World Floral Expo, Los Angeles 2015
The most unlikely but wonderful thing has happened!
The California and South American growers were in the same exhibition together in what appeared to be perfect harmony. To me this was the most important take away from this latest show.
To put this into context I remind the readers that while growers from both hemispheres have exhibited at the same shows before, never have I seen so many in the same space. Ever since the Latin’s began exporting flowers to the US there has been a war raging that has been counter productive to say the least.
The WFE shows have typically focused more on South American and European related companies so participation from domestic growers was minimal at best. The decision to hold this year’s event in LA seems to have turned the tide and, with the support of CCFC and the new entity CalFlowers, there were many domestic growers with stands.
The long legal, territorial and emotional battle has left some scars but on the positive side, the battle has sorted out the products offered by what grows best where. The California growers cannot and will not ever be able to grow the large headed longer stemmed roses that grow so well in the high altitudes of the lands on the equator. Nor will the Latin growers be able to grow as beautiful dahlias, larkspur or gladiolas as those on the pacific coast of the US.
The “buy local” movement has helped shape this floral supply landscape and I say; “if you can buy what your customers demand locally. Do it, whenever and wherever possible”. But do not let your domestic pride limit your business opportunities. In the end consumers want to buy all types of flowers and if the floral world cannot meet those needs, they can easily buy chocolate or any number of products that are competing for our business.
Back to the show. Many visitors and exhibitors noted the presence of Ecuadorean growers not normally seen at this show. The US market, once ignored by some, has now become quite attractive as Russia and Europe cope with a strong dollar. At the same time the Colombian exporters are celebrating a weak Peso that has given them some breathing room.
This show, like most, was not jam packed with bodies in the aisles however, I would say that most exhibitors were pleased with the quality of those buyers that were present and declared the show a success. The size of this show, while not grand, was manageable and allowed a visitor to effectively navigate the hall and conduct business.
The Colombians and Ecuadorans were well represented with consolidated stands that were effective by allowing many growers to be represented. There were also growers and suppliers from Africa, Italy and Australia.
An early morning tour of the LA flower market was quite an eye opener and effectively demonstrated how challenging the market in this big city can be. Bob Mellano did a great job of showing off Mellano wholesale’s well-oiled operation and explaining the long history of the market. The history lesson took us all the way back to World War II and the sad time when the Japanese Americans were also considered the enemy. The tour was informative and educational but for me, the scene just outside the market doors was the most shocking.
Since my last visit to the market many years ago, a whole new series of flower markets have sprung in every direction. It reminded me of a flea market except the fleas in this case were flowers, tons of flowers including lots of expensive South American roses available at very, dare I say, really cheap prices. Bob calls this plethora of more than two hundred vendors “the walk of shame”. One can only imagine how the pricing works when roses are being sold for barely the cost of importation.
The show organizers HPP keep pushing the boundaries and testing the waters to provide value to the floral community. According to them the show attracted one thousand visitors up over 150% from the last event held last year in Chicago. There were more exhibitors and more floor space to accommodate them as well.
Finally HPP noted that they have been approved by USDA, which allows exhibitors to apply for a rebate.
According to Dick van Raamsdonk of HPP the 2016 WFE show will be held either in LA once again or perhaps in San Diego, which is my personal preference. Hope to see you there.
William “Williee” Armellini
Editor and CEO: Flowersandcents.com