Last Updated Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Local florists sometimes find they derive little profit accepting orders through online wire services. Here are some alternatives to consider.
Image source: Bloomnation
Local florists are among the businesses that have been particularly hard-hit by the fallout from the COVID Pandemic. Not only did the pandemic force local florist to close their brick and mortar doors to the public, it interrupted supply chains and also stopped or severely limited social gatherings, celebrations, and other events such as funerals that typically provide significant business for florists in a local community.
Such losses come on top of a struggle many local florists have faced in trying to maintain their individuality when so many floral orders are placed online. That’s because major wire services such as Teleflora and FTD market floral arrangements and bouquets to consumers, showing them generic stock images of bouquets and arrangements. When consumers place orders, the services forward the orders to local florists for fulfillment and delivery. Unfortunately, in some cases, what gets delivered to the customers doesn’t match the images they saw online.
Loss of Competitive Advantage
Under this arrangement, there is no opportunity for the fulfilling florists and floral designers to show off what makes them different from their competition and other local floral businesses.
Additionally, these large floral wire services take a large cut of the florist’s profit. Commissions and other fees can add up to 50% or more. In fact, some fulfilling florists find they lose money on orders they fill.
Many local florists go along with these corporations because it’s difficult for local florists to get their name out without some other alternative. They simply don’t have the marketing budget or the influence to compete with the wire services and big brands that advertise extensively.
Alternative for Florists
Although there are florists who do profit from their membership in wire services, fulfilling florists who want to be more creative and improve their profit margins on delivered orders do have alternatives. One of them is BloomNation, a tech company co-founded by Farbod Shoraka and Gregg Weisstein.
BloomNation is both an online marketplace that lets consumers shop directly with thousands of the top local flower shops and studios from across the country, and a technology solution that helps local florists create websites, sell online and be completely in command of their own business. The company gives florists the ability to be as creative and unique as they wish, making it possible for them to list their own designs for sale instead of just fulfilling the designs given to them by a wire service. They can also control where they deliver to, and respond to reviews from customers, which maintains the local feel of the business.
As Farbod Shoraka, one of the cofounders of BloomNation, says, “Beyond the portion of profits that wire companies cut into, there is also something to be said about not having full control of your own business. When working with wire services, it becomes a bit hard to differentiate yourself and your shop from all the other wire service reliant shops. Even though you are a local shop, you can lose some of that ‘local flavor’. You can’t show off your talent, instead, you are just fulfilling orders coming in – there’s not much creativity in that.”
“BloomNation is different from a lot of other companies because we succeed when our florist partners succeed,” he adds. “We want them to take control of their business and reach their customers directly. We want our florists to reach their monthly and yearly goals and reach as many people looking to send birthday flowers down the street as possible.”
Specifically, BloomNation offers florist an online marketplace and tools to build their own websites. It enables florists to upload pictures of their own floral arrangements and decide on their own prices for those arrangements on BloomNation’s marketplace. In addition, the company assists florists in creating their own personal websites as well as providing professional floral photoshoots, point of sale (POS) systems, and various marketing tools that even allow advertising through Google. There is even a feature called BloomSnap which enables florists to send a picture of the flower arrangement that customers ordered to guarantee that there were no mistakes or mix-ups.
As Shoraka says, “We wanted to make a platform that does everything a florist would need it to and make it as accessible as possible, whether it be from a technological, financial, or style standpoint.”
BloomNation currently provides its services to about 4,000 florists across the United States. Florists who use their service get to keep 90% of the profit, which is a major improvement compared to what fulfilling florists make from the wire services.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit local florists hard. Those who didn’t have the support of a big brand wire service were put in an extremely precarious situation. Many did not know how to bounce back after being forced to completely shut down. Luckily, things are beginning to look up. Since the beginning of the pandemic, local florists have come up with creative alternative ways to get their products to their customers. According to Shoraka, “A lot of florists have also started offering gift baskets and stay-at-home kits such as ‘Create your Own Succulent Arrangement’ kits as well as arranging front porch drop-offs and free deliveries.”
When asked what the government could change in order to help florists during the pandemic, Shoraka responded. “With any new restrictions, the government could be more thoughtful about which types of businesses are lower risk to remain open. For example, in the first stage of shelter in place, a lot of local governments required flower shops to close, even though they had very little walk-in business and operated very similarly to carry-out restaurants and food delivery services that were allowed to stay open.”
BloomNation isn’t the only company that provides technological services for florists. Competing companies include companies that focus specifically on florists such as Hana POS and Floranext and sites such as Square for Retail that provides website building, POS, and inventory control software among other tools for retailers. Individuals who are starting a floral business or looking for showcasing their business and accepting online orders should investigate the various services and talk to others in the industry before selecting an online service provider.
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Gabriel Gonzalez is a writer and editorial assistant for Business Know-How.