Frugal Living Podcast: Frugal Flowers
In this episode of Frugal Living, host Jim Markus talks with Jake Leganski, who has worked with FTD and ProFlowers, about how to get a good deal on flowers. You can listen to the Frugal Living Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, on Anchor.fm, or anywhere you go to find podcasts.
Table of Contents
- Is There a Best Time of Year To Buy Flowers?
- What’s the Biggest Mistake People Make When Shopping for Flowers?
- Read a Transcript from This Episode
- More about the Frugal Living Podcast
Jake explains that like most things, flowers follow the basic principles of supply and demand. He uses roses as an example. Roses bloom twice a year: once before Valentine’s Day and again in late July or early August. Obviously, there is a greater demand for roses before Valentine’s Day than in the summer, so summer is the time of year to get cheap roses. As a general rule, flower prices are set by their seasonality.
According to Jake, the most common mistake people make when ordering flowers is believing that they’re ordering one kind of experience but order another. Broadly speaking, there are two types of flower delivery experiences. One experience is having flowers packaged and shipped to the recipient, who will need to cut the stems and arrange them in a vase. The other option is having a finished arrangement hand delivered by a local florist. Jake explains that the second option, which is what most people are imagining when they’re ordering flowers, is typically only about $10 more than the first option.
Sometimes people also fall into what Jake calls the “Amazon effect.” People are used to getting free shipping with Prime or when they spend a certain amount. But free shipping isn’t always viable with flowers because of how much goes into shipping them. He explains that many flowers get sourced from Colombia and are only cut the day before they reach the final recipient. That means that the flowers need to be shipped overnight to a florist in the United States and shipped out again to the recipient immediately to arrive fresh. He says that sticker shock is a factor for people who only buy flowers online once or twice a year.
I know so much more about flowers than I ever thought I would.
This podcast is brought to you by Brad’s Deals, a team of real people dedicated to helping consumers. How do you get a good deal on flowers? I talked to Jake Leganski who worked at FTD.com and Pro Flowers. Here’s our conversation. Ideally, I’d love to start with, is there like a specific time of the year? Like, is there a specific holiday where it’s cheaper to get flowers? And if so, why?
So that is a, that’s a loaded question because there are many different answers, right? Like for example, we just, we just passed Valentine’s day, right. Roses traditionally, and I say traditionally because of how you source flowers, and source roses, traditionally, roses bloom twice a year. We have some farms in California that we source flowers or roses specifically from for Valentine’s day. They will bloom again in the summer. So you can kind of put two and two together that the demand for roses is much, much higher at Valentine’s Day than it is in July or August six months later in the summer. And so if you want roses for cheap, you’ll probably get them pretty cheap in July or August. The problem is that you may not want roses in July or August. And so, you know, supply-demand, right? The very classic, very classic supply-demand curve there, especially on the cost side of things.
So nice circle back over to Valentine’s Day, roses are really expensive. That’s not something that, you know, FTD/Pro Flowers or really any other floral provider wants to do, but our own business costs also skyrocket, you know, and so as much as we would love to give you, you know, a dozen roses or two dozen roses for, you know, a dollar a piece plus delivery fees, it’s just not reasonable because of how much it costs to get it from the farms because everybody needs roses. You know, you can kind of apply that rule to quite a few different types of flowers throughout the year, but on any given basis, on average, you probably won’t see pricing change too drastically throughout the year. If you’re just on the site, it just depends on kind of what’s in season and what’s actually strongly in demand. There’s a cool shift happening right now.
The demand for plants has gone up quite a bit in the last maybe two or three years. And that’s just kind of across the board, but especially in mother’s day. And so plants are unique because they are not a stem of flowers, right? They are, they are in and of themselves an entire plant. And so they take a little bit longer to source because the farmers have to plant them and grow them so that they bloom at the right time. And so if you don’t get that demand curve correctly, the demand planning for that right? Now, the farmer may not have enough plants and now you’ve got to pay more as a business and they get to pass that unfortunate cost onto the consumer. And so I think, you know, we, you know, we the experts in this industry, we try our best to identify those trends so that we can pass those benefits onto the consumer or at the very least prevent them having to eat a greater cost because we weren’t prepared for it, but there’s really only so much you can do.
