Many people called and emailed questioning if “a flower shop with no employees” was even possible after the article I published last week. It is great to see such a concept engage the industry so passionately!
The reality is, the concept already exists in various forms all around us. I suppose it just depends on what you consider a “flower vendor” these days. To me, it is anyone that provides flowers to consumers whether it be a full-service flower shop, a supermarket, an airport kiosk, or a website or mobile app selling flowers. These are all variations of flower sellers in one form or another. A website selling flowers is really just a storefront with no salespeople, at least on the front end. We all know that so many unseen people work on the back end in terms of fulfillment.
A flower shop using courier services is a flower shop with no drivers, or trucks for that matter. Do people really care if your own truck pulls up with the delivery of a courier, a taxi, or an Uber driver? People care much more how FAST you deliver AND if you delivered what you promised rather than they do about seeing your name on the truck.
A supermarket floral department is another example of a flower shop with no employees. Ever try and ask someone about the flowers at a supermarket? Chances are there was no one around to help you, and that was by design. How about the flower cooler box at Costco? This is another example of an unmanned flower shop averaging over $1 million in annual revenue with over 400 locations. An airport flower kiosk is also an unmanned flower shop in a basic sense. In many airports worldwide, they stock flowers and people buy the flowers self-serve style while the vendor restocks the cooler.
Remember how we all used to pump gas? No one would let you “touch” the gas pumps in the old days. Now, no one will help you pump the gas! What happened? Gas stations realized people would rather save 20 cents a gallon than have a full-service gas station. How is this any different with a self-service flower kiosk or supermarket?
The reality is that the market evolves to fill the needs of consumers in many forms. Consumers respond to whichever business options are presented to them, good or bad. We tend to make things too complicated for consumers in the flower business.
The free market will determine if Amazon can succeed with a supermarket without employees. I believe this model already exists to some degree. Other than a cashier, who else do you see working in many major supermarket these days? It already feels like there is no one working there some days. :-) Why not just make it official and put in some helpful robots in the aisles?
To those who view the contraction of the traditional florist retail model as a negative, perhaps consider all the alternative and evolving flower purchasing options already in existence within the market today, and keep an open mind about the future. Someone once told me ten years ago there was big business selling flowers “in a box” without a flower shop. Then came ProFlowers. That market segment is now worth nearly $2 billion dollars and continues to grow annually.
If someone had told me years ago that they could order wedding flowers from Sam's Club and Costco, I would have found that ridiculous. The reality of the flower industry is that there are dozens of websites selling DIY wedding kits and pre-assembled wedding kits these days. Thousands of brides are ordering their flowers without any hand holding.
If someone had told me Americans would pay $4 for a cup of coffee 25 years ago, when I was paying 99 cents at 7-11, I would have said that is absurd. Today, we have Starbucks and we all pay $4 for a cup of coffee. This does not include the billions of dollars consumers spend on gourmet coffee in the mass market segment. Remember Folgers and Sanka?
Starbucks gave us a BETTER product, made it EASY to order with convenient locations and an exceptional buying EXPERIENCE that many of us find much preferable to 7-11, McDonald’s, and donut stores. Do you think there are more coffee shops or less coffee shops than before Starbucks came along? Take a guess. Coffee consumption in the US has catapulted to levels no one thought imaginable 25 years ago. Starbucks, Cold Stone, and Krispy Kreme all proved specialty retail can be successfully reinvented when you focus on the consumer “experience,” when you execute proper branding, and when you are trying new and innovative things in your business.
Rather than focusing on the negatives pertaining to the existing state of the flower business, why not reinvent the flower business? It is so much more fun and exciting. Call me an optimist, but I think the floral industry is on the verge of exploding into a market many times its present size, and it just will not simply be in ways you might expect.
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