Congressional Reps Unveil Bipartisan Caucus for Domestic Cut Flowers
By Mary Westbrook
“I am thrilled to work with Congressman Hunter to launch the bipartisan Congressional Cut Flower Caucus,” Capps said. “Floriculture is our nation’s third largest agricultural product, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity. This caucus will be a platform to highlight these contributions and for increasing awareness for the issues facing the industry.”
“Cut flowers are an important part of our local economy and offer consumers the opportunity to support American agriculture. In fact, my home state of California accounts for three-quarters of all cut flowers grown here in the United States. I am proud to co-chair the bipartisan Cut Flower Caucus with my colleague, Representative Capps, to help bring attention to the issues facing American growers,” said Hunter.
Caucuses are regularly formed on Capitol Hill and often serve as a working-group platform for a particular issue; their level of activity varies widely, from staging grounds for public relations-photo opps to arenas for vigorous discussions and advocacy, according to beltway insiders. While Capps and Hunter will set the group’s agenda, California Cut Flower Commission Chairman Mike A. Mellano, of Mellano and Company, based in Los Angeles, said initial efforts will likely focus on awareness-building.
“The first step is getting interest and generating some energy,” he said. “One of the main drivers is getting recognition for domestically grown cut flowers and (the fact) that we have significant production. Clearly, the caucus is going to be looking for opportunities to help our industry thrive for many generations.”
CCFC started organizing “fly-in” visits to Congress six years ago to raise awareness itself among federal lawmakers; two years ago they invited growers from other states, including Washington, Texas and Pennsylvania, among others, to join the effort, which gave their cause more reach, said former CCFC Chairman Lane DeVries, AAF, of The Sun Valley Group in Arcata, Calif. DeVries traveled to Washington, D.C., last week for the caucus announcement. “This is really about flowers that are grown on our farms in California, Washington State, where ever the case may be (in the U.S.),” he said. “It’s really gratifying now, as we find ways to connect to (consumers and lawmakers) and tell our story.”
Domestic flower-share has decreased significantly in the past 30 years, from around 70 percent in the early 1990s to less than 30 percent today, and U.S. growers point to many factors behind that drop, including trade policies, labor and health care costs and environmental factors (water usage and pesticide regulations), among other challenges. How — and if — the caucus will address those issues remains to be seen, but Mellano said the establishment of the caucus is an important milestone.
“The evolution of the industry (from heavy reliance on domestic flowers to dependence on imports, particularly from Colombia and Ecuador), did not happen overnight, and it won’t change overnight either,” he said, adding that he and others are looking for a more “level playing field.”
“We don’t want to create an inflammatory environment or go to battle with our South American friends and partners … but we are looking for every positive opportunity we have to position the domestic flower producer to succeed in combination with products out of South America and other parts of the world,” said Mellano, who has trading partnerships with growers in Colombia and Ecuador. “We are friends and we are compatriots, and in some instances we are competitors. Competitors compete.”
Growers and advocates such as Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm in Mount Vernon, Wash., who was also in Washington, D.C., last week, count the establishment of the caucus as a second success in Washington this winter, following the White House’s use of homegrown product at a State Dinner in February. (Read more about the State Dinner in last week’s E-Brief. “(The caucus) will help to raise awareness with local florists and consumers that there are important economic, environmental and quality considerations to be made when buying flowers,” she said.
CCFC’s CEO, Kasey Cronquist, PFCI, said California’s environmental laws — among the most stringent nationwide — mandate that flower farms must “adhere to high standards that protect our air, water and soils.” He added that CCFC is also in the process of developing a certification (administered through a third-party).
For some in the industry, the news of the caucus produced a wait-and-see mentality. Like Mellano, Chris Drummond, AAF, of Plaza Flowers outside of Philadelphia, pointed to the complex issues that the caucus will have to tackle if it’s to be more than a feel-good platform for lawmakers. While Drummond, who was not involved in advocating for the caucus, does see consumer sentiment supporting locally grown flowers and ornamentals, among his customers, “the impetus that’s driving purchasing is still value,” he said. “If that’s not there, it’s difficult.”
Drummond and Christine Boldt, executive vice president of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida, also said that advancements made in South America, in terms of improved quality and strong social and environmental certifications and initiatives, can sometimes be lost in the discussion about the importance of American-grown product — as can the economic benefit of that segment. Florverde Sustainable Flowers, for instance, has certified 74 of the 116 exporting farms in Colombia, representing 40 percent of the country’s total exports (in volume).
“We strongly feel that we’re complements to each other, not competitors,” Boldt said, adding that imported flowers “are supporting more than 200,000 jobs in transportation, supermarkets and other places.”
“If we could overall just try to increase consumption of flowers, we would all benefit —Colombia and California,” she said. That message was echoed by former SAF President Harrison “Red” Kennicott, AAF, of Kennicott Brothers Company in Chicago. Thirty years ago, the company’s farm in Illinois was “one of the largest rose growers in America.” They shut down the operation when they could no longer compete with California growers; the business has changed even more since that time. “Today, we continue to prefer selling local and American-grown flowers, but over 70 percent of our flowers are now imported,” Kennicott said.
