Lani Callister, AAF, fresh flower manager at Ensign Wholesale Floral, was in constant contact with the Ecuadorian farms that the Salt Lake City, Utah wholesaler buys from during the country’s recent 18-day strike. She was rattled by their stories about the protesters, who blocked roads and vandalized and hijacked flower trucks, making it extremely difficult for the farms to export flowers.
The strike, which caused an estimated $34.7 million loss to the Ecuadorian floriculture industry, ended last week, but after two years of supply chain interruptions, it reinforced once again how strong relationships between vendors and buyers affect every link of the supply chain.
“The flower business is all about relationships,” Callister says, noting that those relationships extend to her customers as well as the cargo airlines and U.S. trucking companies that are working together to get products to her.
She communicated via text with Ecuadorian farmers, enabling her to know in advance which products weren’t going to make it out — which allowed her enough time to contact customers and order substitutions.
Strong relationships are also important when the supply chain is running smoothly, says Eric Fernandez, president and general manager of Continental Flowers.
“Even before there were issues, for us to get the freshest product in consumer hands, it really requires a collaborative effort up and down the chain from growers, importers, wholesalers to retailer,” he says.
The unrest in Ecuador required Continental Flowers to give clients frequent updates on the status of orders.
“We found time and time again a lot of value in having those types of conversations and that leads us to improve our relationship with clients, even in the worst times,” Fernandez says.
Fernandez and Callister will discuss best practices for win-win relationships that any segment of the industry can adopt during their session, “Win-Win Vendor-Buyer Partnerships,” at SAF Orlando 2022, the Society of American Florists’ 137th annual convention Sept. 6-8 in Orlando, Florida.
The convention offers attendees other opportunities to get to know the products, companies and people that are part of the floral supply chain. The Supplier Expo on Sept. 7 will give attendees access to more than 40 farms, importers, wholesalers, floral organizations, manufacturers, wire services and businesses that specialize in consulting, merchandising, web platforms, and more.
Last year’s attendees appreciated the opportunity to talk with vendors about supply chain issues and make new connections.
After returning home from the 2021 convention, David Boulton, AAF, PFCI, owner of Flowers By George in Arlington, Washington, began ordering roses from a new supplier thanks to a connection he made at the expo, he says. Talking with suppliers also eased his supply chain fears as the holidays approached.
Those looking for fresh product can check out dozens of types of flowers and foliage during the Outstanding Varieties Competition. Expert judges will rank 13 of the entrants as best in class, one best in show, and many more will be awarded blue and red ribbons. Often, representatives from the farms whose entries are on display are available to talk about their flowers and companies, offering attendees insight into how to obtain new types of flowers and where and how they are grown.
For the full schedule of SAF Orlando 2022 events, click here.
Amanda Jedlinsky is the managing editor of SAF NOW.