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Outlook 2014: Consumer demands influence global container production

As predicted, and thanks to a 2013 mid-week Valentine’s Day, the floral industry reported one of its strongest sales figures in recent memory. According to the Society of American Florist, traffic in floral shops was up 36 percent for the holiday. Also holding true was consumer appetite for containers with a vintage feel, and for flower vessels that evoke an image of environmental responsibility.

A potential 2012 strike by U.S. dockworkers had threatened the supply of imported vases for the first quarter of 2013, but fortunately that was averted.

However, the supply of vases from China is still of concern. Economic conditions there may affect their ability to provide quality products that meet consumers’ trends expectations.

The anticipated trends for 2014 don’t appear to be much different than those of 2013. Although evolving into a broad spectrum of categories, the demand for vintage goods will continue to gain momentum. This vintage movement, combined with the push for environmentally friendly products, and for products made locally, will be your trend leaders for 2014.

Vintage. What started as a thirst for nostalgic goods is becoming a whole new industry for manufacturers. We now have vintage trends that include 21st Century Romance, Mad Men Mod, Jar Craft and the Industrial Revolution. If you provide containers that match these eras and looks, you will have consumers eager to spend.

Environmental consciousness. A leading consumer study group found that 90 percent of consumers consider themselves eco-conscious, and that 64 percent of consumers want to bring plants and flowers into their homes. So stock your shelves with glassware (the most eco-friendly vessel in the world) and containers made of natural materials, and watch your sales soar. Don’t forget terrariums, a hot movement among consumers bringing green into their homes.

Buy local. Consumer studies show that four out of five shoppers will choose products produced locally. “Made in the USA” matters now more than ever.

Chinese imported goods. Pressure on Chinese manufacturers to maintain their status as the world’s low-cost producer is great, and has become problematic. Labor costs in the past few years have exceeded 20 percent annually, and the Chinese Labor Bureau is predicting an increase of 13 percent annually in labor costs through 2015. Additional increases in land costs, new safety regulations, and higher taxes, have Chinese producers scrambling to find ways to cut costs. University studies show the No. 1 strategy in mitigating rising costs is cutting corners, which ultimately results in poorer quality products. Many floral industry buyers agree that the quality of clear and colored vases continues to be a major challenge.

A 2013 study by a leading consumer research group showed that for the first time in a long time, world consumers consider United States manufacturers to be No. 1 in design, environmental responsibility, and quality. Floral retailers who promote “Buy USA,” eco-friendly containers, and a broad spectrum of era-specific products should be optimistic for another banner year in 2014.

Kelvin Frye is national sales manager for emerging markets at Syndicate Sales in Kokomo, IN. He can be contacted at 765/457-7277 or at kfrye@syndicatesales.com.