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MIAMI — The Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association’s annual Floral Distribution Conference, held here Oct. 24-26, drew close to 800 attendees, breaking a record going back nearly a quarter-century. It also had a sold-out exhibit area with 96 table-top displays, two fully booked airport tours, and a full house in its host hotel, the Doral Trump Resort.

WFFSA1212-ZEIGERPaul Zieger of Zieger & Sons in Philadelphia was presented with the 2012 Leland T. Kintzele Distinguished Service Award by Nick Fronduto, WF&FSA president.The show focused on the theme “What’s Next?” and explored how the next generation will change and lead the industry, along with sessions on how social media will dominate not just contact with emerging leaders, but also the business of the floral industry itself. (See story, “WF&FSA speakers describe new generation of leaders, dominance of social media,” page 116.)

Paul Zieger of Zieger & Sons in Philadelphia was honored as the 2012 Leland T. Kintzele Award winner. Mr. Zieger’s early adoption of technology was noted (he was one of the first wholesalers to have an online inventory and still is information technology czar at the company, even in retirement). As president of WF&FSA, he called growers to action on the cold chain. Honoring a former WF&FSA president from 1963-66, the Kintzele Award is the association’s highest honor.

Pat Dahlson, chief executive officer of Mayesh Wholesale Florist Inc. in Los Angeles, was elected president at the association’s annual business meeting, succeeding Nick Fronduto. Mr. Mayesh urged the association to focus on passion, education and youth. “We have to earn our place in the hearts, minds and wallets of our potential customer. We must bring the passion every day,” he said.

Also, he said, “We must be in the business of education. Our employees must be equipped with as much flower knowledge as we can possibly give them and they in turn will pass that through to their clients who, in turn, will educate the general public about the virtues of flowers. We, as wholesalers and suppliers, must take a lead role in education.”

Returning to the conference theme of youth, he stated. “We must recruit young people into our flower industry. We have plenty to offer. A lifestyle career is what I call it.” He noted that employees in the floral industry work with beautiful products, use creativity, enjoy a fast-paced workplace, usually have flexible hours and can wear casual clothes. Passion, he concluded, was key to success.

Outgoing president Nick Fronduto told the business meeting that WF&FSA “has done an excellent job of reinventing itself over the past couple of years. But, as a board, we are not content with this. We recognize that even though the momentum is carrying us in the right direction, we can and must do better.”

He cited the need to “continually look at ourselves in the mirror” and ensure the association conveys a clear message to current and potential members “as to who we are, what we stand for and the value that we provide.” He said the board will meet in Charlotte, NC, prior to the annual Management Institute in March to develop a strategy to accomplish this.

The meeting ended with a flourish as designers Bill Schaffer and Kris Kratt of Schaffer Designs offered a spectacular look at coming floral trends.

The 2013 Floral Distribution Conference will be held Oct. 23-25 at the Doral Trump Resort in Miami.