In Sewell, N.J., John Richards said “about one-third of (Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist’s) flowers are from domestic sources from coast to coast and local growers with seasonal offerings.” He said he hopes the caucus leads to increased visibility of American-grown product — and called California product in particular “integral” to his business. Still, he said, large challenges loom for everyone.
“One of the continual challenges for our industry is the consumer's attitude towards flowers as being a specialty item and mainly for occasions and not general use or consumption,” he said. “Hopefully through the caucus, there will be more dialog, potential PR and value placed on flowers and flowers grown in the U.S. As an industry, we have to do a better job with flower promotion and the overall value to the public and the contribution to the US economy.”
Kennicott agreed. “Any effort which raises the awareness of flowers among consumers is a huge benefit to our entire industry,” he said. “The biggest challenge is to keep all messages positive.”
Two Surveys Provide Valentine's Day 2014 Overview and Insight
By Mary Westbrook
The poll also found that one quarter (23 percent) of American adults bought fresh flowers or plants as gifts for Valentine’s Day, about the same as last year (25 percent).
A separate survey that queried SAF member florists about holiday results found divided results within the industry: About 42 percent reported an increase in sales and roughly the same number reported a decrease. Sixteen percent reported flat sales this year. (Those numbers are fairly consistent with results from SAF’s Gut Check Survey, sent out immediately after the holiday, and previously reported in E-Brief.)
For many respondents, poor — or, downright awful — weather conditions became the story of the holiday: Among those who experienced a drop of 16 to 20 percent, 82 percent said the weather was a factor; about 96 percent of those who saw decreases of more than 21 percent attributed at least some of the drop-off to the weather. The survey found that about 42 percent of respondents turned away business or stopped taking orders this year — a decrease from last year’s roughly 64 percent.
In metro Atlanta, historic icy conditions forced Betsy Hall to close her store, Hall’s Flower Shop and Garden Center, at 2 p.m. on Feb. 11, and all day Feb. 12. She was open Feb. 13 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., with limited delivery, and all day on Feb. 14, when walk-in business was “strong all day” but she was “unable to take any more orders for delivery.” The final tally for her week was painful: down 43 percent.
Radebaugh Florist and Greenhouses also had to deal with wintry conditions around Baltimore, Md. “We lost all walk-in traffic on (Feb. 13) because of the snow,” said Kaitlin Radebaugh. “We were lucky that we got all of our Thursday deliveries out on Wednesday and were able to deliver everything on Friday thanks to the SUVs we rented earlier in the week.” While Radebaugh said average transaction sizes appeared to have increased — in keeping with the results from SAF’s consumer poll — the business was down for the week because of the weather. Still, she said, the shop’s can-do spirit helped ease the chill — and stay in customers’ good graces. “I know we gained a lot of goodwill with our customers throughout the week because of how we handled things,” she said.
In other parts of the country, the forecast was better and so were the results. At Memorial Florists and Greenhouses in Appleton, Wis., Bob Aykens, AAF, said he had projected a 5-percent decrease from 2013 because of day-of-the-week sales trends. While the total number of sales did decline by 5 percent, the average sale was up 3.2 percent; by week’s end, Aykens found that they were more or less even with last year — a positive development for Aykens and his team. “I also noticed lots of gentlemen purchasing for their wife, mother and daughter in one transaction where in past they would be just buying for their wife,” Aykens said.
Highlights from the two surveys include:
SAF Consumer Poll Findings
SAF Joins Forces With Business Groups in Letter to Boehner
by Brian Gamberini
SAF joined 636 business organizations in signing a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week, urging that the House move forward on immigration reform this year. The letter, organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was also sent to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.
It urges the House Republican Conference to use the standards released by House Republican leaders in January, as a guide. “The timing on this letter couldn’t be more perfect, in advance of our Congressional Action Days,” said SAF’s Lin Schmale. “It specifically notes agriculture’s needs. We believe that agriculture has made its case and desperately needs reform this year — in fact, we have needed it for several years!”
The large and diverse cross-section of American businesses signing the letter clearly points to the great economic consequences of failure to move forward this year.
The letter states, “We are united in the belief that we can and must do better for our economy and country by modernizing our immigration system. Done properly, reform will deter illegal immigration, protect and complement our U.S. workforce, better respond to changing economic and demographic needs, and generate greater productivity and economic activity, while respecting family unity... Failure to act is not an option.”
“During Congressional Action Days, we will be adding floriculture’s voices once again to what is becoming an increasingly loud call for action,” Schmale said. “If you’re not at CAD, you’re missing a chance to help move one of the great issues of our era.”
Event Business: Not One Size Fits All
By Katie Hendrick
Here’s one of their approaches:
Mandy Majerik, AIFD, PFCI, of HotHouse Design in Birmingham, Ala., began collecting exclusive, hard-to-source props and storing them at an offsite warehouse. She began allotting at least 15 minutes of her wedding consultations to taking brides-to-be on a tour of her treasures, prompting at least one to say, “Oh my God! It’s like walking through Pinterest.” With that, an extension of her brand was born in 2013: PropHouse, a rental division. Majerik positioned herself as the floral designer able to source the most unique and whimsical décor, and has grown her wedding revenue by 25 percent.
