Smooth Sailing With Wholesaling
Working with wholesalers provides superb benefits that are some of the best-kept secrets among small, local flower farmers. At first glance, it might seem easy to shrug off wholesalers as big business types who sell at sky-high price points and can’t see the forest for the fees. They can appear to put America second with their vast inventory of imported goods. These negative perceptions, however, are at odds with the delightful discoveries I’ve made from my dealings with wholesalers. What many perceive as criticisms of wholesaler business practices can actually serve to build a strong bridge between growers and wholesalers. This collaboration can make our entire industry stronger. What I have learned from wholesalers has been instrumental in helping me to build a better, more lucrative business. I have found them to be extraordinary partners.
Let’s look at how common perceptions of wholesaler friends actually work in favor of the flower grower industry.
Ask not what your wholesaler can do for you.
When I started out a couple of short years ago, I knew nothing. Truly. Wholesalers gave me invaluable input that changed everything and set me on the right course. True, I knew not to waste their time and came prepared with pointed questions, but I cannot overstate the value of their input to my business or to our industry, for that matter. I did extensive research with the wholesalers to understand their issues and problems with dahlias to see how I could solve them and make a better flower. I also learned what other flowers I could bring to market that would be highly desirable for wholesalers. I can’t tell you how invaluable this was in helping me to understand how to better position my entire business.
How big is too big?
Let’s look at “big business” as it refers to a business that deals in a large volume of goods. In the floral industry, this is positive because it means that wholesalers are entrenched in many aspects of our community. Having this extra awareness provides them with a superior sense of what designers, event planners and florists are seeking. The left petiole knows what the right petiole is doing. That makes them good business partners.
Mi casa lily es su casa lily.
Wholesalers have a huge distribution network. Once you develop a relationship with a wholesaler, you can tap into this network to expand your business in all sorts of ways. It is even possible that the wholesaler distributes to buyers near your farm, so they may be able to pick up from you. It never hurts to ask. And if they are not delivering in your area, don’t expect them to come to you. You can find a way to get your product to them. There are many outsource shipping options today. If you can manage to go to a farm market, you can manage to go to a wholesaler. The sizeable payoff? They can take as much as a full day’s or more worth of product.
It is true that you have to be very persistent. They are big businesses and, as with any business, they don’t have a lot of time. Use it wisely. Make sure you have something to say and something to offer. Most important, be responsive. You can’t put an answer off for days. They fully expect product consistency and quality and you must always deliver what you promise. (As you know, this is good business practice in any situation.)
While it’s true that the vast majority of goods wholesalers buy is imported, we can’t fault them for it. This is simply the nature of the business climate. Every business needs product to sell. But savvy wholesalers also realize that customers will pay more for locally grown flowers. They respect American growers. That’s nothing short of fantastic for homegrown. What better gift is there than job security? Knowing that one has a heightened potential for success also makes it easier to approach wholesalers, doesn’t it?
Tailor to your wholesaler.
One astute wholesaler who is aware of our brand positioning told us about a rare fall flower that is underrepresented in the marketplace. We grabbed the opportunity and landed a sweet deal: We will grow it for him exclusively, and he will take all of our production. It is even better than that. We will produce extra for our farm market because it’s a high-value flower that isn’t available elsewhere. This particular wholesaler’s broad overview of the market helps us to sell more, builds our business and shows his confidence in us to develop products for him. We find that quite meaningful, especially given that local flowers are a small part of most wholesalers’ businesses. It definitely shows their desire to build a strong bridge.
The mighty power of less.
While you are paid a lower price than you would for weddings or farm markets, remember that you don’t have the cost of labor, or the extra time-is-money that it takes when dealing with highly personalized events such as weddings. Factor these things into your cost per flower. Obviously, this is not the only outlet one might use, but I am suggesting that if you have product that you have not sold, being open to all channels of distribution can be useful, especially given the wealth of market knowledge that wholesalers can share with you.