The State of the State Florists Associations
by: William “Williee” Armellini, Editor: Flowersandcents.com
Having worked in many segments of the floral industry I have had the pleasure to attend many state florist associations conventions over the years. These local organizations have always been a great spawning ground for new florist to learn from the floral veterans.
I believe these mission statements say it well:
“A professional trade association for all branches of the floral industry including retailers, wholesalers, growers, manufacturers of floral products and supplies, brokers, shippers, importers, interior plantscapers, and others who service the floral industry. The varied membership, bound together by common interests, also includes students, retired florists, university professors and researchers.”
“To support and advance professional horticulture.”
An online search for State Florist Associations identified about forty two meaning nearly every state currently has one or, at least, had one long enough to make this list. Over the last decade many of these associations have been struggling to keep members due to a host of reasons. I reached out to as many as I could find contact information for and to date only seven have responded. Perhaps some of them are skeptical of my intentions and chose not to reply. My best guess is that in many cases there is no one there to respond.
I thought it would be worth my time to seek them out and find out how they are doing in 2014. I asked some basic questions and share a summary of their remarks below.
1. What is the trend in membership over the last 5 years?–
Minnesota: “The past year we have had a decline in membership- and active board members. This is due to relying too heavily on key members in the past.”
Texas: “TSFA has retained members with minimum growth.”
Montana: “I would say that the trend over the past five years has been a decline.”
California: “Membership is up slightly with more students joining.”
Utah: “We are still a fledgling Association and our membership has been up and down for a variety of reasons.”
Arkansas: “Bringing new members into the association has been a challenge for several years.”
Michigan & Wisconsin: “Membership has now stabilized but we’ve lost 50% of our retail membership over the last 15 years.”
2. Is it easy or difficult to attract members to sit on a board of directors?
Minnesota: “EXTREMELY! Everyone is so busy with their own businesses it leaves little time to devote even if it is for the good of a group.”
Texas: “This depends on the year and economy. At this time, we have a very active board and do not have difficulty, but several years ago it was a different situation entirely.”
Montana: “Finding people to serve on the Board, this is becoming a problem. Many one and two person shops don’t have the time or staff to serve on the board.”
California:” Difficult everyone is too busy.”
Utah:” We are currently operating with all 15 Board positions filled and of the 15 seats we have some very active and dedicated seats to work with.”
Arkansas: “Normally, we do not seem to have a problem getting members to sit on our board.”
Michigan & Wisconsin: “It’s not easy to find quality Board members who can volunteer the time it takes to move the Association forward. We are fortune to have the good Board members we have.”
3. Do you have a good base of volunteers?
Minnesota: “When it comes time of an event there are always lots of hands that want to help.”
Texas: “TSFA has a fantastic volunteer base.”
Montana: “As far as volunteers go, we generally don’t have too much of a problem getting help, especially around convention time when we need it.”
California: “Yes people come out to help.”
Utah: “We do have a good pool of people who step up and volunteer. Without Both our Volunteers and our active Board Membership we would not be what we are today.”
Arkansas: We have a good base of volunteers.
Michigan & Wisconsin: “Yes we have a great base of volunteers willing to help in both Michigan and Wisconsin.”
4. Do you organize an annual convention?
Minnesota: We do not have an annual convention planned at this time.”
Texas: “Yes and this year is TSFA’s 100th Anniversary!”
Arkansas: “We have been told by our vendors who attend the state conventions that we have the largest state convention in the country.”
Utah: “Yes we do, we have held four full scale conventions for Utah. The first State Convention was the largest we have had yet.”
California: “Yes we have a large convention each year. During our annual two-day convention we offer hands-on design classes, world-renowned floral designers, as well as a Top Ten Competition and Student Competition.”
Michigan & Wisconsin: “Yes we produce the Great Lakes Floral Expo in Michigan annually and the WUMFA Annual Convention in Wisconsin.”
Montana: “We do host an annual convention.”
5. Do you organize educational events?
Minnesota: Currently we do not have any educational classes or convention planned. We do have in place a certification program and our annual designer of the Year competition.
Texas: “Yes, Texas Cup Competition, Jr. Cup Competition (high school level), Texas Certified Florists classes (hands-on and online), Texas Master Florists Advanced Classes, High School Agriculture Floral Design Teacher (over 300 in 2013 attended classes) and TSFA certified high school students in Level 1 floral design certification annually.”
Arkansas: “We do have educational events throughout the year and for the most part they are well attended.”
