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Outlook 2014: Wholesale florists delivering results

The complete change in the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association, its management and conference, has inspired its members to not just think outside the box, but to throw the box away and look at every part of their businesses. Who are we? Where do we fit in? What can we do for you?

The last few years, members of WF&FSA have been asking and answering the first two questions.

Who are we? We are floral distributors bringing products from farms and suppliers to retailers in the floral industry. Our challenge has been to keep costs down by generating efficiencies so that we could be relevant in the floral distribution chain. The members of WF&FSA have embraced technology to become better partners with their customers. The online presence of our members has brought more value to their customers. We have become conduits for information between our suppliers and trade.

Where do we fit in? Our members have streamlined their businesses to keep costs down and have used their logistics capabilities to bring value to their customers. WF&FSA members are helping their customers keep leaner inventories, and solving logistics for their customers by bringing suppliers products directly to their door.

Wholesalers realize that their customers are much different today than they were in the past. They might be a retail florist with a strong Internet presence, or a market that serves as a complete floral resource, or an event person who rents industrial space and works outside of the norm. The challenge for wholesalers is marketing themselves to these different sectors and deciding if they can service all markets, or if they should become specialists in just one area of the market.

The final question is what can we do for you? I see 2014 as the year when many wholesalers will take a hard look at their business models and focus their business on specific market segments. We have the logistic capabilities to help all market segments — we just need to communicate that message more effectively to our customers. Lean inventories and just-in-time deliveries are values that wholesalers and suppliers can bring to the table.

WF&FSA has restructured its committees to better meet the needs of its members. The Education Committee has already restructured the annual Distribution Conference to make it a more relevant, can’t-miss event. It will be stocked with networking opportunities and resources for relevant educational seminars. The Marketing Committee is putting together a marketing package for our members and other member-focused communications. The “Young Execs” Committee has taken on some new life because we realize bringing in new and motivated employees is essential to our long-term success.

These three committees will be vital in bringing about change for our members, but there will also be strategic committees formed to handle specific short-term issues.

WF&FSA members in 2014 will strive to see things from the customers’ perspective and deliver results based on our experience in floral distribution and a more focused business model.

Tom Figueroa is president of the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association and vice president and branch manager of Nordlie Inc., a wholesale florist company with headquarters in Warren, MI. He can be contacted at 586/755-4200 or at tfigueroa@nordlie.com.