommodate social distancing; trying to support flower and potted plant growers; and helping consumers celebrate mothers, grandmothers, and mother figures with flowers. Those with established e-commerce, pickup and delivery options are seeing decent sales. Some are exploring or expanding delivery to include floral. Social media is playing well. Retailers are willing to take ideas from suppliers for in-store merchandising. Suggestions include keeping it simple, such as island displays of similar products to reduce browsing and placing bouquets in wet packs where customers checkout.
Safety of personnel is the No. 1 priority. Most reported one or two compliance visits are occurring daily. Social distancing needs require running shifts differently to keep production going. Some growers with e-commerce capability are overwhelmed trying to fulfill those orders. They are trying to execute well, not execute all orders. It is not possible due to overall workload and resources available. Growers will continue to harvest and are focused on filling orders. Like retailers, they are optimistic consumers will still want to celebrate Mother’s Day even if in a nontraditional format. There’s a strong belief that consumers will show up to purchase, so it’s critical to have flowers in stores.
In Canada, greenhouse staffing is skeleton crew, and they are reporting significant product loss as they have a lack of imports to the United States due to cancelled orders. In Canada, holiday crops are down as orders being shipped have been cut significantly. Easter flowers produced in Canada will be composted or donated. In Colombia they are processing as many stems as possible to keep them moving. Growers report they are “playing to win” as an industry and are limiting SKUs, streamlining where possible, and keeping it simple.
Fewer planes are flying into Miami; daily flights out of Colombia and Ecuador are down. No imports on passenger flights. Customs and Border Patrol inspections continue. Staff from passenger flight inspections are assisting on the freight side. USDA is keeping things moving by shifting resources. Trucks are running out of Miami. There are still a few hot spots, but much better. Creative solutions are being worked to set up DSD in some cases and to address challenges at distribution centers. No issues with travel restrictions moving product. Final numbers are coming in late, so this presents a challenge for arranging logistics.
PMA’s #JoyOfFresh floral marketing toolkit will be ready for download on pma.com by end of this week. The toolkit includes social media assets members can use as they capture and share stories of joy related to giving and receiving flowers, and simply making flowers part of peoples’ everyday lives. The toolkit will also include templates members can use for public relations pitches. Members can use the assets to market flowers for Easter, Mother’s Day and beyond.
Consumer-facing efforts also include creating editorial content and working with lifestyle media outlets, writers and influencers to highlight moments of joy and fresh flowers/potted plants. Campaign messaging includes encouraging celebration of Mother’s Day Month in May, and will include showcasing ways that flowers beautify home and workspaces, the emotional and social benefits of flowers, and ways to use flowers in at-home projects, such as crafting, drying flowers, making floral wreaths, and creating a Mother’s Day experience at home.
During our April 1 Virtual Town Hall Floral Roundtable (see summary below), we shared that in the United States the application for small-business financial relief as a result of COVID-19 will open April 3.
Some news media, including Politico and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), have reported that some banks have questions and may not yet be prepared to administer loans. The WSJ reported April 2 that banks say they are struggling to understand how to make these loans eligible for a government guarantee. The WSJ further reports “Business owners can begin applying on Friday for the loans, which are forgivable if they keep their workforce largely intact and use the loans for eligible expenses such as rent and utilities. Many details of the program remain unclear, which is complicating efforts by lenders to gear up for what is expected to be an onslaught of prospective borrowers at the end of this week.” PMA will provide updates to members as we have them.
Members of the floral supply chain connected in a virtual roundtable April 1 to discuss impacts from COVID-19.
Top issues raised for floral include:
Retail: Participating U.S. retailers say conditions at stores and distribution centers continue to stabilize, enabling them to begin growing floral presence. Participating supermarket chains were optimistic to begin planning for Mother’s Day.
Legislative: Joe Bishoff from Cornerstone Government Affairs gave an overview of the U.S. Paycheck Protection Program. Applications through 7A lenders open April 3 for companies with under 500 employees. In many cases approval will be granted same day; money expected to be available shortly thereafter. Eligibility for this disaster-relief program is based on the number of employees (<500), not the typical $750K limit for growers or a cap of 100 employees for wholesale and trade. If you applied for an EIDL loan, you can still apply for PPP loan. Companies with greater than 500 employees will be handled through U.S. Treasury Department’s Exchange Stabilization Fund.
Global Grower Update
Colombia: Production is available for Mother’s Day; transportation is key to bring to market. Current distribution is mostly to U.S. with some to Japan, Canada, Korea and Europe. Working three Sundays and May 1, which is a holiday, to prep for Mother’s Day. Asocolflores is working closely with authorities to help mitigate challenges to bringing floral products to market. Quarantine restrictions could cause some labor challenges.
Ecuador: Difficult working conditions. Layoffs happening due to government quarantine restrictions. To meet the Mother’s Day demand, they will adjust logistics and labor as needed. Stressed need for retailers to try to project demand so airfreight can be secured.
