Things haven’t exactly been rosy for U.S. florists in recent years.

U.S. employment in the multibillion-dollar floral industry dropped nearly 52 percent from the first quarter of 2001 to the last quarter of 2014, according to data compiled for LawnStarter by the University of Florida. Alan Hodges, a researcher at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, attributes the decline to the loss of brick-and-mortar florists and the rise of online floral retailers.

In assessing the floral sector’s downturn, research firm IBISWorld says: “Poor economic conditions during the recession reduced disposable income, deterring households from making discretionary purchases on flowers and plants. In addition, heightened competition has exacerbated declining demand; discounted prices for comparable goods online and in supermarkets have led consumers to buy fewer flowers from traditional florists.”

Indeed, a 2015 survey by the Society of American Florists shows more consumers typically buy flowers at supermarkets than at local florist shops. Meanwhile, according to IBISWorld, online flower sales have stayed strong despite “depressed” economic conditions. In capturing market share from brick-and-mortar stores, online florists have benefited from the Internet’s “extensive marketing power” and from national branding, IBISWorld says.

Whole Foods flowers

Supermarkets have cut into the business of traditional florists.
Photo: The Rosy Snail

‘Considerable Consolidation’

The Society of American Florists says the floral industry has experienced “considerable consolidation” since the Great Recession, which began in late 2007 and ended in mid-2009. Some florists have gone out of business altogether. But in other cases, florists have winnowed their store count.

A decade or more ago, a florist might have operated three to seven brick-and-mortar locations, whereas today the same florist might run one to three locations, says Jennifer Sparks, vice president of marketing at the Society of American Florists.

“Thanks to the Internet and efficiencies in operations, florists can operate leaner and smarter while serving the same amount of customers with fewer physical locations,” Sparks says.

Florist internet

Some brick-and-mortar florists have harnessed the power of the Internet.
Photo: Alexander Filonchik/Unsplash.com

‘Leaner and Smarter’

Today’s “leaner and smarter” florists set themselves apart from supermarkets and online rivals by emphasizing service, convenience, personalized design of arrangements and top-notch delivery, she says. The same customer who picks up flowers at the supermarket while buying groceries most likely will seek out a florist when he or she needs special gifts or delivery service, Sparks says.

“Florists provide the personal attention and expertise that is hard to find these days in this mass-produced world, and consumers appreciate customization,” Sparks says. “There will always be a need for florists.”

But these days, many florists need fewer employees to get the job done. Nowhere has the floral industry’s employment shrinkage been more apparent than in New Mexico. From 2001 to 2014, the state saw a 67 percent drop-off in jobs at florists — the biggest employment erosion of any state.

However, New Mexico is far from alone in seeing job declines in the floral business. From 2001 to 2014, employment at florists fell at least 25 percent in every state; complete figures weren’t available for Alaska and Rhode Island.

Flower shop

Brick-and-mortar florists have taken a hit since the recession.
Photo: Flickr/Matthew Paulson

States With Biggest Job Losses

Here are the dozen states where employment at florists wilted the most from 2001 to 2014.

1. New Mexico

New Mexico flowers

Photo: Flickr/Shinta Bonnefoy

Jobs in 2001: 712
Jobs in 2014: 234
Decrease: 67.09%

2. Maine

Maine flower

Photo: Flickr/Bob Travis

Jobs in 2001: 826
Jobs in 2014: 282
Decrease: 65.85%

3. Minnesota

Minnesota flowers

Photo: Flickr/Kate

Jobs in 2001: 3,116
Jobs in 2014: 1,096
Decrease: 64.83%

4. Kansas

Kansas flowers

Photo: Flickr/One Day Closer

Jobs in 2001: 1,560
Jobs in 2014: 573
Decrease: 63.26%

5. Arizona

Arizona flowers

Photo: Flickr/Ryan Franklin

Jobs in 2001: 2,028
Jobs in 2014: 757
Decrease: 62.69%

6. Oregon

Oregon flowers

Photo: Flickr/Bruce Fingerhood

Jobs in 2001: 1,537
Jobs in 2014: 610
Decrease: 60.32%

7. Iowa

Iowa flowers

Photo: Flickr/rosefirerising

Jobs in 2001: 1,867
Jobs in 2014: 767
Decrease: 58.90%

8. Georgia

Georgia flowers

Photo: Flickr/theunquietlibrarian

Jobs in 2001: 2,977
Jobs in 2014: 1,232
Decrease: 58.60%

9. California

California flower

Photo: Flickr/mrccos

Jobs in 2001: 10,873
Jobs in 2014: 4,566
Decrease: 58.00%

10. Missouri

Missouri flower

Photo: Flickr/Thomas Hawk

Jobs in 2001: 2,638
Jobs in 2014: 1,133
Decrease: 57.05%

11. Mississippi

Mississippi flowers

Photo: Flickr/Jimmy Smith

Jobs in 2001: 1,375
Jobs in 2014: 591
Decrease: 57.03%

12. Indiana

Indiana flower

Photo: Flickr/Valerie Everett

Jobs in 2001: 3,510
Jobs in 2014: 1,530
Decrease: 56.41%

U.S.

Jobs in 2001: 126,998
Jobs in 2014: 61,339
Decrease: 51.70%

Top photo: Flickr/Family O’Abe

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