Sharon McGukin

Smithers-Oasis North America Design Director Sharon McGukin, AIFD, AAF, PFCI enjoys sharing floral tips and techniques for celebrating life with flowers.

Are supply chain issues causing disruption in your flower shop? Limiting your ability to buy or sell products? Changing how you do business?

 As business owners and designers, we are trained to identify problems and create solutions. Each day in our shops we use flowers to meet our customer’s needs. How can you channel that ‘deal with it’ focus to create solutions for your floral business? Let’s consider how we got here, in the first place.

Photos: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

Supply Chain Disruption

This year’s supply chain disruption is a reminder of Snowmageddon. In 2014, two inches of falling snow, shut down the entire city of Atlanta.

As large snowflakes fell, businesses and schools across the city raced to close at noon. Over a million people simultaneously packed the interstate system bringing the ‘driving city’ to a sudden midday halt. People were trapped in cars going nowhere. It took twenty-four hours for that traffic jam to unfurl. Some drivers parked their cars along stalled roadways and walked long distances to escape the snow-jam. A staggering number of exhausted drivers reached their homes the next day.
That was one city in unexpected weather. Expand this globally, in a pandemic. It’s basically the same scenario.

Supply and Demand

As Covid moved around the world in 2020, supply was upended. Lockdowns. Overseas factories shuttered. Shipping and transportation stopped. Businesses closed. Supply was limited. The world shut down. People weren’t spending money. What they did buy, they bought online, having it delivered to their door. The pandemic accelerated the digital economy years ahead of previous projections.

As government money reached many families, businesses reopened. People had money to spend. Demand was up. When production ramped back up, it was at higher levels - increasing cargo volume. 95% of all consumer goods come into the county in shipping containers. This system was overwhelmed.

Shipping stalled. Record-breaking hundreds of ships were left stranded off-shore, holding between 9,000 – 16,000 containers per ship. The system jammed. Consumers were met with depleted markets, shortages and higher prices.

Sluggish Transportation

Trucks and truckers kept us moving thru pandemic, delivering food, meds, and among other things - toilet paper. As Covid lingered, some truckers retired and schools weren’t open to train new drivers. Commerce stalled, again. Trucks move much of the shipped-in from the west coast across the country. Does this mean you can potentially expect rising gas prices in California to result in higher prices in your area? If so, reevaluate how well your delivery fees subsidize your delivery costs.

With surging consumer demand, a glut of ‘stuff’ arriving and less drivers available, our transportation system was quickly overwhelmed. From technology to toys, merchandise needed to arrive in port by mid-September to make it onto store shelves in December. As we enter 2022, anticipate continued retail disruption to some degree.

Despite the expectation of even higher prices, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Some experts predict that we might possibly regain some sense of normalcy by the end of 2nd Quarter, 2022. Until then, what can florists do to create new solutions?

The Covid Challenge

Photos: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

This pandemic was not a pause. It was a shift. Changing how we live and do business. 

Pandemic supply and demand disruptions changed how people buy products and receive marketing messages. Learning to be flexible and adapt quickly to change is a florist’s best opportunity for meeting this supply chain challenge. 

How can you accomplish this?
• Know who you are so you can establish shop goals
• Who do you serve?
• Who are your customers?
• Who are the people coming through your door?
• How can you best serve them?

“You can Google brand persona and find worksheets that can walk you through this,” suggests Smithers-Oasis North America Marketing Director, Laura Rich.

Hear more helpful suggestion in our Marketing on a Shoestring with Laura Rich podcast.

A good place for your flower business to start is utilizing available products. Basically, “If you can’t get this product - can you substitute with that one?” Use your creativity to repurpose materials.

First, do a survey of all the floral design mechanics you have in stock. Make it a shop challenge for staff to find new ways to use traditional material in transitional ways.

Sympathy Design Mechanics

Wreaths, sprays, casket sprays, cremation vase table wreaths remain high among sympathy design requests. Many florists are perplexed by the absence of available foam-filled mache wreath, cross, and heart forms. 

In a tight supply market, what’s a designer to do? Recycle. Repurpose. Reinvent.

Use a grapevine wreath form as the base of the design.
• Wrap a foam-loaded Oasis® Brick Tray you have in stock with plastic wrap. Secure the floral foam with waterproof tape. Use a hair dryer’s hot air to tighten the plastic. Insert your knife tip to make stem holes in the plastic.

Photos: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

Construct a cross form of natural materials.
• Form a cross from bamboo, birch, curly willow, or pussy willow branches.
• Add small blocks of floral foam for holding flowers, in focal areas.
• Cover the foam block in tight, sealed plastic before zip-tying or binding in place.
• Wrap the plastic-wrapped block in a leaf (like an aspidistra) for accent.
• Secure the leaf wrap in place with UGlu or Greening pins. Create cremation vase designs.
• Wrap foam in plastic covered with layers of aspidistra secured by UGLU or Greening pins.

Create cremation vase designs
• With a Oasis® Midnight Design Ring as the base of your design.
• Wrap foam in plastic covered with layers of aspidistra secured by UGLU or Greening pins.

Everyday or Wedding Designs 

Photos: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

Fill vases and containers with flowers.

• Use the stem ‘lacing technique’ to hold flowers in vases.
• Place a layer of Oasis® Floral Mesh atop a vase for stem support.
• Secure dry foam into containers with Oasis® Hot Melt Glue, then saturate with water.

Now accustomed to easy-ordering and direct delivery, the new consumer wants a seamless experience with your brand online, on-mobile, or in-store shopping. How can you sync this multi-channel service?

Post-pandemic customer care
• Look for an emphasis on locally grown, seasonal products.
• Offer high-quality, personalized delivery experiences.
• Expect more boutique shoppers seeking unique instore or online experiences.
• Connect with customers online. Facebook Live demos, Zoom Classes, Video DIY.
• Create or share digital content with customers about the value of flowers.
• Use Geo-fencing to alert people driving in your area about in-store events

We can’t project how the pandemic will influence business long-term. Predictions are that increased delivery service demands will remain for upcoming years.

How can you handle this effectively?
• Provide prompt and personalized service for all on-demand deliveries.
• Offer “rush order delivery” for an additional fee.
• Consider the viability of using gig drivers, such as Lyft, when needed.
• Promote delivery subscriptions for weekly or monthly flowers.

Just as Snowmageddon slowly melted away, our supply chain issues will eventually subside. The way we live and do business will remain somewhat changed by the experience. Floral designers who apply their creativity to developing new solutions and responsive customer service will be profitably rewarded.

Photos: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

What items do you have on hand that can be repurpose as a creative design mechanic?