Europe: Is slightly ahead of U.S. regarding impact of COVID-19. Early in crisis, on March 13, about 20 percent of Royal Auction supply had to be thrown away, which has never happened, and this historically high percentage increased to almost 50 percent for flowers and more than 30 percent for plants in the auction day that followed. Regulations have been put in place to limit supply - for cut flowers, for example, only 30% of the supply was allowed. Dutch growers impacted, with tulips particularly hard hit. Export at standstill as European borders are closed for nonessential items. U.K., Spain, Italy, France, Poland, Netherlands suffered huge floral losses, with some businesses filing for bankruptcy. Using social media to keep flowers top of mind. There is a shortage of floral workers in Europe.
Canada: Many floriculture and greenhouse workers have been laid off. Limited exports to U.S. Supplying to Canadian retailers only. Tried ad-hock DSD program, proved laborious and costly. Hearing cancelations of Easter and Mother’s Day orders. Pinching Mother’s Day crops. So far have reduced SKUs to best sellers and less risky items. Pharmacy and home building and supply stores are showing spikes in floral sales. Seeing increased demand for locally grown flowers.
CA Cut Flower Commission: They are in frequent communication with growers and their website is updated with list of open growers. Loss of cross-country transportation to Midwest and East Coast was a big hit. Expect a cross-country route to be available soon. Retail still supporting, which is positive and they appreciate all they are doing.
The above is a summary from our April 1 floral roundtable. PMA will offer weekly virtual events in the near term to provide up-to-date information and opportunities to connect during COVID-19 response and recovery. The next virtual roundtable focused on the floral sector is scheduled Wednesday, April 8. Please continue checking pma.com for the most current industry resources and information.
HR 6201 is a bill introduced by Rep Nita Lowey, D-NY, that responds to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The bill specifically makes provisions for paid sick leave, tax credits, unemployment benefits and other items.
The floral industry has seen major disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been retailer disruptions in receiving floral, limited labor and issues with merchandising.
PMA members are taking the situation day by day, keeping a positive outlook and staying connected with each other to find solutions. Some of the ideas that have been utilized include leveraging social media and piloting new, outside of the box opportunities such as shifting to 100% wholesale labor.
The U.S. government is finalizing a stimulus bill which will include provisions for domestic growers and SBA loans increasing employee limits to 500.
There are currently no federal mandates or restrictions regarding production or transport of floral and potted plant products.
Individual states determine what falls under essential services. In California and Delaware, for example, nursery and floral farms qualify as essential and may continue operating. Check your respective state’s mandates regarding status for floriculture operations.
Also, supermarkets are deemed essential nationwide in the U.S., and goods, including floral, can continue to be transported to supermarkets. Cut floral and potted plant production and supply remain strong, including in Colombia, California and Ecuador, which is experiencing import challenges into Europe.
Some retailers have needed to scale back or cancel floral orders due to store-level logistics challenges or other extenuating circumstances outside their control. Others have been able to continue accepting floral products, however, in reduced amounts or targeted SKUs. Much depends on the unique and unpredictable circumstances of individual retailers and what’s required for them to be responsive to consumer needs.
Our retail partners are under tremendous pressure to be responsive to their staff, to the communities they serve and to their supply partners. They are rising to that challenge day after day, and they are doing an amazing job.
We will come out of this challenge for the floral industry. Stay in communication with your partners and with PMA. We are working with our representatives in Washington, and on other efforts, to support our floral members.
Updates on impacts to the mass-market floral industry will continue to be posted here as we have them.
Due to the unprecedented disruptions facing the mass-market floral industry because of COVID-19, PMA is postponing all currently scheduled in-person floral events and any virtual events not related to addressing immediate industry needs. This will allow the industry to focus on current challenges and the path forward. The following are postponed:
We are not stopping all floral programming. Instead, we will focus on providing the support, resources, and advocacy that is most critically needed in our industry right now. This begins with the PMA Virtual Town Hall: Industry Responds to COVID-19 event scheduled March 25, which will feature a small-group discussion just for floral members. We will also host an hour-long PMA Virtual Town Hall: Floral meeting April 1 that is dedicated entirely to the floral industry. We encourage you to join us in these important meetings.
Across PMA’s floral community, we have been in constant contact with our members. Based on their feedback and in service of our mission, we are taking the following actions immediately:
March 20: Small business economic injury disaster loans available
The US Small Business Administration will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
FIRST, States must submit request for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance. SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance will coordinate with the state’s Governor.
Once a declaration is made for designated areas within a state, the information on the application process for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance will be made available to all affected communities as well as updated on website: SBA.gov/disaster.
SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19 For additional information, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail email@example.com.
March 20: USDA allocates approximately $72.4 million to States for Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) funds projects to support and enhance competitiveness of specialty crop food sector. Federal funds will be allocated to U.S. states, not individuals.
Interested parties should contact state contacts. State departments of agriculture should consult with specialty crop growers, processors, and/or distributors before developing SCBGP project applications to ensure maximum public input and benefit. Note that ornamental hort commodities are considered specialty crops. State applications are due May 27.