Okay my friend…..I hear you about the wire service conundrum! If you’re new to the industry, you’re wondering if you should join one. If you’re a veteran, you either have a very definite distaste for these entities, have resolved yourself to accept them, or have worked the system to increase your own brand. So where does that leave us?
These companies began as an asset to the floral industry, companies that connected florists across the globe to send and receive orders by working on their own brand to be a landing spot for the general public. Sounded great and truly was in the purest sense.
Then came the internet. And with cyber space came those “middle men” realizing they can make money by being order takers and passing the orders on to florist members, receiving 20% of the order plus a service charge. Awesome for the sender for just passing on the order without any labor, product, or delivery expense to be concerned about. So they get 20%, the company brand gets 7%, and the florist receives 73% (which actually is about 70% after extra charges). Simple math and not tough to understand. But there goes the florist’s labor charge right out the door.
If you can do tons of orders with cheap labor, this can be a profitable thing. But smaller shops (which accounts for most of the members) can’t really make the money they need to survive. Additionally there are required containers to purchase to fill many of these orders which can be upwards of $7 + shipping costs. There goes more of your profit, especially since most orders don’t reflect the actual retail the design should be.
Some of the wire service entities seem to photo shop the flower images on top of the vases so the design appears much larger than it actually can or should be for the dollar amount. Trying to copy these designs just can’t be done for the money given or the loss just keeps on.
Now many of these companies offer wonderful design and business seminars to enhance the florist’s journey. Great. Wonderful. But it’s your money paying for this anyway, and much of the time the company’s containers are used so you can get excited and purchase more of them. So the cycle continues. I know because I was one of those designers falling in love with containers and ordering away. We need product anyway, so why not order and worry about the bill later when it comes in? NOOOOOO!
A number of wire service companies advertise everywhere on the internet with discounted flower ads coming up on thousands of site landing pages. That makes it so easy for the everyday person to just “click, click, click” and the order is done. Hardly any thinking necessary. But what most don’t realize is that these companies are not “real” florists, just someone taking your money and passing on the order. The problem with this is that the general public doesn’t get it, and I don’t think ever will. Ones that I see constantly advertised are Ava’s Flowers, Just Flowers, Wesley Berry Flowers to name a few.
Ok, so here’s my take on all this: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. If you’re a newbie join one that doesn’t require buying too many containers. Keep things cheap and easy. Use the service to add to your client base, but do not allow them to provide your website as you’ll be tied in forever. Build your own site with your domain so that when potential clients search, your custom designs will be available to them.
My suggestion (and I know this works) is to print this saying on the back of your business card that you add to every one of these orders in the envelope: “Please let your friend or loved one know to call (name) at (flower shop) in (town) DIRECT to receive more creative flowers, personal service and save them money” or something to that effect. People want to work with a true florist, forming a relationship that they can depend on for years. Let these companies be all over the internet (you can’t stop them anyway) and take advantage of the situation. Look at it as an opportunity rather than a problem to increase your local client base. Be smart about how you design the arrangement so you give the visual value the recipient and sender will appreciate while giving you some profit for your effort. Dollar Tree vases go a long way with to help with your profit margin with these services.
Once you’ve used the service for a year going through the holiday cycle (and have faithfully added new clients to your base) cancel your membership and go forward. Yes, you’ve paid for their service dearly, but the fact is, people are going to use these services to send flowers in your area no matter how many groups try to get the public to order direct from a true florist. That is the power of the internet and is definitely here to stay my friend. Take it from a florist who had to learn the hard way to “get it” about the wire service journey, finally understanding the process which allowed me to come out on top. Be smart, make your own brand, and be on the top of the profit pile. It’s the best way to enjoy your career while making a floral difference in the world.