The Flower Farmer’s Roadmap to a Profitable 2024 Mother’s Day
Mother's Day is a big deal in the floral industry, with flower sales climbing higher and higher every year. In Canada, tens of millions of dollars are spent on cut flowers for Mother’s Day, and in the United States, it’s estimated that moms receive more than $2.6 billion in flowers each year. With such high demand for farm fresh flowers, small-scale and local flower farms have a unique opportunity to make a huge profit during this holiday.
If you felt unprepared for the 2023 Mother's Day flower season, don't worry - you're not alone. The good news is that you have an entire year to plan and prep for next Mother's Day, and this spring is actually the perfect time to start!
In this comprehensive guide, Jenny Shepler, Tend Product Manager and owner of Jazz Flower Farm, shares invaluable insights and strategies to ensure your readiness for next year's Mother's Day rush and to boost your cut flower farming profit. We'll cover everything from building your crop plan and ordering supplies to cultivating strong relationships with florists and optimizing your marketing efforts.
- Understand your customers' needs and preferences and offer a variety of flowers that they’re interested in.
- Use Tend’s software to maximize planting space, estimate harvest quantities, track expenses, create offer sheets, and record notes for continuous improvement.
- Create a comprehensive crop plan and ensure you have the knowledge, space, and equipment to produce each variety before ordering any seeds, bulbs or corms.
- Learn from experienced flower farmers and pay attention to florists' preferences, handling tips, and unique demands, tailoring your service to meet each one's specific needs.
- Focus on quality, transparency, clear communication, and excellent customer service.
Photos: Jazz Flower Farm
Flower Farming for Profit
Mother’s Day sales offer a golden opportunity for flower farms to generate a sizable chunk of their annual profits. As one of the primary occasions when people express their love and appreciation through the gift of fresh cut flowers, demand skyrockets during Mother’s Day. This heightened interest presents a lucrative opportunity for flower farms to make serious profits early on in the season.
Q: What's the financial significance of Mother's Day for flower farmers?
A: Mother's Day is a super high volume day for selling flowers in the US and Canada.
With high retail customer demand for farm-fresh bouquets and flower subscriptions, as well as high florist demand for locally grown wholesale cut flowers, supply can't always keep up with demand—especially after COVID disrupted the supply chain. The more local flowers you have available, the more you can sell. It's a huge flower holiday, and the international supply chain issues create an excellent opportunity for local growers to step in and take a piece of that demand.
Since mid-May is still early season for many US growers, not much is blooming in the northern part of the United States and Canada without making a special effort, Jenny explained. Growers who do only warm season crops won’t have much available, while farmers who focus on cool season crops like tulips, ranunculus, and anemone will have less local competition from home gardeners who can cut flowers from their yard for their moms.
In general, farming involves a lot of cash outlays in the beginning of the year, with sales happening later on. The sooner you can start selling your crops and bringing in cash to offset those outlays, the better off you are, Jenny said. Cash flow is everything!
Photo: Jazz Flower Farm
Relationships are Key for Higher Cut Flower Sales
If you’re a small-scale flower farmer who wasn’t quite ready for a big Mother's Day push this year, here’s what Jenny recommends for this season: Focus on growing your network and understanding your customers.
Start building your relationships now.
For sales to florists, start building relationships with them this year when you do have products to sell. Ask your customers the best way to reach out to them. Start with a phone call to introduce yourself. Would they like a weekly emailed availability list? If you called at a busy time, would they prefer you make an appointment to stop by their store during a slow period to introduce yourself?
For retail sales, decide who you will sell to and what products to sell. If you want to sell bouquets, build up your potential customer base with a bouquet subscription this year so customers see how great your flowers are. Build an email list so you can let customers know that you will have Mother's Day flowers next year. You might be able to sell both bouquets and subscriptions next Mother's Day.
Tip: If you want to sell flower bouquets at a roadside stand, find a great location and get permission to sell there next year. Secure proper licenses and permits as required, plus liability insurance. Make sure you have a tent, table, and anything else you need to sell your flowers.
Let florists see your products in person.
Take some of your cut flowers to the florist so they can see your product. Don't give free samples - offer your products for sale at an appropriate price. You are in business, and the florists are in business, too. They expect to pay for the products they need. If they aren't willing to pay now, they won't want to pay later, and maybe they aren't your ideal customer.
Understand your customers.
Understand florists' buying expectations, including harvest, processing, conditioning, bunch size, and pricing. Typically, wholesale bunches contain 10 stems of the same flower, color, and variety, but for high volume holidays like Mother's Day, consider offering mixed colors or specific palettes—for instance, a bucket of 100 mixed ranunculus in pinks and reds.
Recognize that there are different types of florists. Seek out florists who advertise that they use local flowers. Be prepared to educate some of your potential florist customers on the benefits of buying local flowers, such as fresher flowers with longer vase life, no pesticides because you don't spray on your farm, the ability to sell delicate flowers that don't travel well, and flowers cut directly into water and delivered that way, eliminating the need to rehydrate them.
Price your flowers right.
When pricing your flowers, make sure you are covering all of your costs PLUS including a profit. If you sell your flowers below cost, you hurt your business - and the rest of the industry as well.
“Don't underprice your hard work, and don't try to win a race to the bottom,” Jenny said. When you sell to florists, compete on freshness, quality and uniqueness. Price your flowers for the value they deliver. You do not have to beat the price of the wholesaler if you are selling a superior product, especially if it is one your customer cannot get anywhere else.