It’s fascinating. I’ve been with this company at FTD. I’ve been with FTD now for a little over six years, six and a half years actually. And I, I mean, I know, I know so much more about flowers than I ever thought I would (laughter) in a good way though. It’s such a unique industry to, to play, to play a part in, because I think most people, you know, in, in a marketing type role, like I’m in, you know, e-commerce especially, you don’t work with perishable products. And if you do, you’re demand planning for maybe electronics, you know, if you, if you work for an electronics provider, you demand plan for that, but if you don’t sell through it, it’s probably okay. Now, but if we don’t sell through our plants or flowers, now we’ve got to dump those. Right. And so it’s such a, it’s such an interesting, the whole scale, you know, enterprise-wide planning process. And that, it’s great. It’s also great to be a part of it because you, you learn a lot of different things about the business in general. I had
Never really considered that, but yeah, I think it’s a very unique situation. You’re in it. Like you said, you don’t sell it that, you know, the flowers wilt and die that you’re, you have a very specific timeline to work with here.
I mean, literally things change by the hour, especially at least in these peak periods. And so, you know, collaboration that has to take place across the entire organization to make sure that the holiday goes according to plan. It’s pretty incredible.
I love, I love stories like that. So I’m an editor at Brad’s Deals. And so it’s my job every day to think of this as what does this look like for a reader? Like when I read here, comes to our site, what is their experience? How do they get, they want roses? How do they get the roses? (laughter) Like, it sounds like you work with one of the most well-recognized flower distribution companies in the world, which is pretty amazing. But what that means to a consumer is that you are incredibly sophisticated at this job. This company does flowers better than anybody else does flowers. So with Halloween candy, the advice to a frugal shopper is: Wait until November 1st. You know, like, wait till after Halloween and then buy your Halloween candy, you know, but like flowers, it’s the opposite because like you said, your whole business is dedicated to making sure you don’t have much surplus. So for roses, if you’re saying, you know, mid-summer because there’s, there’s an equal supply as in earlier in the year, but there’s a much smaller demand. That’s a really unique piece of information to give to a shopper. Something I had no idea about.
Yeah, no, of course. Well, well, first of all, uh, Jim, that’s why I’m here. It’s the dilemma for this industry overall. Like I can say, you know, I can say the brand FTD/Pro Flower, I can drop, you know, I can drop the brands all day long because that’s who I work for. And I, I truly do think that we ever do it best, but it’s. . . Everybody faces the same issue with, you know, with regards to that planning process in industry, how you address it is probably the unique part. And so if you look at other players in the space, some of them have a very, very luxurious approach. Some of them have a very, very value-driven approach, some kind of toe the line (that can be both). I think at the end of the day, what matters the most is how much value you place on the customer experience as the business, right?
So that is something that FTD and Pro Flowers. . . We source, I’m like talking about these farms in California, that we get roses from or tulips or whatever, any of them, anything like that. We shipped, we shipped flowers, you know, in a box directly to your door, but we also have a very large sophisticated network of florists, local florists across the entire country. And so, so we provide experiences in both ways. And that is something that I think as far as, you know, value-add goes, that is something that we need absolutely, unequivically place our largest value on for the consumers that they are paying, let’s call it just a round number. Let’s call it 60 bucks for a dozen roses to get shipped, right? Like 60 bucks for 12 flowers, that’s a lot of money you would, you would argue, right? Especially if you’re a frugal shopper. Um, and so, and so, you know, it’s in our best interest to make sure that that experience goes exactly to your expectations. And so we dedicate a lot of time and resources and strategic planning to making sure that that’s the case.
I appreciate the candor there. It’s true. There’s a lot of moving parts, right? Like if you want the cheapest flowers. . . Grow flowers. You know? Picking flowers. . . we will do an episode on gardening. For sure. That will be an episode we’ll talk about. But when you’re ordering flowers for, you know, your mom who lives in Washington state and you live in New York, online ordering can be an incredibly convenient thing. And then that leads to the next, I guess the next two areas I wanted to make sure we could talk about one. I think you’ve already hinted at it a bit, but what do you think the biggest mistake is people make when they buy flowers online?
I think the most common mistake is people have the intention of delivering one experience and they actually order another. So, you know, the, the gift box versus the florist, you know, pre-arrange interface. I feel like when, when people, when people are ordering flowers online, they may not, even if we, you know, no matter what, no matter where it is along the process, you know, along the steps of the process, we say, you know, shipped by UPS or FedEx or ships or delivered by a local florist. You may not see that. And so you, you know, you get attached to the photo of the flowers. You attach to the price, and then you’re focused on making sure you get the delivery, you know, the recipient’s address, correct. Because you got to collect the delivery address and then your billing address. Right? And so people, you know, they might not be expecting that.
