New York’s Flower District Is Dying

Blog NY Flower District 

Once a $120 million engine, a piece of history is being killed off by competition, construction and ICE. By Riley Griffin More stories by Riley Griffin August 14 , 2018 4 : 00 AM SHARE THIS ARTICLE It’s almost 6 a.m. on West 28th Street, and as the July sun rises over New York, the senses awaken to unexpected smells. Instead of warming asphalt and truck exhaust, there’s the whiff of wisteria, sweet pea, and hyacinth. Hiding gum-stained sidewalks and storefront gates are carnations and roses stacked along the curb. Though busily transforming into a playground for the ultra-wealthy, Manhattan still retains a hint of its working-class past. While the fish market, meatpacking district, and even the diamond and garment districts are all gone, going, or reduced to tiny versions of their former selves, the flower district remains. In fact, this one-block stretch of Chelsea is the centerpiece of a multibillion-dollar U.S. floral industry, shuttling flowers to the homes and offices of some of the richest, most powerful people in the world. Among the ever-present construction sites sits a labyrinth of wholesale shops, where peonies and calla lilies spill from buckets, awaiting the discerning eyes of floral artists and decorators. From fashion to finance, the district provides scented backdrops for Fashion Week runway shows, Hamptons clambakes, and billionaire fundraisers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even so, the historic district, like the island of Manhattan, is being overrun by a much more powerful New York industry: real estate.

West 28th Street once boasted more than 65 wholesalers. Now it’s a handful of second- and third-generation shops. As nearby hotels and condos shoot up, skyrocketing rents have forced out wholesalers and florists who can’t keep up, a pattern seen all over the city as bank branches and drugstore chains appear where family-owned stores once served neighborhoods. The flower district has experienced an average 15 percent increase in rent over the last 10 years, according to data compiled by brokerage Citi Habitats. The median monthly rent is currently about $4,000, among the highest in the city, according to an analysis from Bloomberg News. (However, New York did see prices decline in second quarter 2018.) The real estate frenzy has also erased nearby parking lots, which floral customers depended on to transfer loads of flowers out of midtown’s congested streets. Increasing traffic has deterred longtime buyers from even trekking into the city. Even without the fallout from construction and gentrification, the marketplace for expensive flowers has been flooding with new competitors—from Costco to e-commerce sites and even local delis—further squeezing the high-end florists of 28th Street. “There is no viable future for the flower market here,” says Gary Page, owner of G. Page Wholesale Flowers and former president of the now-defunct Flower Market Association, which reported back in 2000 that the district raked in as much as $120 million a year. “The heydays are gone.”

U.S. floriculture retail sales—including flowers, plants, seeds, and potted plants—are valued at $35.2 billion, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Nationally, imports account for approximately 64 percent of fresh-cut flowers sold by dollar volume in the U.S., the Society of American Florists says. Of the fresh-cut flowers exchanging hands in New York’s flower district, the vast majority are imported. In fact, the bouquet you bought at your local deli was likely grown on a mountainside in Colombia, where 78 percent of all U.S. flower imports originate. This relationship is a product of trade policies implemented in the 1990s to curb Colombian drug production by encouraging a legal, alternative crop. After import taxes were lowered, Colombian flowers flourished. American growers, however, paid the price—sales of U.S. roses have dropped 95 percent since 1991, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional imported flowers make their way to America from the Netherlands, home to the largest flower market in the world. At Royal FloraHolland in Aalsmeer, flower traders buy and sell $5.2 billion in horticultural products each year at an auction house the size of 182 soccer fields. But even the Dutch have seen growth slow, as cheaper South American flowers flood the market. Where the flowers are from is one thing. Getting them to the buyer while still fresh is quite another. From farm to wholesaler to florist, each stem found in New York’s flower district has traveled farther and faster than most people ever will. Take, for example, a simple red rose. The one you pull out of the plastic wrap in your kitchen was likely grown in Colombia. After its stem has been snipped, it’s put in post-harvest hydration solution and boxed in a refrigerated room. From there, the bundle is transferred to a cooled plane in Bogota and flown to Miami. After passing through customs, the package is received by truck drivers, who shuttle it up the East Coast to New York. From start to finish, the process takes three days.

