A message from Laurie Nesbitt, Florists Supply President
Happy New Year to all!
Since mid-March, the year 2020 at Florists Supply, and perhaps the entire industry, was quite the roller coaster.
In March and April, many of us were struggling with the heart wrenching decision of whether to stay open or not. The flower industry was deemed essential and allowed to continue, which helped us stayed committed to being open. May and Mother’s Day took many of us by surprise on the strength of the holiday, leaving our own and our customers’ coolers bare of product. May still ended up down double digits in revenue versus last year, not as bad as April and March.
June perked up as customers needed to restock and day-to-day deliveries continued to be strong; the month showed similar sales for us compared to 2019. In July and August we expected the worst as events are a big part of revenues in the summer. As expected, a double-digit decline versus 2019 occurred in July, but surprisingly revenues in August and September were close to 2019.
The year kept the best for last for us in the 4th quarter. We saw double digit increases fueled by most families celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas in their own homes.
The increases were not enough to allow us to match 2019 annual sales, but we came a lot closer than we were anticipating in mid-March. We are grateful to be able to continue to employ our staff, supply our customers, and see the delivery of floral products continue into homes to send sentiments of love, joy, hope, and sympathy.
2021 and Beyond
The start of 2021 does not mark the end of the pandemic for our industry. Spring deliveries are being impacted by an unusual imbalance of ocean shipping containers that left many of them in the United States and Europe, and a scarcity of the containers in China at the end of the year. At the start of the pandemic many large retailers put a hold on purchase orders for fall and Christmas as they were unsure how the year would play out. As the pandemic unfolded, many of those same retailers realized there were strong retail markets and scrambled for fall and Christmas deliveries. The container imbalance was also caused by port congestion brought on by less dock workers and truckers being able to work due to COVID-19, and sheer capacity limitations as deliveries for the holiday seasons were squeezed into a shorter period.
Spring and Valentine’s Day Shipments
We expect our own Spring deliveries will arrive in late January/early February compared to our usually timeline of December/January. Spring will arrive on time for the season, but first up is Valentine’s Day. We are in good shape for this flower-filled holiday. However, some coloured Valentine’s Day glass is expected to deliver in a container to Vancouver around January 31st. Our timelines for this glass relies on the port’s level of congestion and how fast the container will be released. We will do our very best to expedite the shipment and fill orders. As a backup plan, you may want to have some additional clear glass on hand that is always sellable both at Valentine’s day and in the spring.
Hopes and Predictions
2021 will also be interesting to watch unfold, and how it will impact industry sales. My prediction is that we will see a strong first six months as most of the population continues to stay home, focus on their space, and send flowers to those they are unable to visit. I believe day-to-day floral pick-up/deliveries will be higher than normal.
As vaccinations roll out, I foresee less of a demand for day-to-day floral giving. Once the elder population is vaccinated, more of the population will likely visit in-person instead of sending a gift. Vaccinated individuals will also be travelling more, and not consuming florals and other items for themselves and their home. While the vaccine is rolling out, I would expect authorities to continue to keep gathering restrictions in place, which will leave event and funeral planning still difficult. It is during this period we may see some contraction of the industry’s overall demand. I do not have a crystal ball, but it may be in the third and fourth quarter of 2021.
Assuming the population on majority is vaccinated in 2021, I foresee a very strong 2022 in events and celebrations of life that should increase the overall industry’s sales. People will want to be together and will want the biggest and best party so event business should be strong. Due to finite event locations, event momentum should continue into 2023 and to a lesser extent 2024.
For celebrations of life, families who were unable to properly say goodbye to a loved one will come together and florals will be in demand. Expect more demand for memorial pieces in the latter part of 2021, and for sure in 2022.
What will be the lasting impacts of the pandemic on our industry?
A higher percentage of florals will be purchased online. The pandemic accelerated the need for many of our customers to update and increase their web and social media presence – and that is a good thing. With increased online floral purchasing, the hope is the industry has tapped into a new segment of floral buyers. Those buyers will expect the ability to shop all your offerings on your website, along with an ease of purchase and checkout process.
Will the “buy local” sentiment continue? It can and will. Positive experiences and increased online activity have allowed new floral consumers to access local florists during the pandemic.
Do not throw out your sanitizer and masks. It is likely some consumers and employees will continue to expect a business to have sanitizer and masks available, or at least respect social distancing. The general population has a better understanding of how viruses are spread, and proper hand sterilization and face protection will stay with us for a long time.
The world will not forget COVID-19 and will not take good health and life normalcy for granted ever again. Spontaneous emotional expression will continue, and the floral industry can serve as the conduit to deliver that emotional expression.
On behalf of our staff and management, thank you for your support and all the best to you in your personal and business lives in 2021. I never met Norm Forsyth, former shareholder of Florists Supply, but I was told he often used a certain salutation that I adopted over the years. I like to think Norm would give me his blessing as I feel it simply sums up what is most important in life: “Wishing you Health, Hope, and Happiness!”