This morning, a customer ordered a bouquet of pink flowers for his wife.
I have fall colours in at the moment, with a few purple and burgundy blooms, so I asked if we could wait until tomorrow when my wholesaler will come through town again. The customer was fine with this, but I wasn’t satisfied that I had put him off for another day… so what did I do?
I went to the grocery store. “I’ll buy a couple of fresh market bunches, take them all apart, cherry pick some of the best pink blooms and use them with what I have in stock”, I thought to my clever self. Wham bam, service with a smile a whole day early- clearly I will be the next Martha Stewart.
As it turns out, I did not become CEO of a multibillion dollar media company. I am going to order from my wholesaler and wait until tomorrow after all, but like them science types will tell you– you learn just as much from a failed experiment as a successful one.
The gentleman in line ahead of me was telling the floral department staff that he used to buy all his flowers from a local florist, but now he just comes to the grocery store instead of paying an arm and a leg. I debated whether or not to say anything, and then wondered why I was hesitating to talk about flowers with other people who clearly love flowers.
“I agree with what you’re saying about pricing,” I told them. “I run a small flower studio myself. The prices here are close to what I pay wholesale– I just don’t have the buying power of a national chain.” We all chatted flowers for a bit. Both the customer and floral dept worker were incredibly friendly, and I really enjoyed the conversation with them. (Hey, I work from home. I usually have conversations with the cat.) Everyone at that counter was happy with what they got and what they spent on it.
There is absolutely no way around it- you will pay more to buy flowers from me than you will pay at a grocery store. It’s simple economics and I don’t think anyone is doing anything wrong: the national chains ship in entire truckloads, and other than wedding orders, I tend to buy my flowers by the armload. My wholesaler is not going to offer me that kind of volume discount, and I don’t have loss leaders and other revenue streams like the chain stores. If I dropped my prices to compete with a grocery store… I probably wouldn’t be able to shop at the grocery store.
On the way home, I wondered how I can articulate why I charge what I charge:
Those bunches I bought looked great in the shop; the gladiola and little pink spray roses were fine, but when I opened up my mixed bouquet of Ontario blooms, there were rotting leaves, pale stems, mold blooms on some of the flowers. Because the bunch in question hadn’t been correctly processed, the leaves and blooms left below the waterline had begun to rot, and this was affecting all of the flowers. In all good faith, I can’t send out a single stem from that bunch, no matter how much I like the grower, colour and variety.
I don’t want it to sound like I’m slamming the workers at the floral department- because of the volumes they are dealing with, and the setup of their shop, they just don’t have the time to pick open and process each and every bunch of flowers that comes through.
I inspect and process every single stem that I receive.
2. Delivery service
We will hand-deliver those fleurs for you, and we will figure out a specific delivery window that works with your schedule. I don’t think any of the grocery chains in this part of the country offer floral delivery- definitely someone correct me if I’m wrong!
3. Presentation, design, packaging
You can buy a market bunch (I sell them, too- unprocessed bunches direct from my wholesaler- for diy weddings and for the Lush shop at the Cataraqui Town Centre) for far less than a bunch that has been inspected, processed stem by stem, and arranged especially for you.
When I send out an order for a customer, I don’t just leave it in its plastic sleeve. I select different flowers and foliage, create a custom design tailored to my customer’s vision and budget, and then package their order with biodegradable cello, tissue, and ribbon. The wrapping, tags, and cards are an integral part of the presentation.
To borrow another grocery store department as an example, it’s the difference between picking up a boxed cake from the bakery section, or having one custom made and decorated by a local bakery.
The addition of floral departments to grocery chains has really affected florists in North America.
Obviously I’m pretty biased in favour of ‘shop florist!’
and I try to set myself apart from the chain shops by offering custom designs and seeking out the highest quality blooms.
Some people just want a bunch of flowers. Some people want a custom work of floral art. Fortunately, the floral industry in this town is big enough to serve both kinds of customers.
I’m happy when your flowers make you happy.
I would love to hear what you think about grocery store flowers vs. florists- feel free to leave me a comment, internetland!
Also, feel free to stop by with cake, because now that I’ve mentioned it, I really really want some.