Blog  NY FlowerDistrict2 A photo of Louie Rosenberg (left) with his son, Sam. The elder Rosenberg opened a wholesale shop in 1930 that is now run by Steven Rosenberg, Sam’s son. Photographer: Nathan Bajar for Bloomberg The New York flower district dates back to the late 19th century, when immigrants from Eastern Europe, particularly Greece, identified an untapped market: providing flowers for department stores, funerals, and even nearby steamships. “The flower market is a shadow of its former self,” says Steven Rosenberg, a third-generation owner of Superior Florist, which was opened by his grandfather in 1930 and then run by his father Sam. “It’s still colorful to walk through, but it’s nothing compared to what it used to be.”

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Eric Levy

Potential Agreement on NAFTA Reached


Blog NaftaReposted by hillcrest garden, Inc.

Authored By: Shawn McBurney
on: September 05, 2018 In: Government Relations,

The U.S. and Mexico have reached a preliminary agreement in principle to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the two nations. It appears there will be no disruptions to the flow of floriculture products between the U.S. and Mexico.
In the wake of the announcement, Canadian trade officials met with the U.S. Trade Representative and other negotiators. Many have urged that Canada be included in the final agreement to ensure a trilateral agreement.
The updated U.S.-Mexico Free Trade Agreement is said to provide mutually beneficial trade and support for freer markets. The agreement seeks to strengthen trade for U.S. growers and agriculture, with important updates that include provisions related to biotechnology, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and geographical indication (GI) standards.
Most importantly, the modernized agreement maintains no tariffs on agricultural products. The agreement increases information exchange and cooperation on biotechnology to support agricultural innovation including gene editing. The U.S. and Mexico have reportedly also made significant commitments to reduce trade distorting policies and agreed to not use export subsidies or other World Trade Organization (WTO) special agricultural safeguards.
Depending on the outcome of ongoing negotiations with Canada, the U.S.-Mexico Free Trade Agreement now moves into a period of finalization and implementation. The Trump Administration, under Trade Promotion Authority, has begun the process of Congressional notification.

Blog Nafta



Eric Levy
President, Hillcrest Garden, Inc.

Sunflower Wall Generates Goodwill, PR For New York Florist


Reposted By: Hillcrest Garden, Inc.: Floral Industry News

Blog Sunflower WallA giant wall of sunflowers outside Starbright Floral Design landed the NYC shop all over Facebook and Instagram.
By Katie Hendrick Vincent

Last week, thousands of New Yorkers stumbled upon a sunny surprise: a wall of sunflowers erected outside Starbright Floral Design in Manhattan. Beside the display, the shop’s chalkboard sign offered passersby a free flower in exchange for a selfie on social media.
“We gave out more than 2,000 sunflowers during the four days the wall was up,” said Starbright Senior Partner Nic Faitos. “Every day, we saw a line of people waiting to snap a picture. It really worked to create a buzz!”
Faitos’ inspiration for the wall came from reading a recent issue of the Society of American Florists’ Wednesday E-Brief, which included a story about landlords in the United Kingdom investing thousands in flowers to create Instagram-friendly pubs to boost traffic.
“You never know where you’ll find your next idea,” he said. “I saw that and thought, ‘I gotta do that!’ Then the wheels started turning about how to make it work in New York City.”
Faitos chose the sunflower wall because the big yellow blossoms convey summer, “which will be over pretty soon,” and because he’d noticed a rush of Instagram photos taken in sunflower fields around the state. “The ‘sunflower selfie’ seemed to have gone viral,” he said.
Two Starbright employees spent a full day constructing the wall, which went up late Thursday afternoon. Starbright suspended its daily name game for the wall’s duration, telling passersby they could “take their pick” (of flower) if they “take a pic” (and post it).
The shop’s sign suggested using the hashtag #sunflowerhour, “but most people ended up using #sunflowerwall, #flowerwall or #sunflowersnyc,” Faitos said. Fortunately, most people tagged Starbright Floral.
Kara Liebowitz, an outgoing Starbright employee, stood near the wall, greeting visitors and talking up the shop.
Faitos took dozens of photos and videos in front of the wall — some with his staff, some with strangers, and “quite a few with pets,” he said — and shared them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. “All these posts got significant views and engagement,” he still.
Still, the shop’s own posts “were just a tiny fraction of what was seen on social media,” Faitos said. “There was one woman, someone who’d worked for MTV, who posted a selfie and got more than 7,000 likes. It’s hard to track just how far this went.”
One stat Faitos knows for certain: the shop netted 84 new Instagram followers last week. “Typically, we get 10 to 15 a month,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, the Starbright team tore down the wall, a process that was broadcast on a Facebook Live video. “I tried to use very subtle political innuendo, like ‘We’re tearing down the wall!’ to get people’s attention without being too controversial,” Faitos said. During the demolition, they gave away the remaining sunflowers on display and captured strangers’ joy in receiving free blooms.
It’s too soon to know what new business will come as a result of the sunflower wall, “but I consider it a hit in terms of getting our name out,” Faitos said. Furthermore, it boosted staff morale. “I kind of thought when I brought it up that they’d think, ‘What’s Nic’s idea now?’ but they fully embraced it and were excited to see all the people stop by.”
Faitos plans to do similar “pop up” promotions every six weeks or so, “as long as the weather holds up,” he said.
Katie Hendrick Vincent is the senior contributing editor for the Society of American Florists.



