Valentine’s 2022 - predicted to be a perfect storm with global demand, a shortage of roses never mind transport, high prices on everything and a Monday as well. What could go right?
Well actually, as our survey results shows, quite a lot.
No, it wasn’t perfect and chances of it being as good as 2021 were reduced given back then we were all in lockdown and flowers were the main romantic product available but total massacre? Nope!
As our analysis of a massive 438 responses* – from across the sector - shows it wasn’t all bad … in some cases it was jolly good … and that there are plenty of lessons and positivity for Mother’s Day too.
What was clear is that it was a heck of a long-drawn-out affair! Oh so slow to take off and then all hell letting lose on the Monday. But given the last time we had a Monday Valentine’s was way back in 2011 it’s easy to forget how unnerving that could be as well.
Red roses were still a top seller – 58.52% of you either increased or maintained your red rose quantity. However, whilst 25.54% of our respondents increased the overall basket of flowers 9.86% still had to go back for more whilst over half of those who originally decreased had to buy more too.
What was also very clear from the open questions was that there was an obvious increase in the number of mixed and non-red rose gifts which had a knock-on benefit, especially for bricks and mortar shops, that any unsold could be used post 14th.
It was a really local affair too with independents reporting either a full sell out (27.40%) or virtual sell out (49.54%) as consumers increasingly turned to independent florists rather than buy from an online company.
However, whilst 25.17% said they were down compared with 2021, and 17.85% saying they matched last year, the general feeling in the open questions section showed that a lot of our respondents had decided not to take 2021 sales as a benchmark but were up on 2020 and 2019 - something that will be important to consider for Mother’s Day '22 given we were in virtual lockdown for that as well last year.
Even so, many said it was their best year ever (although in fairness we don’t know what the starting point was) with several reporting a higher spend per order and not just because of price rises.
It was also very clear as we drilled deeper that a lot depended on the type and turnover of the business. Larger businesses with higher turnovers did better than newbies who had a limited track record to base their plans on – the latter being more likely to report stock left over.
Bricks and mortar shops did far better than home or studio-based florists as they were able to take advantage of a huge uplift in sales on Monday 14th - 64% of respondents either ‘slammed’ or ‘very busy’.
And home workers were not only the largest group to say their sales were down year on year but seemingly missed out on the higher order values too with only studios and shops saying they had seen a big uplift in the number of high value orders £70+ and several of well over £100.
Quality wasn’t a huge issue although we did see a lot more complaints in the open questions about Naomi. We too had had issues in our pre-VD trials and had to get a credit but this does go to show that knowing the grower is really important. Freedom was still the middle market favourite although again there were quality issues but without knowing the country of origin it is hard to comment - next time we will ask. However, Explorer … our Ed’s personal fave … got more than a few positives both in the survey and our social media feeds so maybe one to look out for.
Wholesale prices however were a problem for everybody - although interestingly 35.55% said red roses were high but no more than expected whilst 23.39% commenting that in some ways roses were cheap compared to other varieties.
But the majority did heed the wholesaler supply warnings with 74.60% reporting they had pre-ordered – predominantly on red roses –many saying they were glad they had as it kept prices sensible, so it was clear that savings had been made and, perhaps more importantly, supplies were guaranteed.
Because whilst there were some spare red roses, there wasn’t a huge price crash or massive availability – not surprising given the dreadful logistical problems which had some importers and wholesalers sweating to get product in. All of which meant buying right and tight was important especially as high prices meant for many a lower profit despite a higher turnover.
To us that’s another lesson for Mother’s Day and why now is the time to start re-visiting pricing yet again and, perhaps more importantly, thinking and experimenting with different design ideas that don’t include the varieties that have seen big hikes like Chrysanth, Lizzie and Lilies. Photograph them and have them ready as a back-up in case you have to switch collections.
Given weather conditions have already caused greenhouse damage, and we still can’t be sure of flight patterns – although we do know some companies are now hiring their own planes - it’s too early to tell what supply lines will be like and of course there is Women’s Day in-between. The hope is there should be enough time for another flush out of south America and Africa plus many Dutch growers who went cold before Valentine’s should see their crops flushing at just the right time too but if it was us, we’d be having a plan B in place and be talking with your wholesaler now.
