Flowers: giving the market what it wants

Page last updated: Friday, 9 December 2016 - 1:58pm

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Range of products

Flowers or foliage can be used in many ways — in vases, arrangements, bouquets, wreaths etc. Products needed by florists and arrangers come in several categories:

  • display flowers
  • focal fillers
  • fillers
  • foliage.

Generally, display flowers are larger, more striking, more colourful and obtain better prices. Australian native flowers such as banksia, waratah and blandfordia and South African proteas are used in this way.

Focal fillers could include rice flowers, leucodendron, some waxflowers and some thryotomene.

Fillers are low cost flowers used to increase the size of the bunch and provide colour contrasts. They include many flowers including wax and baby’s breath. Foliage is used to provide contrast and a backdrop to other flowers — it bulks up the arrangement with low cost material.

Domestic or export markets

Export markets differ from domestic markets. It would not be worth incurring the high cost of transport to send simple field flowers to Europe. The same applies to relatively low value heavier material. The export market needs to be provided with high value products that can attract good prices. The same can be true domestically but there is generally a place for lower cost bulk flowers.

Flowers are a luxury product and compete with other luxury products such as confectionary and wine for the consumer’s discretionary spending.

What customers want

Because cutflowers are a luxury product, consumers demand a certain standard of quality and value for money. Some quality aspects are colour, freshness, stem length, freedom from pests, fragrance and vase life. Local experience suggests that colour, freshness, disease-free status, value for money and good presentation are major factors in buying decisions.

Fragrance is a personal issue. Some consumers prefer this, others reject it because of allergies and sensitivities.

What florists want

Florists have a wide range of clients from large corporations to senior citizens. Consumers vary and may be elderly, modern home-owners, special occasion buyers and from many ethnic backgrounds.

Different ethnic and age groups have different requirements — young people prefer white and pastels, people from South-East Asia prefer colourful flowers and don’t want white, some Europeans like field flowers.

Florists deal direct with the consumer and get immediate feedback. They are also held more accountable for quality than bulk retailers and casual outlets. Vase life is especially important for florists because customers will return purchases for a refund more readily than they would to supermarkets. This has to do with the expectations of professionalism and the fact they specialise and are expected to know the product.

Consumers want value for money from the florist — a lot for a little. This means lots more presentation.

Florists need a wider range of foliage for arrangements which can be in short supply. Foliage is used to provide bulk and contrast and ensure the consumer gets value for money.

Supplies need to:

  • be uniform, tidy and presented
  • have good stem strength — this can be a problem due to forced growth by producers
  • be good quality
  • be free from disease such as botrytis.

They need varietal labels to help people get optimal results with the flowers. Florists may also be interested in seasonal flowers and variety to spark their artistic interests.

They want to differentiate their product from other retailers such as supermarkets. This may mean that growers or wholesalers provide different wrapping and labelling. Otherwise they have to repack into new wrapping at a higher labour cost.

Consumers want to buy and run which means arranged products sitting on the shelf. Durability and freshness are critical. Vase life of at least five days is needed for corporate arrangements.

What wholesalers want

The wholesaler reflects the wants of the consumer and needs:

  • value for money
  • a consistent product
  • availability over an extended period
  • variety of product and colours
  • vase life
  • quality
  • the cool chain maintained from farm to shelf.

Although wholesalers can get some types of flowers all year round, in some seasons vase life is poor. Tulips in summer have poor vase life and are not worth stocking. Wholesalers would like a better indication of vase life in different seasons.

When growers stretch production seasons, it is often more costly, quality not as good and shelf life may not be good.

Different flowers have different popularity through the season.

What exporters want

Exporters range from people selling only their own products to others who deal with many growers and large numbers of buyers in many countries. They have continual contact with buyers in major markets and have to respond to market signals.

The market for Australian natives is healthy and expanding. Customers are asking for more and for a wider range of products, although demand for waxflowers is slightly weaker.

End needs are the needs of the consumer — buyers always want something new.

What importers want

They want:

  • what they ordered
  • delivery on time
  • product in good condition
  • product with correct documentation.

Australia finds it hard to compete with low cost producers of bulk flowers in South America, Africa and Asia. To compete in the international market, Australia needs a marketing edge. This revolves around new flowers, products and better quality.

New varieties are always in demand and allow us to hold markets and help sell our older varieties. The Department of Agriculture and Food, as well as other research groups in Western Australia, has bred, selected and released a number of new hybrids and varieties having better colours, bud size or vase life, some of which are available from industry.

Having a different technology for postharvest treatment could also help. Australia has had a bad reputation for shattering of waxflowers. With anti-ethylene treatments such as 1-MCP  and reducing temperature using the cool chain, shattering is significantly reduced. These flowers can then be marketed as a superior product.