flowers + reading
Jul 9, 2020
According to a recent online article from House Beautiful magazine, “more than 350,000 weddings were set to take place in the US in March and April .” Most of them were either cancelled, postponed, or reduced in size to intimate family weddings due to the global pandemic. Wedding and event florists are reeling as event revenue has almost completely dried up as a result of the pandemic.
In addition to weddings, other sources of revenue were lost as traditional Spring events including charity events, wedding and baby showers, graduations, luncheons, and private parties were cancelled. To understand what our friends in the industry have been dealing with and what creative solutions they have come up with to replace the lost revenue, Botanical Brouhaha recently conducted a survey of 100 event florists. Designers from 5 countries and 23 US states participated in the survey.
To understand the impact of Covid-19 on 2020 wedding floral revenue, we asked the designers what percentage of their annual income comes from weddings. Nearly 70% of the respondents said that weddings account for more than 75% of their income each year. Most of the respondents’ average wedding budgets were in the $3,000- $8,000 range, with 26% under $3,000 and 17% at $10,000 or higher.
For most of the designers surveyed, over 75% of their weddings were postponed and, in most cases, those postponements were for 9-12 months. Thankfully, most of the postponed weddings are expected to retain the same budget, however the overall situation seems likely to continue deteriorating. “Unfortunately, the Fall weddings are starting to fall off too, so the percentage [of cancelled events] is still rising. I fear it will be close to 90% by year end,” said Holly Urban owner of Froggy’s Garden Flowers, Kintnersville, PA.
As of the writing of this blog post, Covid diagnoses are rising rapidly in many cities that have begun phased reopening of businesses, restaurants and bars, indicating that summer may not be the respite from the virus we were all hoping for — at least not in the US.
Most florists indicated at least a few of their clients have opted for intimate family weddings this Spring, reducing their floral budgets dramatically. Instagram is full of intimate wedding ceremonies, as brides received their “curbside” contact-free deliveries of a bridal bouquet, a boutonniere and in some cases, ceremony flowers.
How are wedding florists responding? When it comes to deposits, no one wanted to penalize their brides during a global pandemic. Nearly all of the florists surveyed said they applied their clients’ deposits towards a postponed wedding in 2020 or 2021. To protect themselves financially in the future, many event florists are rethinking their deposit policies. According to one of the designers who responded to the survey, “If there is a second wave, I don’t know that I will be able to do that again.” For future events, some are changing their deposits to non-refundable “booking fees” and raising the percentage to smooth out cash flow shortages this year.
To help cover expenses, as many as 20% of studio owners and independent designers in the US applied for Payroll Protection Plan funds from the Small Business Administration and received their funds. But 45% did not even apply. In some cases, a studio owner with part-time employees could keep payroll going with the SBA funds, but when there is little to no business for the foreseeable future it did not help owners recover losses when profits are how they pay themselves. Maggie Bailey, owner of Bramble & Bee in Tomball, Texas tackled this topic in a recent Botanical Brouhaha Podcast episode called Flowering During the Pandemic.
The silver lining in this dark cloud is that many event florists we heard from have been earning income by thinking “outside the flower box”. Many have turned to a more retail approach, with flower deliveries, contact-free “porch sales”, pop up floral stands, floral subscription services, outdoor container planting services, potted plants, funeral flowers, online ordering or shipping florals and permanent botanical arrangements. To fill the income gap, some enterprising floral designers are conducting virtual workshops or clearing out inventory and having sales of rental items.
Mother’s Day was a blessing for many designers, as they promoted floral designs for the holiday. For some it was for the first time, as weddings have taken precedence in past years. “My Mother’s Day sales increased 3X this year!” said Ann Evans, owner of Cypress Floral Design in Jacksonville, Florida.
The floral event business is in flux. And we, as business owners must adapt to the new reality. Recently Florists’ Review published a helpful blog post called 7 Tips for florists to Navigate Through the Covid 19 Virus Outbreak. It’s been said that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” As the floral and event industry learns to adapt, we will become more resilient and creative problem solvers. We’ll strengthen our business and financial practices so our businesses can survive short term challenges. We’ll learn to think more strategically.
This will end at some point. In the meantime, we will continue to spread the joy and beauty that flowers bring into the lives of our customers. As Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where flowers bloom, there is hope.”
In closing, we find encouragement in the story recounted by Emily Lin, owner of DC-based Love Blooms Floral Design and we hope you will, too!
“The wedding I was most excited for this year was set for March 28, 2020. It was my assistant’s wedding and we had been planning all the fun flowers even before she got engaged. As each week of March went on, all her plans started unraveling bit by bit and 5 days before her wedding, she knew she had to officially cancel. I can’t even begin to explain how graciously Christine handled this situation. She truly rolled with the punches (with a smile) and came up with a beautiful Plan B. She and her fiance got married March 28th in an intimate ceremony, with just a few family members and the happiest bright pink bouquet I could create! Next March, they will have a vow renewal and celebration with all the originally planned guests. Because love is not cancelled.” – Emily Lin | Love Blooms Floral Design
Madeleine Elmer is owner and Creative Director of Fleur de Vie, an event and floral design studio based in Houston, Texas. She studied art history at Hollins University and floral design with leading international floral and event designers in New York, California and Texas, including Jeff Leatham, Holly Heider Chapple, Nancy Liu Chin, Joseph Massie, Francoise Weeks, Hitomi Gilliam, Ariel Dearie, Sarah Winward, Robbie Honey and Christian Tortu at Flower School New York.
Want to hear more stories of floral designers taking on the pandemic by thinking outside the box? You might be interested in the following BB Podcast episodes: