Industry members are reacting this week to the news that Wesley Berry Flowers, a 70-year-old company whose order-gathering practices have been criticized by florists and consumer groups, is “shutting down local company-owned stores,” according to an Aug. 27 story by Crain’s.
Reporter Sherri Welch wrote that it was “unclear whether FlowerDeliveryExpress.com, the national, online floral business that put Wesley Berry on Inc. magazine’s 2014 list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in the country, is still operating.”
E-Brief editors attempted to contact the company’s owner, Wesley Berry II, for comment but at press time had not received a response.
Welch wasn’t able to speak with Berry either and wrote that “attempts to order flowers through FlowerDeliveryExpress.com led to an automated message and voicemail box, and messages left were not returned last week.”
The company had four brick-and-mortar stores in the region: two in Detroit, one in Commerce Township and another in West Bloomfield Township. As of Friday, “only its downtown Detroit store in the Penobscot Building and its West Bloomfield store at Orchard Lake and West Maple roads remained open, fulfilling advance orders that had been placed, said Jerry Baker, manager of the downtown Detroit store,” according to Crain’s.
Baker told Welch his store “continues to fill small walk-in orders.” He added that the company’s corporate leadership had not provided “any reason for the closures” of the stores.
“It was a surprise; I didn’t see it coming,” he said.
Even without direct input from Berry, Welch was able to construct a fairly detailed company profile for her story in Crain’s, and some of the controversy its approach generated.
As she notes, “Wesley Berry Florist Inc. sold its first franchise about 30 years ago. It went on to establish 30 franchises across five states before selling most of them in the 1990s and launching an e-commerce business in 1994.
As of June 2015, Wesley Berry Flowers’ Michigan operations and online business employed 100 people in Michigan and 50 at a call center in the Philippines, [Berry] told Crain’s at the time.
At that point, he said the companies were dealing with 5,000 to 6,000 customers each day, either placing orders or receiving flowers through the company from online orders.”
The company came under fire for some of its order-gathering practices, which critics said misled customers, making them believe they were ordering from a local florist.
According to Welch, “the Better Business Bureau/Detroit and Eastern Michigan revoked its accreditation due to Wesley Berry’s failure to, among other things, promptly respond to all complaints forwarded to the agency and to make a good-faith effort to resolve disputes.”
Those practices also made the company unpopular with many local florists who felt the company deceived the public by “showing discounted prices and then not passing along the full value of the orders to florists for fulfillment,” said former Society of American Florists president Charles F. Kremp 3rd, AAF, Kremp Florist in Philadelphia.
“The result was that customers and the recipients of the orders were displeased and in many cases turned off to the industry as a whole,” he added.