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.)