Having Sunday to prep was a joy especially given the mad rush on Monday because whilst 20.37% said it felt slower because it seemed so bally drawn out, they actually saw an uplift in sales overall and 17.62% said they couldn’t have done any more without extra staff or drivers.
One respondent, who had three vans in and out all day on the 14th, already has plans for two more next year and was grateful for the relative calm of Saturday/Sunday whilst another said the “super last minute definitely made us sweat. 700 deliveries in a couple of days plus a ton of collections”.
Again, another lesson for Mother’s Day and the need for pre-planning given it is the BIGGEST flower buying day albeit at potentially lower price points and why you may also want to think about your delivery routes and prices. Look out for our Delivering the Goods feature.
In terms of complaints and moans other than the usual supermarket comparisons it was clear that the majority of customers were content and totally understood the difference between small independent and mass market operators.
54.59% reported no moans about pricing with 20.18% saying they didn’t reckon the customer noticed or cared whilst on the complaints side a massive 81.19% of you said no complaints and of the ones that were received, they were the normal ones about timed delivery, perceived value and the one where the wife said her husband had ordered the wrong thing and could the florist buy them back!
And now that Valentine’s is over and we can finally get rid of the red (hurrah) when it comes to Mother’s Day whilst there is a great concern about prices the majority of you are either ‘really looking forward to it because you think it’s going to be a good one’ (32.80%) or you ‘have some concerns over prices but reckon it will be OK as you can pick and mix more’ (52.52%) with many saying they are going to up the range of plants on offer.
However, staffing is obviously a big issue. Over Valentine's several shops lost large numbers of staff to Covid isolation rules, so even though the rules on that may be over truth is there simply aren’t enough decent florists out there.
As a result, many are thinking about limiting the number of orders and tightening the range on offer.
Again with Mother's Day in mind, whilst we totally get it we do think a degree of caution may be needed as you don’t want to be sending customers into the arms of another supplier … particularly an online player. Before you set any limits think carefully. Obviously you don’t want to cause your own health harm but you don’t want to cheese off or lose customers either!
Overall, the feeling about Valentine’s seems to be that whilst it may not have broken records and Monday brought its own issues (and benefits) it was not half bad all things considered but many are delighted its over!
There are fears about the economy and the impact that may have and the whole ‘comparing a florist against the supermarket’ is a constant battle. As one respondent said, “People think it’s us putting our prices up and have no idea about retail and think, in the words of one of my customers, I am making a killing!”
It’s also probably fair to say that women are far more price sensitive/aware than men which could be a pain at Mother’s Day and again another reason to mix it up creatively and content wise. We know it’s a fine balance between creating a range that appeals versus tried and tested lines but in our opinion, there is no point creating anything that looks like a supermarket/mass market offering as that simply opens you up for comparison.
Easier said than done we know, especially as we saw Tesco create a hatbox with drawer offering a couple of weeks ago so they are obviously looking to the bespoke sector for inspiration to up their game but we are sure you can come up with something different!
Possibly the best part of our surveys are the open responses where you tell us exactly what you think! Some make us sad when we read the struggles you’ve faced … others make us giggle as we could just see the person telling customer at 17.30 on Feb 14th “no that really is our last red rose”!
So, whilst we’re not sure you want to wade through over 600 comments … especially as many of them were along the same lines we’ve picked out some of the key ones. To read them click here.
Background to Survey
We only use the Florist Magazine newsletter database to distribute our surveys and also put a collector on our Florist Magazine Facebook page. We only email once - we don't like to clog people's inboxes up too much - we don't make any question obligatory or request contact details so that people feel comfortable sharing and the questions are a mix of multiple tick box options as well as open responses. Over the 3 days the survey was open, we received 438 replies - pretty much a 50/50 split between online and email collectors - with nearly 75% of our respondents bricks & mortar florist shops. In terms of geographical breakdown, as expected the majority of replies were based in England. Drilling down indicated some interesting figures on the turnover front but we want to do some more research before we release them or make comment as there are some trends we want to investigate further.