How should florists respond to floral supply chain issues?

By Ryan O'Neil

When COVID hit last year, flower demand came to a halt and growers around the world were forced to make decisions that reduced costs and limited production volumes. Now, as events are coming back and demand is high for special holidays, many florists are finding themselves dealing with the downstream effects of those decisions (and other issues impacting the supply chain) as many flowers are unavailable or costing more than double their usual price.

If you're a florist that's been impacted by the current supply issues, what should you do?

Be kind to your supplier

Yes, this is an incredibly frustrating situation to deal with. You may have clients who are worried about being able to get flowers for their big day. And you may even have a bridezilla who yells at you when you mention substituting flowers or needing to adjust the cost of the event. But just as you're handling your clients with the utmost professionalism, treat your supplier in the same way.

Everyone in the floral industry has been impacted by this chain of events and your supplier isn't to blame for shortages. They're doing their best to make your events happen and sometimes that means suggesting out-of-the-box substitutions or pulling strings to get you flowers that are nearly impossible to find for an extra cost. Be gentle on them and go out of your way to show that you appreciate what they are doing to help you through this time.

Be flexible with substitutions

When your supplier does suggest a substitution, be open to exploring the option. Not only does your supplier know flower availability the best but they have the advantage of seeing how tons of other florists are being creative with their substitutions and can make sure that they're giving you flowers that will help you create the best feeling for each of your events.

Sometimes a substitution they suggest may not be the best for the end look you're trying to achieve. Be open about your concern so they can help you find the right solution for what you're needing. And if your supplier absolutely can't find an alternative that will work for you, check out another supplier to see what you can find. You can also call a floral friend that knows your style better to see if they have more ideas for substitutions that will work for you.

When you open yourself up to the possibility of substitutions, you'll be a lot less stressed and may just find yourself with a new favorite flower.

By the way, if you're a Curate user, when you do have to make a substitution, Curate has an easy-to-use item replacement feature in the shopping list tab. Check out the clip below to see how it works.


Adjust your pricing

Between the shortage in flowers, high demand, and increasing costs of transportation, we've heard of flowers prices increasing anywhere from 10% to 250%. The increase is varying from flower to flower and supplier to supplier.

While there's no crystal ball to show when this all will be over, you can be proactive in making adjustments that will get you close to covering the higher cost of 

Get the latest list of flower prices from your supplier and then have a conversation with them about what flowers have the most limited availability and what flowers they expect to be limited in the coming months. 

Update the flower prices in your personal floral library (this may be in a spreadsheet or florist software) to be at least 20% higher than the cost in the most recent list. For the flowers that are somewhat limited, make the cost at least 30% higher. And for the flowers that are very limited or will likely be very limited, make the cost at least 40% higher. 

When you initially make these changes and start creating recipes to project pricing, it will feel like you're charging a lot for your work. But if you fail to make those adjustments now, you'll have to eat the lost revenue later or make a major price adjustment closer to your event days and deal with frustrated client.

When floral prices start going down again, then you can adjust your pricing again too. However, you may find that clients are willing to pay the higher rates and decide to maintain the higher pricing and make a larger profit moving forward.

Communicate potential issues with existing clients early

First, you need to have a caveat in your contract that allows you to make substitutions because there's always a chance that a substitution will be needed. Make sure to have a discussion about this clause with your client before they sign to make sure they know that things may need to change.

Need a contract template? Our friend, CeCe Todd, is sharing hers for free!

Customize Your Free Wedding Florist Contract Template

But maybe you made a mistake. Now you have a client that you were trying to keep encouraged through 2020 to stay booked and promised cappuccino roses that won't be available until after their wedding in three weeks.

Explain briefly what's happened with the floral supply chain then talk up all the beautiful flowers you're seeing and let them know some things will need to be changed. Encourage them that with all the beautiful stuff, you're going to make their day absolutely gorgeous. Then show them the flowers that you're going to use instead and help them reimagine their wedding with the new flowers. If they have any objections to the substitutions you and your supplier worked out, let your supplier know immediately.

This process is similar for booked events that are a bit further out where a supply issue is bound to happen. In those cases, make the suggestions to the client early then place your order as soon as they agree to the changes. That way if any supply issues pop up closer to the date, your order will be prioritized and you won't need to make another substitution.

Sell the "feeling" instead of the blooms

When you're talking to prospective clients, avoid promising them specific flowers, especially as focal points. Instead, sell an overall look for their dream event. Talk up the experience they will have the first moment they see their ceremony and reception florals.

If a prospective client keeps coming back to the idea of a particular focal flower, let them know that you will do your best to get that flower for them but you may have to substitute it for another flower that will give a similar feeling. In addition to allowing you (and your supplier) to give the best value to your client while we all navigate the effects of the pandemic, this will help you better navigate the substitution conversation as the day of the event draws closer.

Final thoughts

The current supply chain issues are a great opportunity for us to grow together in our business mindsets. As you hit new highs and lows in your business, be sure to make note of what you're learning and share it with others in the floral community.


Note: If you're interested in learning more about the primary causes of the current situation, Mayesh CEO, Patrick Dahlson, has done a great job of explaining them in his open letter to Mayesh customers.

Tags: business, Contracts, The Business of Flowers, Tips, florists, COVID-19

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Full Transcript Below

Ryan O'Neil: [00:00:00] Hey, everybody. Welcome to the next episode of the event driven podcast. It's a podcast delivered to event professionals who want to master different metrics that matter in their business. And we want to bring real world stories from professionals like florist and caters and industry experts.

Topics: business, Contracts, The Business of Flowers, Tips, florists, COVID-19


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