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Are flower subscriptions changing the market?

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Bloomon, a Dutch start-up bouquet subscription service, launched in the UK in February following an €8 million funding injection from international investors. The move marks another step amidst a rumble of activity in flower and plant subscription services, with a cluster of start-ups enjoying serious levels of funding and mounting respect from tech and business circles, as well as smaller established flower businesses jumping on the band-wagon and making it work.

Bloomon is an Amsterdam-based online company which claims to shorten the supply chain through cutting out auctions, wholesalers and stores. It launched six months ago in Britain, simultaneously debuting in Germany.

The concept focusses around flower subscriptions; regular deliveries as opposed to gifts for special occasions. And if you look to outside industries, it becomes clear it’s not just the flower sector in on the act. We’ve seen adverts for Graze snack box subscriptions lining the tube as well as companies like Pact making a surge in the coffee market, and you can even sign up for regular bacon through the letterbox by subscribing with Cure & Simple.

Bloomon’s February press release announcing its UK launch reads, “According to the International Trade Centre, Britain is the second biggest market for Dutch flower export; in the first 6 months of 2015 this amounted to more than €500 million in sales.

“In the last 12 months Bloomon raised €8 million in funding from international investors INKEF Capital and Partech Ventures, one of Europe’s biggest Venture Capital funds with offices in Berlin, Silicon Valley and Paris, and delivered over 100,000 bouquets within their first year.”

“The ambitious team behind Bloomon have set themselves a single-minded mission: to deliver 1 million bouquets Europe-wide before the summer of 2017.”

 

Meanwhile in London, new and original independent businesses like Geo-Fleur and Petalon have been making waves in the press and on social media. They’re among a handful of florists and fresh-faced companies who offer regular subscriptions among their usual services.

Geo-Fleur, led by horti-fan and ex PR Sophie Lee, sees customers join the #PlantPostClub; a regular plant subscription service which thrives off Sophie’s 46K strong Instagram following, thanks to a cool thread starring cacti and succulents in urban, geometric containers (read our interview with Sophie). Whereas Petalon, led by Florence Kennedy, delivers bouquets by bicycle across the capital and offers a frequent flowers service where customers sign-up to regular deliveries of seasonal blooms at their chosen price point. Petalon’s website allows customers to click and order, but Florence clearly runs a personable business with a brick & mortar studio base, where she holds workshops and takes gorgeous photographs with her huge pup Huxley.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, rapidly growing website-led British company Bloom & Wild, whose USP is that they literally deliver flat-packed flowers through letterboxes, are also offering regular subscriptions starting at £15.

Arena Flowers, the online flower retailer making a splash with clever and comical marketing ploys, do it differently with an annual payment from £329.99 to £529.99 for monthly flowers over the period of a year.

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FLOWERBX are another London start-up who offer a similar subscription service and have this year enjoyed million dollar investment rounds and impressive gains in leading people.

FLOWERBX clearly differentiate themselves in that they don’t deliver bouquets or arrangements, but instead, single variety bunches only, stating, “We are not florists. We are cut flower specialists.”  The company describes itself as “an online store which sells curated fresh flowers, hand-picked by our in-house specialists, direct from the flower markets in Holland to your front door.”

In April it closed its initial $1.25 million seed funding, making it one of the most promising start-ups in the 50 billion dollar global flower market, with bosses claiming it has potential to fundamentally change the way that individuals and businesses purchase flowers. It also boasts an impressive selection of strategic investors, including Mark Sebba, former CEO of Net-a-Porter Group. It’s garnered press in the FT, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Grazia and Elle Décor, with notable clients in high-end fashion industries and leaders in restaurant and hotel industries.

Bloomon, like FLOWERBX, claims to work by cutting out the middlemen in a bid for better value and freshness. But whilst FLOWERBX says it delivers flowers direct from the auctions in Holland, Bloomon goes one step beyond and claims their flowers come directly from the grower, allowing for an extra five days of freshness.

Bloomon do sell arranged bouquets, but unlike Bloom & Wild (or Interflora et al), they’re not pre-designed to allow for customers to select from a range of stock photos. Instead they say, “Each bouquet is different from the last, devotedly seasonal and distinctively styled in an entirely refreshing manner.”

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So what does it all mean for florists?

If anything, Bloomon’s success in Holland could pave the way for a change in the way we see WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). The concept has long caused problems for florists, especially relay members, who have to deal with customer complaints on a regular basis because they’re simply unable to stock the exact varieties shown on website product photos. Instead of emphasising that flowers are a seasonal and perishable product, customers are led to believe exact designs are entirely possible, with only the very small print explaining substitution processes.

It’s a hot topic at the moment following a ruling from the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) who upheld complaints against both eFlorist and Prestige with regard to flowers not matching the pictures on their websites. Caroline’s blog explained that the ruling could actually impact all online flower sellers, and could even change the way they operate and the way consumers buy flowers online. For example, Bloomon’s customers are simply forced to trust the ‘creator’, with absolutely no say in what will arrive, and FLOWERBX only offer one variety en masse. Surely independent florists are just as trustworthy, if not more, than a faceless website?

As far as subscription services go, regularly delivered flowers are not actually directly competing with special occasion gifts, weddings or funerals; three key areas of business for a local florist. So fearing the likes of FLOWERBX and Bloomon shouldn’t come so quickly. In fact, those who really could be quaking are the supermarkets; that’s where so many consumers go when in search of affordable flowers for themselves.

Plus with their slick websites, attractive packaging and promise of fresher flowers for longer, these new start-ups might be adding more perceived value to flowers than the supermarkets ever could. Which is why it’s an opportunity florists should be jumping on, offering subscriptions or promoting frequent flower deliveries too, and shouting about it through all of your unique and creative websites and social media platforms.

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