Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hot Topic: The Cost Of Floral Design

On Halloween morning I took some time to peruse one of my favorite blogs, Weddingbee Pro, and came across a great post by Nancy Liu Chin, "Behind The Scenes: Bear, Bear, Bear," that had sparked many comments. While reading the comments I found one that posed a great question, "Why can a florist charge $250 for a bouquet when a bunch of those flowers are sold at Whole Foods for $12.99?". I politely responded to her comments with some key points; Whole food buys in bulk and florists place special orders ensuring brides get exactly what they want, which means you're paying for peace of mind. Shortly after I left this comment Nancy contacted me to offer more insight on the issue of floral design costs, value and pricing. Here is an excerpt her first post on the subject, "Ask Nancy: $12.99 For Peonies Part I."

Dear Nancy…Not to be snarky, but can you please explain why my florist charged $250 for a bouquet of peonies when I found an eight stem bunch at Whole Foods that very same week for $12.99?


Dear Lisa,

This question can be answered in so many ways.

Perceived Value

Let’s assume that this is about “perceived value” which is defined as a consumer’s opinion of what a product (or service’s) value is. Often, this unique perception has little or nothing to do with the actual product (or service) price and is dependent on the product (or service’s) ability to satisfy the needs, expectation and requirement.

After consulting with floral designers, Audrey O’Brien of Studio Stems and Amy Marella of Hidden Garden Flowers for their input to this question, I realized that no matter what we collectively came up with to explain why the florist charged what she charged, ultimately Lisa didn’t see the value of a $250 bouquet of peonies.

Sometimes it’s hard to see value especially when many of it is “hidden” or behind the scenes. It’s difficult to see:

- the florist has other expenses like overhead, production, office expenses, and nonoperating expenses that might factor in.

- the time that the florist probably spent finding just the right flowers, processing each stem, picking flowers up in the wee hours of the morning (except yours truly here!), and nursing them so that they would open just right.

- the experience, years of practice, and knowledge that the florist and his/her staff have acquired.

- the art and creativity that goes beyond just the flowers themselves. That there is an art in selecting the right flower and designing them. There is creativity in even the simplest of arrangement. There is a talent in being able to combine different ingredients. There is creativity in designing a wedding from start to finish with taste, polish, and style.

- the stress and pressure that many florists and vendors must go through given the importance of the day. You can’t redo!

Bottom line: It’s up to us, floral designers, to find the clients who will understand and appreciate the art that we are creating. It’s up to us to educate the clients so that they can see the value and difference. READ MORE HERE.

A couple days later she posted Part II on her own fabulous blog the Brown Bag, which delves into why grocery stores are able to sell flowers for discounted prices. Essentially, grocery stores are providing you with an "ingredient," not the delicious finished "meal" and not the skilled "chef" to prepare it. Here is a piece of Part II:

A couple days ago, I started to answer the question to Lisa's question. Of course I wrote about Perceived Value and Pricing.

Today's issue centers around why local grocery stores and warehouse stores are able to carry flowers at or below wholesale. For the wonderful answer, I have consulted the wonderfully talented, Amy Marella of Hidden Garden, for insight.There are several issues going on

1) Bulk Quantities - Flushing
It is not uncommon to find Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Costco with a wide assortment of flowers. These wholesale warehouses and grocery chains buy their flowers in "bulk" and/or buy flowers that are "flushing" from the growers. I had never heard this term before Amy used is. Amy was kind enough to help define the term. "Flushing" occurs when flowers are coming in great abundance and the grower is willing to get rid of them quickly/cheaply because they have a very large quantity.

Amy states, "this is not to say that the flowers at these locations might not be perfect but they are not hand picked by the buyers". Given that - each week these outlets have differing stock. There is never a guarantee of what you might see at your local grocery store like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Safeway. These large corporation have the buying power to purchase in "bulk" therefore offering consumers much lower prices than a local floral shop who doesn't buy in the quantities that a large, national grocery store could.

2) Precision - Pre Orders 
As a floral designer who specializes in weddings, often a proposal is set months, weeks in advance. I don't have the luxury to "randomly" select flowers for my wedding clients. Amy and I both realize that we have to "pre order" our flowers. Many and we assume the florist in this question probably pre ordered the peonies way in advance. I prefer to write my orders about 2 weeks. Sometimes I have to give a month notice. Pre ordering ensures that the "exact" flower to the color and to the stem count is ordered. Floral designers all want the right amount of flowers and the best blooms though often there is no guarantee because flowers are natural and perishable products. You can't just go get a peony whenever you want.

Given that floral designers are ordering in advance, you don't get a price break. In many instance, a florist actually pays a slightly higher premium to guarantee that the flowers they need for a wedding are EXACTLY what they want. Amy's company, The Hidden Garden, does exactly thing. She says, they " might cost a little more across the board but with that comes piece of mind for the bride". Obviously, considered floral designers want to delivery what a client ordered so you can't just take a chance that the right quantity, color or flower will just "show" up at the market. That's way, banking on a Whole Foods for your wedding flowers - not a good way to go. I don't think it's fair to compare the peonies that a floral designer can get with the price of flowers at a local grocery store. Because if you can't get it consistently in the color, quantities and quality, why do it? READ MORE HERE.

I am really happy this came up and I was able to answer a question so many brides have and reveal all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes at The Hidden Garden. I would love to hear more thoughts on this, so please leave a comment!

Please go to Nancy's site as well to read the entire post...

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