Eric Levy
President, Hillcrest Garden, Inc.


The CEO of floral delivery giant FTD is leaving amid corporate shake-up, restructuring


 Blog  FTD Staffing

FTD announced late last week that three top executives are leaving their positions as the company reviews “strategic alternatives” for its future — options that could include a sale or merger. In a July 19 press release, FTD revealed that President and CEO John Walden, who was appointed in March 2017, is stepping down, along with Chief Operating Officer Simha Kumar and Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey D. T. Severts.
In the same news release, FTD announced the launch of a “corporate restructuring and cost savings plan” to “optimize operations drive efficiency and reduce costs.” Under the plan, the company expects to save $18 million to $23 million in annualized costs in 2019, in addition to cutting $4 million to $5 million in the second half of this year.

The news of the shake-up comes as FTD wrestles with disappointing financial returns. For the three months ending on June 30, FTD projected revenues of $299 million to $301 million, compared to $328.1 million for the same period in 2017. Sales last year dropped to about $1 billion, down roughly 7 percent from 2016. Earlier this year, the company announced a strategic five-year plan focused on “improving customer relations, better supporting the company’s floral partners, supply chain improvement and a renewed focus on gifting.” The plan includes a headquarters move to a new 50,000-square-foot office in downtown Chicago.

In an email to member florists, Tom Moeller, executive vice president of the company’s florist division, said the latest changes are intended to drive “productivity and profitability” and outlined new initiatives in online services, order volume and communication between FTD and its member florists. He also revealed that, starting this fall; FTD is “looking to shift a significant amount of our ProFlower’s order volume to florist-filled products, leveraging our existing assortment.”

“We fully expect to come out of this process an even stronger FTD with the necessary resources to pursue and accelerate our strategic plans,” Moeller added.

FTD purchased ProFlowers and its sister brands Shari’s Berries and Personal Creations for $430 million in 2014. Since then, FTD has faced pressure from competitors, including floral industry start-ups, and the company year with a ProFlowers marketing campaign aimed at encouraging consumers to “think inside the box.” At the time, Walden admitted campaign results “were substantially short of our expectations.”
“FTD remains a leader in the floral and gifting industry, with widely recognized consumer brands and a global fulfillment network that includes its member florists,” Robert Berglass, chairman of FTD’s board, said in the release. “While the review is ongoing, FTD will remain focused on the execution of its strategic initiatives, in conjunction with the new corporate restructuring and cost savings plan.”

Moving forward, Scott D. Levin, FTD’s executive vice president, general counsel and secretary, will serve as interim president and CEO. Jay Topper, FTD’s chief information officer, will take over Severts’ marketing responsibilities in his new role as executive vice president and chief digital officer. Kumar’s position has been eliminated.

“Scott is a strong executive with a deep understanding of our business and we have tremendous confidence that he and the company’s experienced management team are well prepared to implement these initiatives,” Berglass said.

At press time, an FTD representative was not available for additional comment. According to the release, “FTD’s Board of Directors has not set a definitive timetable for the process of reviewing and evaluating strategic alternatives…The company does not intend to disclose developments or provide updates on the progress or status of this process unless and until further disclosure is appropriate or required.”

Look for more coverage in future issues of EBrief and Floral Management magazine.


Editors Notes


Eric Levy, President
Hillcrest Garden, Inc.


