Flowers, Nursery Stock, and Florists' Supplies

SIC 5193

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the wholesale distribution of flowers, nursery stock, and florists' supplies.

Industry Snapshot

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 7,591 establishments operating in the flower, nursery stock and florists' supplies wholesaling industry in 2009. The industry employed 48,850 people who earned a total payroll of about $1.4 million. Most establishments were small, with 76 percent employing fewer than 20 workers. The industry was in decline by the early twenty-first century, and total revenues in 2011 were a mere $12 billion.

The top five floriculture production states in 2010, according to the Society of American Florists, were California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas. In 2010, California growers produced 75 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of fresh flowers. Most of the rest were imported, and although Florida produced only a small percentage of the U.S. domestic supply, nearly all overseas shipments (88 percent in 2011) of fresh flowers were flown into the Miami airport. By sales volume, 70 percent of U.S. consumption of fresh-cut flowers was imported. The majority (66 percent) were from Colombia. Other important sources of imports were Ecuador (15 percent); the Netherlands (6 percent); and Costa Rica, Mexico, and Canada (3 percent each.

Florida's hold on the wholesale import market was being challenged in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s. By 2009, two inland airports--one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and another near St. Louis, Missouri--had opened refrigerated warehouses and were flying in fresh cut shipments directly from South American suppliers. Investors hoped to make inroads into Miami's strong hold on the wholesale market share as well as provide fresher flowers to residents of the Midwest, which otherwise must endure long over-the-road shipments once they reach the United States.

The wholesale floral sector struggled along with the entire floral industry through the recessionary economy of the latter years of the first decade of the 2000s as people had less income for discretionary spending. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, retail florist revenues showed a year-on-year decline for the first quarter of 2007, 2008, and 2009. To counter dwindling sales, the Wholesale Florist and Floral Supplier Association encouraged its members to make the most of their profitable customers, hang on to their marginal customers until the economy improved, and cut loose some of their customers who were less than profitable.

Generally speaking, the relationship between retail florists and wholesalers had changed by the end of the decade. Previously, retail florists bought the bulk of their flowers from wholesalers, who sold their produce only to their retail customers. As the marketplace became more and more competitive with the sudden onslaught of Internet-based and big-box florists grabbing market share, local retailers and local and regional wholesalers found themselves in new territory and breaking old, often unspoken rules of the trade. Retailers began to purchase more from local growers, from whom they could purchase in smaller quantities and ensure fresher flowers. Wholesalers, faced with retailers who feared having too much stock in store, cut back on costs, primarily by limiting selection and variety. To compensate, they began to offer service options such as frequent deliveries and smaller sales quantities. Wholesalers also moved to the Internet, offering overnight wholesale shipments across the United States. By 2010, approximately 12 percent of the U.S. floral industry's sales were conducted online, and this figure was projected to increase throughout the rest of the decade.

According to a 2011 report by market research firm IBISWorld, this industry was on the decline and had become "increasingly globalized, as mass merchandisers seek to buy cheaper imports and bypass wholesalers entirely." In response, wholesalers were expected to offer more value-added products or cater to niche markets, although neither strategy will prevent revenues from falling in the first half of the 2010s.

American Floral Distributors, located in Pembroke Pines, Florida, was one of the leading U.S. online wholesale distributors in 2011. Greenleaf Wholesale Florist, located in Brighton, Colorado, was the top U.S. wholesaler and operated its own direct shipment division online. Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist, located in Sewell, New Jersey, was another top wholesale supplier. The private company posted estimated revenues of $23 million in 2011.

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News and information about Flowers, Nursery Stock, and Florists' Supplies

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