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This has been a hard spring for the floral business, according to the Produce Marketing Association. In the trade group's latest industry survey on the category's performance, 70 percent of retail respondents reported lower sales this period vs. last year, while only 15 percent reported an increase.
"Easter hasn't been this early since 1913, and thankfully it won't be that early again until 2160," said Cindy Hanauer, PMA Floral Council vice chair and director of floral operations for Winn-Dixie, who noted that the "simple nuance had a negative snowball effect on retail floral sales. Sales of outdoor garden plants diminished, customers were surprised by the early holiday and not prepared, spring break pulled customers out of the marketplace, and Passover and Eastern Orthodox Easter failed to coincide with Easter and as a result failed to compound floral sales."
In addition, 29 percent of suppliers said their Easter sales dropped. Prior to Easter, 60 percent of retailers reported same-store year-to-date sales had increased versus last year, and only 24 percent had reported decreases in their year-to-date sales prior to the holiday.
Unlike the majority of retailers, however, 53 percent of suppliers did not blame the early holiday for the shortfall.
In addition to the early timing of the holiday, retailers and suppliers are also dealing with the prolonged impact of a deteriorating economy. Retailers completing the survey rate the economy weaker in every region of the country compared to the spending they reported in the Christmas Floral Market Watch.
Easter lily sales declined for 55 percent of retailers, while fresh flowers and arrangements dropped the most with 72 percent of retailers reporting a decline. Suppliers participating in the survey note that less expensive fresh-cut flowers and fresh-cut "value" packages sold well.
Retail respondents also indicate that transportation costs are becoming more of a challenge for them as the year has progressed, moving from seventh place in the December 2007 survey to fourth place in this current survey followed by allocation of labor and retail floor space