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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 20 No. 3
Monday January 24 , 2021
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Joost Bongaerts     Last year in early March as the COVID-19 began raging and we were all locked down wondering what would happen next, the tulip beds springing back to life around our home sent their quiet message of life and renewal and beauty.
     In uncertain times being able to slow down a bit and contemplate the flowers works.
     Undoubtedly if you work in the flower business whether growing or selling or shipping you have felt that a special affection endures.
     We spoke to Joost Bongaerts, (pictured right) owner and President of California-based Florabundance.
     Florabundance is located in Carpinteria California, a small oceanside city of about 12,000 located 11 miles from Santa Barbara and 92 miles from LAX.
     It may be arguable that more sea lions, seals and dolphins than people live in Carpinteria, but no one disputes that the place is beautiful.
     Florabundance is a high-end premium quality provider of wholesale fresh cut flowers, foliage, garlands, wreaths, and bouquets for florists, floral designers, special event companies, and other professionals in the floral industry.
     They are a Certified American Grown wholesaler.
     Joost is deep dish into flowers with a thriving wholesale and retail business.
     Born in 1959 in Den Haag, (Haach) The Netherlands, Joost’s father managed agricultural land holdings all over the country.

From The Ground Up

     Joost spent summers working on his family’s farm in northern Holland and became interested in agriculture and horticulture as a result.
     He studied at Wellant College in Gouda, graduating with a degree in Plant Science.
     “The COVID-19 has had wide impact on the flower industry due to cancellations of weddings and forced closures,” Joost declared.
     “But like everything else when business becomes impossible you pivot as much as possible, which in our case has been to migrate to online sales and operations.
     “I am amazed after 40 years in this business that this year the usually stable tulip prices are actually quite high. But tulips, as many know, have a special place with people and now that the season begins sales are good.
     “So, we will have to pass these costs on for now and hope that prices get back to normal all around, “Joost said.
     “We are members of CalFlowers, an organization of growers, wholesalers and retailers in California.
     “Many businesses in our trade are down 30 to 45% but most recently we can say that it is getting better, “Joost said.
     “The challenge is to not operate an old business model. We have formed specialist operations online and combined this expert sales assistance to sell roses directly from Colombia & Ecuador in addition to the world.
     “We are wholesalers, floral consultants and increasingly specialists,” Joost said.
     “Although we are not anticipating shortages during the flower season, the challenge with shipping is the dramatic global cut back in passenger flights and lack of frequencies, notably out of AMS and elsewhere.”

Sky High Rates

     “We have sidestepped to move flowers via LHR, but as with everything else limited space has driven rates up with logistics emerging again in 2021 as a definite seller’s market.
     “We are not experiencing shipments bumped because of vaccine—but as an industry, we are faced again with sky high rates right now, “Joost declared.
     “Luckily for us we have cargo lift contracts via Calflowers with FedEx as example,” Joost said.
     “But in some cases, as shippers our major concern is that we are navigating through a time filled with delays and no service guarantees otherwise,” Joost declared.
     “I remain positive and think once the vaccine does its job our business will come back and be even better than before.”

Take A Tip From The Tulip

A Flowering Lifetime

     Joost’s background and experience in selling flower bulbs to growers, importing cut flowers and running a successful retail flower shop provides a unique perspective from which he has developed the California-based Florabundance brand into one of the premier wholesalers in the United States.
     Joost and his wife Alexandra, who also works in the business moved from Connecticut full time to California in 2008 and have two grown children.
     But having been in the flower industry now for 40 years Joost credits his longevity to “staying ahead of the game, “diversifying and always being open to ideas to expand and enhance product line offerings and service delivery.
     “We are in several aspects of this business but have advanced our whole sale reach to retailers as well as to the high-end public, as opposed to supermarkets or Costco sales.
     “As example a few years ago, we launched bulkwholesalers.com that is currently doing very well.
     “But we also see our core retail customer that likes to buy flowers is stuck at home.”


