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Feature Article in the 2005 edition of The Flower Book, Cenflo Publications

Florists Expand Novelty Cut-Flowers, 

Leading Some to Sales Growth

Drs. Tom & Tim Prince,  Prince & Prince, Inc., Columbus, Ohio


NOTE: Updated retail florist market information is available in the Prince & Prince U.S. Retail Florist Tracking Survey, now available as a one-day, on-site, comprehensive seminar, with Q&A session, or as a "Seminar on Flash".   Click on "SEMINARS" from the P&P Home Page.


Florists are continually responding to the demands of the consumer marketplace, and are making changes in their cut-flower mix.   Since 1998, Prince & Prince (P&P) has been periodically tracking the floral-product offerings of retail florist shops throughout the United States through its market surveys of the florist industry, and will do so again in 2005 (see About the 2005 Research Update).   In this article, we highlight florists’ increasing involvement with novelty cut flowers, and show that for some market segments, florists’ increasing involvement with novelty cut-flowers is positively associated with florist sales growth.

Our Methods and Measurements

In the P&P florist research, we measure the percent of total florist shop sales that are represented in six major fresh and hardgood product categories.   In our 2003 study, about 62% of florist shop sales, on average, represented fresh cut flowers & greens, up from 60% in 1998.   Thus, florists’ majority involvement in fresh cut flowers has not waned, but has actually increased slightly over the five-year period from 1998 to 2003.

In assessing the florists’ cut-flower mix, the P&P survey categorized florists’ cut flower & greens sales into five key classes: 1) Roses (such as red & non-red Hybrid Teas, sweetheart roses, garden roses, and spray roses), 2) Basic Cut Flowers & Greens (such as cushion and daisy pompons, carnations, mini-carnations, gladiolus, football mums, leatherleaf, etc.), 3) Novelty Cut Flowers & Greens (such as sunflowers, stock, gerbera, tulips, delphinium, Asiatic, Oreintal, and L.A. lilies, hydrangea, novelty greens, etc.), 4) Filler Cut Flowers (such as waxflower, gypsophila, statice, caspia, heather, Monte Casino, etc.), and 5) Tropical Cut Flowers & Greens (such as calla lilies, orchids, bird-of-paradise, anthurium, protea, ginger, tropical greens, etc.).   The 1,000+ florist respondents provide us their best estimate of their involvement in the cut-flower classes, and the data are weighted by each florists’ level of cut-flower & greens sales.

Novelty Cut Flowers Show Gains

For this article, we compare the 2003 cut-flower mix statistics with our 1998 statistics to reveal the change in novelty cut flowers compared to all other cut-flower types (Table 1).   Of all five cut-flower classes, novelty cut flowers showed the largest percentage change over the five-year period (1998 to 2003).   Novelty cut-flowers & greens increased from 17.4% of the cut mix in 1998 to 19.3% in 2003, an 11% gain for the novelty class.   While this 11% gain in novelties may seem small, on a nationwide basis, this increased movement in novelty cut flowers is substantial.   Collectively, the trends in the cut-flower mix suggest that retail florists, on average, are using more novelty cut flowers in their business operations since 1998.

Novelty Cut Flower Gains by Florist Sales Groups

To provide a fuller understanding of the florist industry gains in novelty cut flowers & greens, we segmented the novelty class trends by five annual sales groups, ranging from $100,000 or less, to over $1 million (Figure 1).   The novelty class trends show that while 4 out of 5 florist sales groups showed gains in novelties since 1998, the largest gains were registered among the largest-sized florist shops (sales in excess of $500,000 annually).   For the $500,001-$1 million group, novelties moved from 17% of the cut mix in 1998 to 21% of the mix in 2003, a nearly 24% gain in florist novelty usage for this group.   Florists with annual sales over $1 million registered a nearly similar gain (going from 18% in 1998 to 21% in 2003).   Thus, the largest-sized florists in the US are largely responsible for driving the increased usage in novelty cut flowers.

Novelty Momentum

To help quantify the changes in the cut-flower mix, the florist research also measured "momentum" in numerous cut-flower species.   For novelty cut flowers, florists were asked to select, from a listing of 28 novelty species, those that they predicted will undergo an increase in usage ( by 10% or more) by their business in the coming year.   This prediction was made by florists in 1998, as well as in 2003.   Comparison of these data over time provides a "Momentum" measure for the cut-flower species, e.g. those cut flowers that are predicted to have increasing or decreasing usage by florists.

Figure 2 provides the momentum data for one selected novelty cut-flower, Stock, across five florist annual sales groups.   Comparing scores for 2003 with 1998, Stock shows relatively strong increasing momentum across all five sales groups, but the largest percentage gains in momentum are with the smallest-sized shops and the largest-sized shops.   Thus, Stock is a key cut flower driving the overall novelty trend for florists.