The Horticulture Industry's Age Problem is Bigger than you Think 


Blog - Horticulture industrys age problem is bigger than you think

Reposted by Hillcrest Garden, Inc. | Article by SAF

A major national newspaper recently highlighted the challenge of engaging younger professionals in horticulture fields — and the potential rewards of the myriad career paths within the floral industry.
“As older plant growers, nursery managers and groundskeepers reach retirement age, there are too few [young people] arriving to replace them,” wrote Adrian Higgins in an Aug. 5 story in The Washington Post. “Plants feed us, oxygenate us, heal us, shade us and clothe us. Plants are the stuff of legal booze and illicit drugs, and, perhaps more obviously, they simply delight us. Despite this reliance, most Americans are said to be able to identify no more than 10 species growing around them. This indifference seems to be one of the woes facing the green industry.”
The assessment is one that industry members underscored.
“There’s an age gap in commercial horticulture, a drastic and obvious lack of people under the age of 40,” said Cole Mangum, vice president of production at Bell Nursery, a Society of American Florists member in Burtonsville, Maryland. “Our largest concern is in finding that next generation of greenhouse growers.”
“We have more employers calling us than we have students to fill the jobs,” added John Dole, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University, and the winner in 2014 of SAF’s Alex Laurie Award for Research and Education. “We aren’t meeting the needs of the industry.”
The story goes on to detail industry efforts to address that challenge, including the nonprofit Seed Your Future, which has dedicated the past five years to devising a strategic plan to address the need for more young workers. The group recently launched a new campaign, Bloom!, that uses “social media platforms and personalities to make the connection between plants and topics that interest sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.”
The education component is key, Susan Yoder, Seed Your Future’s executive director, told the Post.
“Kids aren’t even going to consider a career in horticulture if they don’t know the impact of plants in our world,” Yoder said.
Yoder and Anna Ball of Ball Horticultural Company will talk more about Seed Your Future next month during SAF Palm Springs 2018, the Society of American Florists’ 134th convention in Rancho Mirage, California.
Look for more coverage of that initiative and other efforts to recruit young people into the floral industry in the September issue of Floral Management magazine.



Eric Levy
President, Hillcrest Garden, Inc.

New Jersey Florists To Help Locals Find Zen

Blog Locals Finding Zen

Reposted By: Hillcrest Garden, Inc. |
Georgianne Vinicombe is channeling her passion for all things metaphysical by hosting a Psychic and Wellness Day, complete with a “Build Your Own Zen Garden” station.
Summer is a time to rest and recharge — ideally seaside, with a frosty beverage in hand. At Monday Morning Flowers and Balloon Company in Princeton, New Jersey, Georgianne Vinicombe will help locals find zen with her inaugural “Psychic and Wellness Day,” July 29, which will feature a DIY terrarium station.
Vinicombe decided to channel her passion for all things metaphysical by connecting with local masseuses, reiki masters, and energy healers to host a daylong extravaganza, happening just feet away from her retail shop.
“The trend for us as retailers and brick-and-mortar shops is to do anything to create an experience,” Vinicombe said. “Florists can’t just survive on selling flowers in the traditional way, we have to be thinking differently. Younger people want experiences, people are looking for the touchy-feely, and we are in the perfect position [to offer this to them].”
To pull off a successful experiential event, Vinicombe advises picking a theme in which you have “a real, genuine interest.”
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., a vacant space next to Monday Morning Flower and Balloon Company will brim with live music and more than a dozen psychic and wellness vendors offering a range of goods and services, including crystal merchandise, tarot card readings and reiki sessions. From 2 to 4 p.m., Vinicombe will man a zen garden station, where guests can choose from a variety of soils, air plants, succulents, healing stones and miniature crystals to create a custom, keepsake terrarium. She’ll also have pre-made zen gardens available for sale.
Two weeks out, Vinicombe anticipates a large crowd. “Based on the traction from our MeetUp and Facebook pages, we were worried about having enough space to fit everyone who is interested,” Vinicombe said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Looking to host your own summer extravaganza? Here are some tips from Vinicombe.
• Use what you have. To cut down on extra expenses, Vinicombe will use the terrarium supplies she already has in stock, and she invited customers to bring their own containers for the zen garden station. She will also decorate the station with plants, grab-and-go bouquets and pre-made arrangements to entice more sales.
• Pick a venue with space and visibility. A large vacant spot next door to her shop presented a no-brainer for Vinicombe’s Psychic and Wellness Day. If your event exceeds your shop’s square-footage, Vinicombe suggests looking for communal spaces to set up. Contact the landlord to gauge accessibility and invite local businesses to share in the fun (and rental fees).
• Flex your networking muscles. Michele Granberg, one of Vinicombe’s former bridal clients, works in the energy healing field and offered to help the florist sign up other vendors to participate in her Psychic and Wellness Day. Don’t be afraid to mine your Rolodex, connecting not just with customers but also people who share your interests — in Vinicombe’s case, spirituality and wellness.

Editors Notes

Eric Levy, President
Hillcrest Garden, Inc.