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Industry outlook: A crystal ball is as clear as mud

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could rely on a crystal ball to assist us in the development of our business strategies? Despite my almost 40 years in both sides of the supermarket floral industry —and knowing that a crystal ball would be about as clear as mud — I reached out to former colleague Debora Coleman, vice president of floral at Albertsons Co. and chair of the PMA Floral Council, to gain her insight into what she believes 2018 will bring to the floral industry. To my delight, our predictions aligned just like the moon and the stars.

CiINDY-RAPSHUSCindy RapshusI envision that 2018 is going to be a great year. Before I put a money-back guarantee on those words, let me preface that we need to re-focus on our strengths and strategically plan to drive success. With Valentine’s Day falling on a Wednesday, I predict that will be the catalyst for sales improvement for all of 2018.

Despite the popularity of internet shopping, there’s never been a better time for brick-and-mortar floral retailers to capitalize on their ability to provide fast and affordable gift solutions, as well as flowers and foliage as accents for home décor. In a recent 2017 Deloitte Holiday Retail Study aimed at the very ethnic and socio-economic Chicagoland market, almost 40 percent of the respondents to the survey prefer to shop in-store, 34 percent remaining neutral but citing the “ability to be inspired” as a primary reason to visit a retail environment. What a perfect opportunity for floral retailers to capitalize on.

Category predictions: As we experienced when Martha Stewart came on the scene promoting usage of flowers in our homes, Pinterest boards are exploding with DIY ideas of how to use flowers and plants in the home, for weddings, and for all occasions. Demand for fresh flowers will continue to grow as many Gen X and Y shoppers now have flowers as part of their grocery list. Easy-care plants and those shown on HGTV or DIY marketing — used in lieu of art or décor — will continue to grow in popularity, as will outdoor finished blooming and seasonal pots as those same X and Y customers crave fast and easy ways to make their homes look good. Additionally, due to the higher costs of traditional sympathy flowers and delivery, some consumers are now picking up a long-lasting plant or an indoor garden basket, as an expression of sympathy.

Supply chain predictions: In the fresh flower category, rising freight costs may change product pricing and a need for a re-evaluation in stem counts to maintain retails and/or gross profit. Labor challenges at farm- and/or production-level operations will create an even greater need for advanced planning and pre-booking by retailers. Some shift of potted plant growing to more robust and profitable cannabis operations may impact supply, and could drive costs up in certain regions.

Retail operations predictions: As wages continue to rise and subsequently, labor hours diminish, a skilled and consistent workforce is becoming more difficult to assure daily operations. Retailers, who cut back on floral scheduling in semi- to full-service operations, will need to re-invest in the department as they see negative sales and gross profit results from too significant of cutbacks. Suppliers will again help re-invigorate floral training programs and assist with ongoing floral education. Retailers that are restricted to self-service operations will need to adopt a “less is more” sku strategy in order to run quality departments more simply under the produce umbrella.

Weather predictions: A key component to retail success is weather. Let’s just hope 2018 is not plagued with the 2017 number of natural disasters and the retail environment and floral community can thrive.

I predict, “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun.”

Cindy Rapshus is an independent floral consultant living in Chicago. She can be contacted at