Figure 3 provides momentum data for another key novelty cut flower, Delphinium, across five urbanization groups for florist shops (e.g. primarily servicing rural, city/town, suburban, central city, or entire metro markets).   Delphinium shows relatively strong increasing momentum for florists that primarily serve central cities, city/town markets, or rural/country markets.   Delphinium momentum is flat or slightly declining in florist suburban markets, and those florists serving entire metro areas.   Collectively, the overall Delphinium momentum scores for 2003 are at a somewhat higher level than those for Stock.

Figure 4 shows momentum data for Cut Tulips across 10 major regions of the US (see our regional definitions at the end of this article).   Across the regions, Cut Tulips reveal relatively strong increasing momentum for florists in New England and in the Lower South Atlantic regions.   However, momentum for Cut Tulips is declining somewhat for florists in the Pacific region.   All three novelty cut flowers highlighted in this article are generally representative of the changes in the novelty cut-flower mix for florists.   Our florist report and seminar show these florist momentum trends for 65 cut-flower species, 20 species of potted plants, and more than 30 hardgood/gift shop items.

Novelty Cut Flowers and Florist Sales Growth

In the P&P florist research, we also measured numerous product, service, and operational aspects of the florist business and examined their impact on florist sales growth over the prior year.   For 2003, we computed correlation coefficients for the presence or level of each measure with the florist’s level of sales growth.   For the largest-sized florists (annual sales over $1 million; about 60 florists in our research sample), we identified a highly significant positive correlation (association) between the florist’s level of novelty cut-flowers and sales growth (r = 0.39).   This suggests that, on average, those largest-sized florists that were more heavily involved in novelty cut flowers had obtained a significantly higher level of sales growth, compared to those largest-sized florists that had lesser involvement with novelty cut flowers.   While our analysis represents association only, and does not imply cause-effect relationships, it is interesting to note that larger-sized florist operations also have increasingly higher involvement with novelty cut flowers, on average, compared to smaller-sized shops.   The data trends beg the following question, "Have many of the largest-sized florists found a "doorway" to sales growth, and is that doorway adorned with a broad array of novelty cut flowers?"


These survey research findings indicate that US retail florists have recently expanded their offerings of novelty cut flowers, especially among the largest-sized florist operations.   On a national scale, the documented increases in novelty cut flower involvement are rather strong and pervasive, being exhibited by most florist-size groups.   In addition, this higher involvement with novelty cut flowers has been statistically associated with higher sales growth for the largest-sized florist operations.

As in a previous Prince & Prince research article on florist Designing and Delivery (see Flower News, Dec. 4, 2004), these survey findings on novelty cut flowers further suggest that retail florists are not engaged in strategies to match mass-market floral competition.   Rather, florists are investing in those core competencies that most distinguish them from mass-market competition, namely more unique offerings, including novelty cut flowers.   Thus today, more retail florists are differentiating their floral products and service offerings to consumers to thwart the increases in mass-market floral competition.   Prince & Prince will continue to track these developments, and the behaviors of the retail florist industry though its 2005 Research Tracking Update.

About the 2005 Research Update.   Being a valuable resource for the entire floral industry, Prince & Prince will update its US Retail Florist Tracking Research in early 2005.   This nationwide marketing research project tracks recent changes in the retail florist product mix and identifies florist-usage trends for 65 cut-flower species, 20 potted plant species, and over 30 floral hardgood/gift-shop items.   The Prince & Prince research also tracks changes in florist marketing practices, service offerings, shop operations, and florist sales performance.

The P&P Florist Tracking Research provides suppliers, distributors, and retailers in the US floral industry a broad understanding as to where the retail florist industry has been, where it is now, and where it is likely headed.   Comparisons will be made across the three study periods (1998, 2003, 2005) to identify trends in the 200+ survey measures.   The tracking research obtains independent responses from more than 1,000 randomly-selected florist shops throughout the US with a sampling error of +/- 3% in overall accuracy.   Results from the P&P Retail Florist Tracking Research will be available in the late Summer/Fall of 2005 in a Power-Point Seminar format.   Contact Prince & Prince for details.

Regional Definitions.   The ten regions of the US and the states that comprise each region are defined as the following: New England (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT), Middle Atlantic (NJ, NY, PA), East North Central (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI), West North Central (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD), Upper South Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NC, VA, WV), Lower South Atlantic (FL, GA, SC,), East South Central (AL, KY, MS, TN), West South Central (AR, LA, OK, TX), Mountain (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, UT, WY), and Pacific (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA).

About the Authors.   Drs. Tom and Tim Prince, formerly of The Ohio State University, are brothers and co-founders of Prince & Prince, Inc., a leading marketing research specialist in the floral and green plant industries.   Prince & Prince has completed more than 50 major marketing research reports for the floral and floral-related industries in the US, and has also conducted floral marketing research in Canada, the United Kingdom, Holland, Germany, and has recently initiated floral marketing research in Spain.  They conceptualize, design, and implement market studies, competitive research, and product tests for floral and green-plant suppliers, floral importers, wholesale florists, retail florists, and floral-industry associations.   For more information about their marketing research, please visit their web site at www.FloralMarketResearch.com.



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