Utah: “Yes, we do. In the past we have held a few workshops for the Utah area, but with the introduction of our new State Certification Program last year, The Utah Certified Floral Designer (UCFD), we have really stepped it up a notch for 2014. This year we are introducing a total of 6 educational workshops throughout the year to help cover the material needed to pass our certification requirements.”
California: “Yes we have a California Certified Florist program. And many educational programs throughout the year.”
Michigan & Wisconsin: “Yes we have educational classes at our headquarters in Haslett, MI, we also partner with wholesale houses and make classes available at retail shops. In Wisconsin we hold classes at wholesale houses and vocational schools. Michigan and Wisconsin also offer the Certified Florist program. This program is available as a self-study or online course with hands on classes available as well. Learn more at www.michiganfloral.org & www.wumfa.org “
Montana: “We organize educational events for the convention. There are generally hands-on workshops on Saturday and the design show on Sunday.”
6. How do you see the industry in total?
Minnesota: On the decline. The brick and Motor florist is becoming an endangered species! But as I have found the ones that have survived have consolidated and are stronger and bigger than ever.
Texas: “The Texas industry is strong. But there is always room for improvement.”
Utah:” I believe the industry is in transition right now, we as florists are struggling to find what we think is important in our industry with regards to education, training and service.”
California: “Concerned as high school are losing funding for floral programs. Growth in Retail is very slow.”
Michigan & Wisconsin: “Great, our industry has more varieties of flowers available today than ever before. Care and handling products are better than they’ve ever been with the best distribution and logistics chain ever. That’s not to say we can’t do better with precooling and better with cold chain management. Retail today is probably more challenging than it’s ever been but opportunities still exist everyday.”
Montana: “As the economy continues to be stagnant, I see people eliminating those luxury items, which includes flowers. Competition from on-line, mail-order flower sites as well as the chain stores continue to be factors in the decline of true flower shops.”
After communicating with all of these organizations I have come away with the conclusion that people are busier than ever, leaving little time to devote to an association. Clearly we are all busier today because life has gotten more complex by putting more demands on the limited resource we call “time”.
There is one major difference between associations that came to my attention during my research. Only a few associations have paid staff. Michigan, Texas, Montana and California have at least one person on staff. The rest rely solely on volunteers and that speaks volumes about the state of some of these once active associations. Obviously it takes funds to support a dedicated staff and that requires membership and dues and the cycle goes on or not.
Like most civic or industry associations the level of activity and success can often be the direct result of one man or woman who has a passion for their industry or group and is willing to lead the way in body, soul and sometimes dollars. Garlene Lewis of the Arkansas State Florist Association said it best:
“Leadership lends a lot to our success. Bill Plummer is our General Chairman and Secretary/Treasurer. He is passionate about the success of the association and has been a great leader for many, many years. I attribute his leadership to much of the success of the association. Our pastor once said that “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. I have never forgotten it and I truly believe it to be true no matter what you are involved in – family, church, business, government, etc.”
Without these champions and cheerleaders associations become rudderless and the preverbal flowers wither on the vine. As life dictates, these people are getting older and retiring and unless there is new blood willing and able to take their places we have stagnation.
We all are aware that the retail segment of many industries is under tremendous pressure from all sides and there are fewer and fewer success stories to be told but successes are out there.
This reality was stated well by Peggy Aakre of the Montana Florists Association.
“The one thing I have found, since becoming a florist, is that florists take themselves for granted. They do not realize the impact that they have on people’s lives. We help people celebrate their achievements, welcome their children to the world, make birthdays and anniversaries special and even make things easier when families must say goodbye to loved ones. It’s ok to give yourself a pat on the back every once in a while.”
In conclusion I would say that the State of the States Floral Associations is somewhere between healthy and on life support. Those with an active membership, good events and quality educational programs appear to doing ok. Without all of these necessary ingredients many florists are left on their own to ply the murky waters of retail.
I wonder how much of this apparent apathy might be attributed to Social Media? Many florists, or would be florists, are turning to the web and finding answers, knowledge and camaraderie. Many of the very same benefits that an association provides. Granted, minus the human touch and eye contact which I personally think are the most important benefits of an association.
Perhaps in the future there will be just one giant online organization that attempts to serve all. See you in the future.
Thanks to the following for provided information for this article:
Garlene Lewis, Arkansas Florists Association
Ann Quinn, California State Floral Association
Peggy Aakre, Montana Florists Association
Kym Erickson, Minnesota State Floral Association
Dianna Nordman, Texas State Florists Association
Jeremy Trentelman, Utah Professional Florist Association
Rod Crittenden, Michigan Floral Association / Wisconsin & Upper Michigan Florists Association