Supply Issue Updates
We want to give an update on the supply side of our industry. We are seeing continued disruption in supply since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a few factors causing this.
The pandemic has been very difficult for our growers in South America and California. Mandatory shutdowns initially caused big losses for these growers, many of whom cut back production going forward. As small and medium growers took hard financial hits, many have sold to Miami bouquet companies that sell to supermarkets. A lot of production has been taken out of the market and gone private with these acquisitions. This has left a serious shortage for the importers like Manatee Fresh, the wholesalers that buy from importers and retailers that traditionally buy from wholesalers. It’s just a hard reality right now.
During the pandemic, while the wholesale, florist retailers, and event companies were hit hard -- the supermarket industry boomed! Consumers flocked to supermarkets and sales went up as people had limited options. The floral departments benefited from this increase in foot traffic and as a result the floral departments saw a surge.
It will get better, but when is what everyone wants to know. We have heard from other industry professionals that their expectation is this will continue through Valentines 2022. Our feeling is that it will improve in late December as growers are seeing the dollar signs if they had more product.
One of the things we see many companies doing as we all scramble to find products and fill orders is taking a splatter effect to buying flowers. Customers are reaching out to 4-5 different wholesalers at a time. Online wholesalers, Miami importers and even their local supermarkets to buy a few bunches - whatever it takes to get the product. We understand this natural reaction to getting what we want but we’d like to offer another perspective after being an import consultant for the past 20+ years. Consolidate and use your buying power and become important to your supplier, whomever that may be. You can be special to one or a drop in the bucket to many.
Most highly successful flower companies in normal times buy from few suppliers. They are more worried about finding their next customer as opposed to trying to save another $0.25 a bunch. They focus on the next $1000 sale -- instead of saving $200 in cost. They tend to work with suppliers that understand their business and work hard to keep them competitive and with the best quality they require.
During these serious shortages of product we all have to look at our biggest, best customers and fill them first. In general this is how it goes throughout the floral distribution chain and now more than ever it’s critically important. It’s a hard balance, we understand, especially when your preferred supplier cannot get a particular variety for you. But now is the time for us all to work together; now is the time for designers to be designers and work with what products we can get to ensure the final customer is satisfied with their gift, wedding, or event. Restaurant customers don’t want to see what’s going on back in the kitchen and brides don’t need to see everything we go through behind the scenes to fulfill their dreams. Great designers adapt, react, and overcome. We see it everyday.
Manatee Fresh is an importer. We work directly with farms all over the globe. We have 3 Florida locations in Orlando, Palmetto, and Miami and sell to wholesalers in 30+ other states including Hawaii. We are using our volume to get the most of our suppliers for all our customers at the quality levels we normally provide. We are constantly seeking out new suppliers, large and small, to get what our customers need.
Here are some key items we are continually facing challenges with and expect to continue into the fall:
Playa Blanca roses, Sweet Escimo - We will get some but be prepared to make substitutions. These are very hard to come by.
White Premium Hydrangea - Growers are going as fast as they can, be prepared to work with select grade.
Wedding flowers in general. We have large bookings for October weddings, as does everyone. These flowers will get harder to buy before it gets better.
We suggest everyone put in standing orders NOW for the items you know you need every week and be prepared to pay higher prices. Some growers may not take standing orders right now and most will not take them starting in October. But we do know that growers are filling standing orders first, then open market orders. So we want to make sure our customers are first in line for the products they use the most.
At Manatee Fresh we are filling our top exclusive rewards members orders first, standing orders second and open market orders third, focusing on customers that pay within terms first.
These are challenging times and prices are high but if we all work together it can be a great year for all of us. Our sales are up and we are hearing from top customers that had increases in business throughout this year and even last year. Manatee Fresh is committed to getting our customers every product they need (or every other option) at the best possible prices.
We thank you sincerely for your business. We look forward to the future being blessed with opportunities to solve problems together and grow our businesses and industry.
Robert and the entire Manatee Fresh team.
- Emily McLaughlin