When you sell to retail customers, unless you are selling straight bunches of flowers, you are really a farmer and a florist. Florists’ retail pricing is higher than wholesale pricing, typically (3.5 x the wholesale cost of the flowers) + (2 x hard goods cost [vases, ribbons etc]) + (additional 20% to 30% design fee). Remember to add sales tax if applicable in your area.
Photo: Jazz Flower Farm
Use Tend to Plan for Next Growing Season
As a small-scale flower farmer, planning and organization are key to your success. Working exclusively in real-time isn’t an option; thinking ahead to the next growing season is key. That's where Tend comes in!
Our software is designed to optimize your crop planning, track expenses, help manage relationships with customers, and analyze what goes well throughout the season - and what doesn’t. Tend makes it simple to work in the current season while planning for the next one.
Here’s how Jenny uses Tend on her farm to track this season’s successes and prepare for the following year:
- Use the crop planning functionality to maximize your usage of available planting space.
- Easily see an estimate of how many stems of each variety you will have to harvest over specific harvest windows next year and how much your revenue will be based on your estimated average selling price. Tend lets you account for the unknown by including a yield factor in those calculations.
- Keep track of your expenses for those crops to see your profitability on each crop.
- Create Offer Sheets (availability lists) to send to your wholesale customers, and add products to your own online store.
- Record notes to help you remember lessons learned so you can improve next season.
Crop Plan: Jazz Flower Farm
The Roadmap to Mother’s Day 2024
Networking and organization are essential for a successful Mother's Day push—from ordering the right seeds and bulbs to marketing your products to florists and customers—but nailing down your timing is what will really help you succeed.
Build your crop plan first.
- Decide what you want to grow, make sure you understand how to grow and harvest each variety, double check that you have room for everything and all necessary equipment. Adjust for any sold-out varieties and plan to order them earlier next year.
- Order bulbs and corms for tulips, ranunculus, and anemone while this year's crop is blooming.
- For blooming branches and perennials, research what's in bloom around early May. Learn the proper harvest stage, test their vase life, and if you plan to forage, know what you’re cutting and always ask permission.
- Look into cool flowers or hardy annual cut flower varieties that may overwinter well in your area. Start them in the fall for a spring harvest, ordering seeds at least two months before your first frost.
- Order like a farmer, not a home gardener. Choose varieties your customers want to buy, order enough of each variety to meet their quantity expectations, and choose varieties with long stems suitable for cut flowers (18+ inches wherever possible).
- Purchase from reputable wholesalers and buy in bulk for the best pricing.
Then, start networking.
- Reach out to florists this year to start building relationships.
- Send them an email before next season starts, thanking them for their business this year and letting them know what you're planting next year.
- Include a general by-month availability calendar and be specific about high-demand times like Mother's Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc.
- Point out any specialty items you're growing and when they will be in season.
Time your marketing and outreach.
- Follow up with a Mother’s Day preview email in early March after the Valentine’s Day rush.
- Give florists enough time to figure out what they can get from your farm before they place their wholesale orders.
- Communicate your Mother’s Day product availability estimates 3-4 weeks before Mother’s Day.
- Be clear about your order minimums, delivery schedule, and ordering deadline.
Did you know? Summer is actually a really slow time for florists. Jenny's opinion is that we need a new major flower-gifting holiday in August so local flower farms can fill that demand during the height of the growing season. Got any ideas?
Photo: Jazz Flower Farm
Great Customer Service Boosts Sales
In order to successfully close sales, it’s important to prioritize customer satisfaction. Even if you grow the most beautiful flowers in the world, poor customer service can turn people away from your business. If you’re new to the industry, you may not know all the dos and don'ts of working with florists. Jenny shared some of the best tips and tricks she’s learned during her flower farming journey to help you navigate building relationships with your customers.
- Don’t cold call florists close to a major floral holiday unless you're offering flowers they need right now or following up on their inquiry. Save introductory calls for later when they have more time to discuss future offerings.
- Florists do like to order in advance, so establish relationships and be on their radar when your crop is ready. It's crucial to make a good first impression by being respectful, professional, and prepared.
- Do your research and learn the basics of selling to florists before you approach them. Be ready to adapt to each florist's specific needs and provide great customer service.
- Emphasize quality when selling to florists. Clearly state quantity and size, avoid unauthorized substitutions, adjust prices as needed, and ensure product guarantees such as refunds or replacements.
- Be ready to guide customers on handling certain flowers, particularly local varieties. Provide this information during the sale. Describe your products honestly without exaggerating stem length or quality.
- Remember, floral designers vary in style and preference. Be flexible and creative. if your flower stems curve naturally, market them to florists who appreciate those funky features.
Photo: Jazz Flower Farm
Being prepared for Mother’s Day flower sales can be an excellent way to boost profits on your flower farm. By planning ahead, understanding your customers’ needs, maintaining strong relationships with florists, and focusing on delivering quality flowers, you’ll set yourself up for a successful 2024 Mother’s Day season. Remember, helpful tools like Tend’s software can streamline your operations and keep track of your progress and sales, and that makes all the difference.
Most of all, keep learning from your experiences and from those of other flower farmers, as continuous improvement is key to thriving in this ever-changing industry. Let this guide be your companion in ensuring a rewarding Mother’s Day 2024 for both you and your customers. Happy flower farming!