     Joost serves as a member of the Board of Directors for The California Association of Flower Growers & Shippers (CalFlowers, formerly known as NORCAL).
     CalFlowers was founded in 1941 by a small group of flower shipping companies to foster the success of the California floral industry within the United States.
     Today CalFlowers is the leading floral trade association in California serving growers and the entire supply chain in the state and in 48 states across the nation.
     CalFlowers has been instrumental in developing standards for the entire industry.
     CalFlowers initiated the Box Standardization Program (that is trending the market toward a 40” box for bulk shipping).
     This initiative is aimed making flower shipping more cost effective while maintaining the high quality of the floral products as they leave their farms.
     “The flower industry can do some things to enhance its position ,”Joost declared.
     “What we should do collectively is market ourselves as an industry more aggressively. Promote the use of every day cut flowers as a united industry
     “There is no collective effort by the flower industry to message what we do and why we provide a vital and needed service.
     “People love flowers.
     “We need to talk to our customers and also to new business.
     “I believe the flower industry can help itself, by delivering a message that moves the needle a couple points.
     “Now is the time to make new friends and enhance our image in the global market place, by talking more directly as an industry to our customers,” Joost Bongaerts declared.


In this COVID-19 lockdown late January of 2021 as we receive notes of greetings and good wishes for Christmas cards that were sent in early December, we have been thinking, based on the slowdown in the U.S. mail service maybe it is not too early despite the snowfall and cold to think about flowers.
     Always a big part of the Valentine’s Day celebration now less than one month away, we are wondering if space demand for floral shipments that always cube out before they weigh out will be severely impacted by demands to move vaccines?

Ready To Roll

     Sheri Myers, at Myers Flower and Bridal Shop told the Washington Indiana Herald: “For Valentine’s Day, the numbers are there and we are ready to roll.
     “The florist business appears to be one that has managed to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, at least locally.
     “The demand for flowers has been up ever since the coronavirus hit,” said Myers.
     “People are sending more flowers than ever because they are forced to be separated.
     “We’ve sent a lot of flowers to hospitals and nursing homes, just trying to spread some joy during some difficult times,” she said.

Petal To The Metal

Paul Goodman     “When it comes to planning for a profitable Valentine’s Day, there are no secrets,” said Paul Goodman, MBA, PFCI, a longtime floral industry financial professional associated with the Society of American Florists (SAF).
     “Practical, achievable guidance can set up any retailer for a holiday success,” Goodman said
     “Valentine’s Day profitability is really about smart management,” explained Goodman. Holiday profitability was the focus of a recent Society of American Florists virtual event headlined by Goodman, a longtime contributor to Floral Management. During the 30-minute session, which included time for a Q&A, Goodman detailed three core areas (productivity, controlling COGS-Cost of Goods and staffing) that every retailer needs to prioritize every year — and especially during a holiday that falls on the Sunday of a three-day weekend in a pandemic.
     He also tackled a question high on the mind of every retailer moving deeper into holiday prep: What the heck to expect this year? “Normally a Valentine’s Day on a Sunday is going to have a decrease in volume,” Goodman said.
     “However, this year, we have the ‘COVID effect’ — sales overall have actually increased for flowers. Because of that, I think there will be a COVID effect for Valentine’s Day.” Goodman’s advice: Track sales closely in January and compare those in real time, year over year, to your 2020 returns. Those trend lines will help inform your thinking regarding how much, or how little, the pandemic could shift your Valentine’s Day returns this year.
     “If you are seeing an increase in sales [in January], you can expect a COVID effect for your business for Valentine’s Day,” Goodman said.

For More Than A Century

     SAF, based in Alexandria Va., knows only too well the uncertainty facing florists as they struggle through the double whammy of both supply and demand.
The group (joined by everybody else) cancelled its 136th Annual Convention last September in Phoenix.
     Looking to extend a helping hand and reassure its membership, Goodman, a well-respected money guy, which as we all know is what it comes down to, hosts SAF Webinars regularly for the organization.
     But SAF is also rich in member-related support for each other.
     “There are those rare people who tackle their taxes the first week of January … and then there are the rest of us,” SAF said.
     “Valentine’s Day follows a similar pattern; without prompting, most retailers wait to order until mid-February — an action that causes unnecessary stress and hurts your profit potential.”
     Eileen Weber, of Illinois retailer Lake Forest Flowers & Greenhouses and member AAF (American Academy of Floriculture) says, “To minimize the last-minute-order blues, we proactively call past clients with a pitch that conveys confidence and outstanding service.”

News Air Cargo Can Use

     To those sentiments we add, observing how our shippers are going about their business right now can be educational and motivating.

