As economic reports continue to show sparse gains, many Clark County businesses are adapting to a new business model: smaller, more cautious, more creative. Local florists know this new model very well.
“It’s tough,” said Marilyn Moeser, owner of Main Street Floral Company in Battle Ground. “We’re seeing the price of product going up and cost of doing business going up.”
Much of the cost increase, according to Moeser, can be attributed to the rising cost of fuel used in product orders and deliveries to customers. On top of that, she said it has been a rough couple of years for flower growers, as storms, heavy rain and cold temperatures limit available product and drive up the price.
“Mother Nature plays a really big part in the floral industry,” Moeser explained.
Two years ago, florist Joel Padley closed his former business, Petals, on Main Street in Vancouver. However, feeling like he had learned a thing or two about the rapidly-changing business, Padley jumped back into the game and opened Awesome Flowers on Grand Avenue about seven months ago.
“I found a great location, the rent is really good, and I have a several-year plan so I can be established for when the economy gets good again,” he said.
Padley said he’s definitely seen buying habits change.
“People aren’t buying like they used to. Flowers are a luxury and they’re one of the things that tends to get hit [in a down economy],” he said.
To adapt, Padley now carries more plants and hardier, less-perishable flowers. He also has less stock on hand.
“I still have the same variety, but I’ll have a three-day supply instead of a seven-day supply,” he explained.
At Shields Floral in Hazel Dell, owner Carol Shields said she, too, has seen her costs rise while her customers have less to spend. Like Moeser and Padley, Shields and her staff work with their customers to find creative ways to do more with less.
“Plants, carnations, mums and gladiolus are less expensive [than more exotic flowers],” said Shields, adding that they can be used to fill out a bouquet that has just a few high-end, signature flowers. “We get a real kick out of that – people coming back and giving us a big hug, telling us, ‘You did my mama’s flowers, and they were so pretty.’”
Where Shields has difficulty, she explained, is with wire services like Teleflora, FTD, and 1-800-Flowers. On one hand, she said orders from the online and phone-order clearinghouses make up a lot of the business for local florists. On the other hand, Shields said, just breaking even on those orders is difficult.
“Say they’re featuring a holiday item for $49.99,” Shields explained. If there are any special items with the flowers, “you [the florist] have to buy it all from them. Then they also get a percentage off the top, and they charge for sending the order.”
Additionally, Shields said, the florist pays a monthly participation fee to the Telefloras and FTDs of the world, and those fees are rising.
To help combat the rising fees, Shields is working to develop a locally-based wire service that would allow area florists to network with one another in an effort to grow each other’s business. She also wants her customers to understand the difference between buying locally and ordering online.
“We’re just trying to survive,” she said. “We’re not trying to take anyone to the cleaners. We like people, we like what we’re doing. No, let me rephrase that – we love what we’re doing.”
Vancouver & Battle Ground Florist – Main Street Floral Co.
720 W Main Street #104, Battle Ground
Shields Floral Boutique Inc.
8302 N.E. Highway 99, Vancouver
807 North Grand Boulevard, Vancouver