Who do you want to sell to?
Paula, Mill Pond Flower Farm
We can all grow lovely flowers, fresh and beautiful. However, successful flower farming is about being able to sell what we grow. If you have gorgeous flowers that stay on the plants or never leave your plot, then you’re not a flower farmer, you’re a gardener. A flower farmer aims for an empty field, and a full bank balance!
What do your flowers need to do for your customers?
When we first start growing cut flowers, it’s tempting to set off, grow a load of those lovely flowers and then see who wants to buy them. However, when they’re spending money on buying flowers, people rarely just want ‘lovely flowers’, they want flowers for a reason, for example:
• To give as a gift
• To commemorate someone’s life
• To make their café look friendly and charming
• To use to create wedding flowers
• To decorate a party venue
• To make their living room look and smell gorgeous
• To sell to their florist shop customers
• To decorate a cake
Who could you sell to?
There are lots and lots of different places that you can sell your flowers, but the first question that you need to ask yourself is
Will they be Retail V Wholesale?
the sale of goods to the public in relatively small quantities for use or consumption rather than for resale.
the business of selling of goods in large quantities and at low prices, typically to be sold on by retailers at a profit.
The 3 key differences to take into account are:
1) The quantity of goods sold at each transaction - i.e small quantities for retail, and large for wholesale,
2) The difference in price. Basically goods are sold at a lower price wholesale, so that a retailer can add value, take into account their costs, and still sell at a profit.
3) Whether the buyer is the end user. Are they going to be the one displaying the flowers for themselves, or are they selling them on to someone, or adding value to them (making them into a display) to sell on to someone.
Another difference should be the level of service that is needed. Wholesale sales should be less work for the supplier as the buyer is an expert.
You can sell to both the Retail and Wholesale markets, BUT, not at the same price.
Markets you may want to sell to:
Direct sales to the public
Wholesale to Retail or Event Florists
Direct to Flower Wholesalers
Dried flowers to crafters
Pick Your Own
Flowers for own floristry
Bunches in galleries/shops/pubs
Download the following list of markets, and work out which ones you may be interested in selling to and add any we haven’t thought of
Are you missing something?
Sometimes we fall into supplying certain markets because they’re the first ones to show an interest in our flowers, they’re the nearest or we just haven’t given other markets a chance. They may not be your ideal customers.
When I first started to grow flowers for sale I wanted to supply florists, but they weren’t interested. So instead I sold bunched flowers locally, did a few markets and learned floristry to do wedding flowers for brides who were contacting me to do them. I’m not the ideal grower to supply brides – I’m not particularly enthusiastic about weddings – but I learned to make a pretty good bouquet and I’m pleased I can pull it all off. I still do a small number of weddings a year but wouldn’t want to do a lot.
Don't think that because other growers are fulfilling a market, that means that they are right for you. You don't need to cover all markets.
It took a few years to develop a wholesale florist market for my flowers. In that time, I learned much more about what they needed and how they worked so that when I eventually had my ideal customers I could supply them successfully.
And don’t be put off if you don’t achieve your target market immediately, plan for it, plant for it, work towards it and when you get there you’ll be ready.
Did you do any research? We'll discuss this more in the next session.
Making it all fit
It’s no good having a market for your flowers that you can’t fulfil:
• If you want to deliver bouquets of flowers locally that have been ordered online you need to have a vehicle that can get them there.
• If you have children to care for on Saturday and Sunday, doing wedding floristry is less than ideal.
• If you want to grow a series of seasonal crops for a wholesaler, you’ll need more than a large garden.
I worked in paid employment alongside flower farming for the first two years and wasn’t available mid-week, so I couldn’t cut and deliver wholesale when florists needed the flowers. It was only when I gave up my other job that I could supply wholesale to florists.
Circumstances can change but it’s a very good idea to have a clear understanding of what your own limitations are in terms of capacity to grow, time available, expertise and motivation.
Who is your ideal customer?
My ideal customers are:
A successful event florist who is confident in using British grown flowers, busy from April to October, with a high social media profile and who pays their invoices quickly. [See the video below of how I work with florists.]
A couple getting married who want fresh, seasonal flowers for their wedding but aren’t worried what varieties they are.
A young family who want to spend an hour cutting flowers to give to relatives as a gift
A local shop who actively wants to sell fresh flowers to their customers.
A local person who needs funeral flowers and wants my style of arrangement
I can confidently supply flowers and foliage to these customers as know what I need to grow to meet their needs and can plan to grow the right flowers in the right quantities to supply them.
[When I was writing this section, I kept on wanting to write that I’m lucky/fortunate to have a fantastic group of ideal customers. However, I haven’t written that as it’s not about luck. It takes a lot of time, care, ongoing work and commitment to recruit and retain customers who ‘get’ what you do - when you have them, value them and congratulate yourself, don’t think that it’s luck or chance. Take the credit!]
Think about who your ideal customers would be and complete the checklist
The following video was made by Flowers from the Farm and demonstrates the working relationship between Paula and one of her wholesale florist customers