Bloombastic Bloomtastic

     As example, with COVID-19 many florists have had to cancel their very profitable in-store floral events, some pivoting instead to virtual happenings.      Heather Waits of Bloomtastic Florist in Columbus, Ohio, who also teaches business strategies put together a presentation titled “Reignite Your Business-Virtual Events”.
     Interestingly this webinar was available in June of last year and basically grew out of the inability of Bloomtastic to drive any business during the total Ohio shutdown.
     But down was not out, as inventive Heather put together a playbook to supplement income by offering a series of online events or virtual classes in which she shared “how to” advice to subscribers that advanced the floral arts so that people who were also locked down might gather the skills to create floral presentations for their homes from, we assume, local rose bushes or even wild or gardened flowers.
     “Weddings were not happening, we were not allowed to deliver flowers or have pick-ups, so we were not working at all,” Heather said.
     So “Reignite Your Business” a step-by-step bright, engaging 38-minute presentation/class is all about detailing how to market to the retail customers of member businesses of SAF, and any retail florist, at no cost to SAF members and a nominal fee of USD$12 to anybody else.
     As mentioned, SFA is a big generational association, which serves its members as lobbyist and also provides all the bells and whistles of an industry leader. But SFA also is a sanctuary for its membership in a time of unspeakable crises as it pivots and floods the market with webinars. Included are the aforementioned financial strategies and lessons such as this ‘how to retail” all intended to train members on how they might get a leg up by sharpening their outlook and developing some basic market survival skills.

Call Your Therapist

     There is a focused lens into some thinking going on right now at the source of our business from the flower business as logistics providers, that you may have not looked through before.
     The Sustainable Flowers Podcast, a program for Canadian growers based in Albert, decided the best thing to talk about in January to their audience was mental health.
Toby Malloy      “After a very strange year in 2020,” said Toby Malloy, a mental health specialist and lecturer who serves as the Women's President of the National Farmers Union, and is also a farmer.
     “Our strong desire to connect has found some positive alternatives.
     “Many people thought ‘How can I possibly do my work when we can’t meet face to face?’
     “The move to phone and Zoom replacing face-to-face has generated some positives.
     “People were at first nervous about the web technology.
     “But realizing that we can’t get to meetings anymore, there has emerged some positives including many people who said that it is more comforting to work from home, feeling safe and connected, surrounded with family and pets and familiar things.”

Until The Real Thing Comes Along

     “People believe that they have to get out into the world when they can, but these contact alternatives have been really good.
     “Christmas 2020 for many who were saddened at being parted from family, none the less, was a time that for many was simplified and slowed down and in many cases was less stressful”, she said, as the uncertainty of COVID-19 and when vaccines might be available continued unabated.
     “The other thing I’ve heard from people,” Toby Malloy said, “is that the time spent around the table in meals, being together, playing board games and going outside together just to experience nature has been a positive of the past year.
     “People who grow flowers and are in the agriculture business want customers to have a sense of what we do, and being outside just to get out of the house has given all of us a better sense of who we are.”
     Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported recently an uptick in reporting by Canadian “citizen” scientists who are bird watching and observing wildlife in record numbers.
     “The hallowing out of the agriculture from processors to the business itself during the pandemic has left many growers, especially some with all of their eggs in one basket so to speak, driving more attention into the need for diversity moving ahead,” Toby Malloy concluded.

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Take A Tip From The Tulips

Lufthansa Cargo Center FRA  Now in 2021 the Lufthansa Cargo facility at Frankfurt with lineage that dates back to the early 1970s when the place was boasted as ‘the world’s largest air cargo hall’, gets refreshed one more time.
  Worth noting is that this complex was supposed to have been torn down years ago and replaced by a whole new complex by 2018.
  But the money boys nixed that plan as too expensive, whilst Lufthansa Cargo business was in decline.
  Now as the world emerges into a 2021 COVID-19 scenario, come all the usual bells and whistles to “renew and further develop” the place.
  A seven-year plan announced with completion to be done by 2028, has been advanced that sounds reminiscent of those four-year plans governments periodically announced during the Cold War.
  "The special thing about our infrastructure program is that it is able to react flexibly to market,” said Lufthansa Cargo.
  Meantime as he brushes up his Flemish before departing Lufthansa Cargo for a new assignment as top executive at Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa Cargo says goodbye and farewell to cargo boss Peter Gerber.
  When that happens March 1, three airlines in Lufthansa Group, Lufthansa, Carsten Spohr; Austrian, Andreas Otto; and Brussels will feature top management that served at Lufthansa Cargo.
Geoffrey Arend

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