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Outlook 2014: Captain to engine room for new year: Full steam ahead!

Swing for the fences in 2014. Our industry has come a long way from the debacle years of 2008-09. We have steadily dug ourselves out of the recession and now have a full head of steam. It is now time to be optimistic and aggressive in our sales and marketing. Let there be no holds barred.

In 2012-13, we experienced consistent and positive trends in sales and margins. The “report card” says we are heading for the “A” category. The domestic economy is stable and expanding. The international markets are following suit in most cases (there are always stragglers). We are primed to move to the new horizons.

Still, the No. 1 key to this success is a quality product. We must execute the Value Equation: Quality+Variety+Service+Price=Value. Here is a quick industry review by sectors:

Mass Market. Supermarkets lead the charge in fresh flowers, blooming and foliage plants, and complementing hardgoods. In fresh flowers, look for more sales in single-flower bunches and a decrease in bouquets. Our consumers are getting smarter and more creative. In flowering and foliage plants, they demand the unusual and unique in addition to the basics.

The big-box stores are volume movers of bedding plants, trees and shrubs. Quality continues to be their challenge, but they know how “put it out there.” Many are vendor-managed, which in the end may the only way to get it done right. Mass markets are where it’s at.

Independent Retail Florists. The service-oriented, vertically integrated, quality florists are making their mark in the marketplace with solid success. As I predicted last year and the year before, the shakeout continues as poorly run businesses go away. The creative florist is current with the latest trends for home, office and events.

Independent Garden Centers. This segment has had its share of shakeouts, but the need for experts in gardening is met right here. Once again, the creative, quality and service-oriented garden centers are prospering. Competing with the big-box stores is a challenge, but our educated consumer knows where to find gardening expertise.

Wholesale Florists. The big get bigger and the rest disappear. Aggressive and market-driven, this segment continues to evolve. Wholesalers are still the main source of products for the small retail florist. The progressive and vertically integrated wholesaler has even found a niche with the mass markets. There is always a need for local flower sources. All retailers need to be familiar with their local wholesaler.

In Outlook 2013, I talked about what “speed limit” sign we are going to obey. In 2014, we need to create our own speed limit. Social media, technology, the information highway and quality products need to become one and the same. Put the pedal to the metal and full speed ahead this year!

Tom Lavagetto is president of Floral Consulting Group in Spokane, WA, and was Floral Marketer of the Year in 1995. He can be contacted at 509/536-7957 or at