Spring has sprung — well, for most of the U.S. anyway. The vernal equinox has definitely come and gone, and warm weather has emerged for those who don’t currently live in New York or Boston, where winter — as per its usual in the Northeast — is putting up a heroic last stand.
But even New Englanders know that a thaw is coming — someday — which means the time to think of spring things is now. Heavy boots are being closeted in favor of sandals, sunblock is gradually replacing Chapstick as a purse staple and everyone is thinking about flowers.
But as much as consumers are thinking flowers these days, florists are thinking about them way, way more because peak flower buying is upon us.
Valentine’s Day, as it turns out, is only the second biggest floral holiday on the calendar — Mother’s Day holds the number one spot. Because only some of us have Valentines — but pretty much everyone has a mother. And while Mother’s Day is the big floral explosion, it is not a lonely one in the months between April and September — a surprising number of people also give their father flowers for Father’s Day, and graduations are always a good time to shower someone with roses.
And then there are the weddings. For Valentine’s Day, the average consumer buys a bouquet of roses; the average wedding contains about $1,600 worth of flowers (in the U.S.; European weddings tend to run less extravagant on the whole, and the flowers clock in in the $200-$400 range) and two-thirds of all weddings take place between April and September. It’s a busy time of year to be a florist — and an especially demanding one.
Steven France would certainly know from florists and their needs. For the past 12 years he’s worked at almost all levels of the flower industry, from small flower shop owner to large corporate flower buyer, and now as the cofounder of the world’s best — if only — “online flower market for exporters, wholesalers, and growers. We’re the platform for everyone.”
(Well, not quite everyone — the London-based online marketplace is only open for business for professional florists in Europe.)
According to its founder, Florismart is interested in solving the two biggest challenges in the flower industry: speed and transparency.
Flowers aren’t TVs — because TVs can live in a warehouse. Flowers, on the other hand, have a fairly specific window during which that product must go out for their exporters — and for florist buyers, the window is almost equally important because the inventory in question maybe has a four-day shelf-life. Fast transactions are of core importance.
Which, in the flower business, generally means there is not a lot of transparency in the world of floral retail — there isn’t a lot of time to comparison shop because the time margins are so narrow. So Florismart is working to take out the opportunity cost associated with buying by making it possible to do all comparisons in real time.
The business currently services 850 florists (about 30 percent of whom use the site on a recurring basis) and is currently enjoying double-digit growth month on month. (What they are growing from and to were not figures they wished to disclose.)
To use the system, florists — after creating an account — enter their order requirements that can then be refined and customized and submit their order for bids. The site then compares the stock and prices of all the exporters on the system. Exporters and growers see the order — and come back with offers. Minimum delivery is £50, orders over £200 are free and delivery is next day for orders in before 11 a.m.
The system is meant to be push-button-easy so that merchants actually get an idea of what prices are everywhere. Florismart QCs the flowers before they ship, and in the U.K. it runs a delivery van that services 80 hubs nationwide. The platform also makes sure that the users are connected with reputable shippers.
France noted that while the bulk of the flowers they sell are come from the Netherlands (the world’s flower sale headquarters), they are hoping to see a major push from British growers this year.
As for what’s next for the firm?
To that end, Florismart is currently seeking new funding so it can expand and expedite its growth. The firm is looking to bring in £2.5 million ($3.13 million) in a round being led by Beaubridge, an independently owned private equity fund. The round remains open.
The platform’s biggest day of the year has almost passed — Mother’s Day in the U.K. is on Sunday — but even after every mum has been honored, there is still much to do.