Read more about Marjerik and others in “Right Size Your Wedding Business.”
Annual Report Highlights AFE's Latest Accomplishments
By Suzanna McCloskey
“This annual report showcases the recent exciting ways AFE has been serving all segments of the floriculture and environmental horticulture industries,” AFE Chairman Paul Bachman of Bachman’s, Inc. said. “The donors who generously support the Endowment make all of this great work possible.”
2012-2013 annual report highlights include AFE's:
Past annual reports dating back to 1988 and information about other AFE programs and services are also available online.
Americans' Confidence in the Economy Improves Slightly
Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index increased slightly to -15 for the week ending Feb. 23, after registering -17 or lower the prior four weeks. While the index is still negative, it is nearing the highest weekly average in 2014 to date: -13 found in early January, before the Dow Jones Industrial Average took a major dive. It is still below the readings of -10 and higher found at times last year. Read more.
Two Business Basics to Review Constantly
By Katie Hendrick
In a recent article for Inc., he highlights a few tenets of business that you may take for granted, but should be reviewing every day:
Know your customers. It’s good to know your market; it’s better to know people: “...what they want, what they lack, where they feel pain and what they hope for,” said Sherman. How? Talk to your customers. Make small talk. Friend them on Facebook. Host a small party in your shop. Then listen. Maybe they’ll mention belonging to a civic organization that has monthly luncheons or a big event coming up (presenting an opportunity to pitch your services) or an interest in learning some floral pointers (hint: consider teaching design classes).
Look for simple, yet big ideas. “Take your customer knowledge and start to solve their problems,” Sherman says. For a good example, read how BJ Dyer, AAF, AIFD, and his late partner, Guenther Vogt, of Bouquets in Denver, Colo., listened to their event clients project low attendance and, in turn, hosted seminars on turning Facebook into an attendee-getting machine. As a result of their problem-solving initiative, they grew their own business as their clients’ budgets expanded with sold-out parties. This simple, but ingenious campaign earned the shop the 2009 Floral Management Marketer of the Year award. (Got an idea you’d like to enter in this year’s contest — and throw your hat in the ring for the $5,000 prize? Click here for info.
The No. 1 Reason 80 Percent of Advertising Fails
By Katie Hendrick
“It's a scientifically proven fact that five times as many people read headlines as read body copy of an ad,” says John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing Consultants. “Yet, most small business advertising is wasted for lack of an effective headline or, worse yet, no headline at all.”
Don’t fall into the camp that sends out emails without carefully considered subject lines, posts pictures on Facebook without a witty caption or mails postcards that lack a clear call to action.
To make it easier, Jantsch offers these four guidelines for what makes an effective headline:
Stop Discounting: 5 Easy Tips to Sell at a Premium Price
By Marc Wayshak
Have you ever discounted your price in order to close a deal? Have you ever touted lower prices in order to get a foot in the door? Then you are in the vast majority of companies that view discounting as a necessary evil. However, discounting not only destroys your sale's profitability, but it also lowers your value in the eyes of the customer. It is time to stop the discounting and enter into the world of premium value. Here are five easy tips to help you sell at a premium price. Read more.
For Proof of Recovery, USA Today Turns to Florist
By Mary Westbrook
When USA Today went looking for a small business that illustrated a broader economic trend, they found the perfect example in Maris Angolia, president of Karin’s Florist in Vienna, Va. The newspaper recently highlighted Angolia, and her plans to replace a 180,000-mile Toyota Scion xB delivery vehicle “clinging to life.” According to the story, “the van purchase, the second for Karin's in the past four months, is evidence that small-business owners — once too suspect of a wobbly economy to make big-ticket purchases — are starting to invest in their companies again. The willingness to spend is good news for the auto industry and a positive sign for the broader economy.”
Online Consumers Show Greater Loyalty to Fewer Retailers
Online shoppers around the world want a reason to stick with a particular retailer or a small group of merchants, suggest global survey findings from consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. 15 percent of survey respondents say that over the last year, they have shopped with only one retailer through any channel. That's up from 8 percent in 2012. A further 43 percent report shopping with between two and five retailers over the past year, up from 35 percent in 2012. 27 percent of respondents say they shop with 6 to 10 retailers, down from 35% the year before. 14% shop with 11 to 20, down from 21% in the previous year, while 1% shop with 21 or more, the same as in 2012. Read more.
What Brands Should Know About the New Woman Consumer
The role and purchasing power of the female audience are changing, yet brands have been slow to drop outdated stereotypes, writes Jane Bainbridge. The 1950s advertising image of the archetypal female consumer was one of a consummate homemaker: attractive, slim, two beautiful children (one boy, one girl), handsome husband, content within her domestic domain. Roll forward 60-odd years and this image doesn’t feel quite so consigned to history as it should. Read more.
Last-Minute Ways to Promote Women's Day
By Shelley Estersohn
Women's Day Facebook Graphics
By Shelley Estersohn
7701 Las Colinas Ridge, Ste. 800, Irving, TX 75063