They just, for some reason didn’t expect that. And so I think by the time it ends, they may not realize that what they actually ordered is going to get shipped in a box. And then when it shows up in a box and their recipient doesn’t know any better, you know, but the recipients says well, “thank you so much. This is, this just got here.” And then the sender sees a gift box. They see, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. That’s not what, that’s not what I ordered. You know? And so I think, I think there’s a little bit of, I don’t want to call it confusion, but, um, maybe misinterpretation purely because people get a little bit distracted. And then I think the second most common issue is you call it the Amazon effect. And it’s kind of a very, very common phrase nowadays.
But you know, we charge shipping fees. With Brad’s, with the Brad’s consumer, you know, we, we do our best to do free shipping as often as we have deals running. But on an everyday basis, we charge service fees because there’s a lot of stuff. Like I said, we have to get flowers shipped from California or even Columbia. I think that’s a, that’s a better, that’s a better example for this. But if we, if we’re getting 15 stems of tulips and you ordered them for your mom in Washington state, those are getting sourced from Columbia. They’re getting cut the day before they arrive, which means because we don’t want them to die. So they get cut. They get shipped overnight on plane into the United States. And then they get sent across the country to your mom’s door within 24 to 36 hours. And so people are expecting free shipping because they have Amazon prime or they have whatever.
And FTD does have free shipping memberships. Don’t get me wrong. That is of course an option. I think people should use people should use them more often, but that’s neither here nor there. I think the sticker shock is a big aspect because most people don’t buy flowers more than maybe once or twice a year. And so if you’re not an avid floral purchaser, you may not realize that it’s pretty common practice to have to spend an extra 15 or 20 bucks to get it there because there’s a lot involved in making it happen. And so, yeah, I think, I think those would probably be my, my, my two cents.
I think that’s a really good answer. One of the things that’s come up a few times with a few different people is the idea that if you don’t shop online a lot, it’s easy to forget how sophisticated this whole process is, online shopping. When you go to Amazon and you buy patio lights, or, you know, a table, a lot of people think, “Oh I’m shopping on Amazon. It’s Amazon selling it to me.” And so we forget to see, oh, it’s, oh, it’s a third party seller. And it’s a third-party shipper or it’s a third-party seller and Amazon ships. There are a lot of things that go into that, that are listed on the page, along with thousands of other bits of information. So we just gloss over it and we say, buy it. And then it sends and you wonder why it took, you know, two weeks and it’s the wrong product because it’s not who you thought you were buying from because you didn’t think to look. Yeah. Well, it sounds like you’re, you’re saying there’s the same kind of thing, right? So it’s not just Amazon, like it, it’s everywhere you shop online. This is something to consider when you order a flower experience like a gift, a plant, something to consider, it sounds like, is, is this going to arrive in a box? Is this going to arrive via FedEx? Or is this going to be a delivery from a local florist? And those are two vastly different experiences.
Yes. Well, and, and like I said, what we value the most is the experience and making sure that we deliver on the value. There’s a reason that companies like ours exist. We are the experts, right. We know what we’re doing. We know how to source, we know how to deliver. And if you’re looking for a deal, we can, obviously, there’s a reason we’re on that call this call, right? Like we work with Brad’s all the time and we can get, we can do that, provide that kind of thing. But if you’re, if you’re looking for something that’s really going to wow. You know? That’s something that like, there’s, there’s a lot to be said for paying just a couple bucks more, just a couple. It’s not a lot, just a couple of bucks more to make sure it’s right. That’s probably the biggest differentiator is that if you go on, like I said, if you want to Amazon right now, you can probably find a couple of different bouquets, mostly roses, you know, it says 40 to 45 bucks, you know, if you have a prime membership rate, but I promise you, that’s not gonna be the same experience between even taking the $10 difference with, you know, after a year before it’s going to give you a dress of experiences.
