The UK retail flower market is now worth a blooming £2.2 billion. This represents an average spend of £36 per person, a figure which has quadrupled in the last thirty years.

However, the traditional supply chain and business model does not always work in the favour of florists or the end consumer, and the industry has been slow to innovate. Disruptors are using this as a springboard for introducing new business models to shake up this market.

Traditionally, flowers pass through several middlemen before reaching the consumer. These can include an exporter, auctioneer, wholesaler and retailer, and flowers can be held for up to three days by each. This means that while the freshness of flowers is decreasing, their cost is increasing. A further cost can be added at point of sale if florists use an online agent, such as Interflora, to source orders, who add a margin to each transaction.

This model can make it difficult for independent florists to make good margins. Individually, they have low purchasing power and face intense price competition from supermarkets, which benefit from buying in bulk. Also, although online agents provide a supply of orders, they can take a significant cut and some get florists in an area to bid for orders, forcing them to reduce their margins further.

For the consumer, the number of middlemen drives up the cost without improving the value of the product. In addition, purchasing flowers can be awkward, as they are bulky, and purchasing online can be inconvenient as they have to make sure they order in advance and that there is someone able to accept delivery.

Change is coming, however, making it easier and more affordable to buy flowers.

There are several start-ups that aim to give control back to florists and remove the costly online agent. For example, in the US, BloomNation has developed an online marketplace where consumers can order arrangements from a network of independent florists. For a flat 10% fee on every sale, BloomNation builds each florist its own curated website and gives them tools to analyse their sales.

In the UK, Bloom & Wild enables consumers to order flowers online or through an app, which are delivered through the letterbox, in packaging that has been developed to ensure the flowers are well protected. Bloom & Wild also deals directly with growers, removing middlemen from the supply chain, and flowers are delivered three days after they are cut, providing fresher flowers at lower prices.

These are just two examples of companies disrupting the flower market, and show how new entrants can force change in industries perceived as traditional and unchanging.

Frances Perrin