Better Fresh Flower Buying

I recently saw a post in Florist Facebook Group that asked about standing orders and it gave me an idea for this blog. I'd never be so bold as to say that how I did my flower buying is the best way for every florist but I did learn some important lessons in the last 10 years of running my shop. I thought I'd share a few for those that might be interested. 

  1. Wholesalers/Growers might not like hearing this but standing orders were not good for my business. For years I was told I would get "first dibs" at better flowers with better pricing, selection, and quality. I found that was not the case. After years of receiving bad color mixes, bad quality and only slightly lower prices I did not renew any of my standing orders. I knew I was on to something when a "higher up" from my wholesaler called me to try to talk me into signing up again. I appreciated the customer service, but the call actually alerted me to the fact that standing orders were probably better for them than they were for me. Of course, ordering flowers got a bit more complicated and took more time, but it was worth it. In the long run, I was able to raise my profits by buying differently. 
  2. Whenever possible, buy whole cases and "dry pack" them and hydrate as needed. This might not work for everyone, especially if you don't have a large cooler but as long as the flowers are fresh and haven't sat in your wholesaler's refrigerator for long, this is a great way to lower your overall price per stem and get you fresh product. Buying out of your wholesalers cooler (a bunch here and a bunch there) is the worst way to buy. You pay way too much, and you may not know how long it's been in their cooler. Speaking of wholesaler's, visit yours in person if you can. Does it seem like the cooler empties out on Saturday and then gets refilled in Sunday/Monday? If so, then they probably won't send you anything that has sat in their cooler for long. I bought from a very large wholesaler, and I was able to figure out their product dating system and was shocked at how old some of their cases were. That brings me to tip number 3. 
  3. Buy Farm Direct if you can. I know this will be different for every florist but I was able to wiggle my way into a "Mass Market" program that my wholesaler had. Luckily for me, I was tipped off by a floral friend of mine who used the same wholesaler. This program was not offered to me but once I knew about it, they let me order it. Without throwing my wholesaler under the bus for that one, my recommendation is that you ask for any programs that might be offered to you where the flowers come directly from the farm to you - either through your wholesaler who delivers them or FedEx/Airport pick up. The savings for me were huge (and I admit, I was pissed to learn that and it took years to get over my resentment) and the product was way fresher. I hydrated flowers as needed and could often stretch hardy flowers for weeks. I know this for a fact because when Covid hit, I was able to stretch my only shipment of flowers for almost 3 weeks. It kept me in business and my customers were grateful I was there for them, even though my wholesaler was not delivering to florists. 
  4. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. I admit, I did this a bit by mostly using one large wholesaler for all my fresh flowers and foliage. That being said, I did keep on very good terms with a local, smaller wholesaler which saved my ass when Covid hit. Even though they were only selling product to their regular buyers, they sold to me because I was always bought a little bit from them and paid my bills. They also helped me out a few times when I made purchasing mistakes for weddings or just sold my inventory of flowers too quickly. 
  5. Finally, pay your bills on time. This tip is really two-fold. First, if you start having trouble paying your flower bills, that means you have bigger problems with your business. You are either buying too much or not charging enough. This could also be that you are paying too much - if so, check out tip number 1, 2, 3 and 4!! The second reason you want to pay for your flowers on time (with whatever agreement you have with your wholesaler/farm) is that flowers are your life blood. If you can't get your flowers, you are dead in the water. Now, here's a story I will tell you that is a bit embarrassing. When my business was fairly new, I had instances where I got put onto COD because I was behind on paying. Talk about scary!! I had no idea what I was doing, was not running a profitable business and there is nothing more humbling than putting up a sign "Out on Delivery" and then hiding in my office, hoping the wholesaler would leave the flowers at the door. Yup, that was me. Another wholesaler had to put me on a payment plan!! Yikes, talk about learning about business using the school of hard knocks. The reason I tell you this is that if this is happening to you, you need to fix it - Pronto! There is help out there. Ask a floral friend for advice, ask your wholesaler for advice, ask your mother for advice, ask me!!  - but ask for help! There are so many more recourses out there today than there were years ago. Don't believe me? Just ask Mr. Google!! 
That's it. I've always prided myself on being knowledgeable about the industry from flower growing to design. Not sure if there are any nuggets in this blog to help anyone but if one person reasons this and it helps, I'm happy. Have a great day everyone!