So, and I, I mean, because I’ve been working in this industry for so long, that was the biggest aha moment for me too, is because I think for anybody, like I said, who isn’t an avid floral shopper, including employees. You say, wow, how do we, wow. They charge a lot for this. I mean, you say, oh, you know what, I get it, I get it now. And so tie that back into this whole frugal living, you know, and that’s, that’s what we’re talking about here is, is how do people possibly shop for flowers and expected to spend less? And how do they shop frugally? I think frugal is, you know, this is not by definition per se, but if you’re looking for value, right? Because if you are value-driven shopper, I think there’s a lot of space to play, you know, with your budget, because you want to make sure that at the end of the day, what you are buying was worth the money.
Yeah, I hear you on that. And I think I’d like to know a little bit more specifically on, you know, you’ve, you’ve mentioned, this is kind of the aha moment you’re in the industry. You start to realize there’s a big difference between you lower-end deal flowers and a real experience. Like something that is, you know, maybe you pay five or $10 more, but it’s notably different. Can you go into that a little bit more? Like what, what kind of differences could you expect?
So I think it was two years ago, I want to say. We were working on an unboxing experience. If we’re going to do an unboxing that I would like to do is, is to deliver you both experiences that we offer for floral, which is structured and they can florist delivery. And what they spoke to is primarily the price differences between the two. So the main difference here is between that gift box experience, you, as the person receiving the flowers, have to take it out of the box at the stems. And it’s usually even, even for a smaller bouquet, there’s usually anywhere between 10 and 15 stems in there. And if you want to put them all evenly, it’s going to be a little bit of a painstaking process. But it’s totally doable. It’s not something that you have to like call anybody in to, you know, to bring in the chainsaws or anything like that.
But you, yourself, as the recipient have to arrange it, the way that the flowers are boxed is how we would recommend you place them in your vase. But unless you can cut all the stems at once, kind of in a row, it’s a little challenging, right? So we provide everything you need, but that’s a very, very different experience than if somebody in a, from a local shop or local florist arrives at the recipient store, step knocks on the door and waits for somebody to answer, right, because they’re not UPS or FedEx. And then just, you know, especially during COVID times, they’re not just, you know, coming up the door, leaving a box on the front porch and then walking away. They are knocking and they’re waiting for you to open because they need to deliver this handmade. And like, they’re the experts here, right? Like they have been probably doing this for quite a while.
Um, and so they make beautiful arrangements. They’re waiting for you open the door, they’re handing you the, the bouquet, the prearranged beautifully artisan-crafted bouquet. And when you get, it’s kind of a, wow, what-is-this type moment? And almost always, you know, complete with a little note, you know, if the person delivering the flowers wants to to give a gift message, it’ll usually be in the, in the bouquet somewhere. And the difference between those two experiences on average is only about $10, which is kind of absurd, right? (laughter) To say out loud, because I would argue that the florist experience is drastically superior, but at the end of the day, it depends on what you’re looking for. I mean, even Pro Flowers, Pro Flowers made its name on gift box, fresh cuts, floral deliveries.
And then it’s just, it’s just something that we found that people, people wanted more florist deliveries for that reason. So that’s why we still offer, you know, gift box type thing with the experience for a florist-delivered item, it’s just leaps and bounds better, at least on average for what most people want. And so the reason I’m calling Casey out here is because Casey even admitted that during the unboxing, she didn’t realize how different the experiences were. Right? When she told me, she said, “I’m a convert. You know, I never realized exactly how different and better this experience was. And so anytime I ever send flowers in the future, I’m going to do this.” And typically that’s how people feel about it.
People who aren’t familiar with the frugal community often think frugal life and frugal living is about spending as little as possible on everything, no matter what. And that’s not the case, there’s a whole community of people into like men’s fashion, who will swear by high-end denim jeans, and they’ll pay $80 for a pair of jeans, which sounds absurd. That sounds, you know, you can get $18 jeans at Target, you know, if they go on sale, but if your jeans are gonna last longer, you know, if this is going to be the pair of jeans, the last two 30 years, you know, maybe it’s worth spending three times as much to have them last 10 times as long. It sounds like the story here with flowers is, is kind of the same, where if you, if you don’t mind doing the work, uh, ordering a gift box and doing the arrangement yourself, and then giving it to the person in person yourself, that might be a good frugal option. But it sounds like for a little bit more, you can deliver the experience that you’re you, that you’re really idealizing in your mind. Like if you’re thinking about delivering someone flowers, you really want someone to hand to them already arranged, set up for them. So they don’t have to think about it. They just are excited. They’re getting flowers,
Right? No, exactly. Well, and, and, and that’s, uh, you mentioned something there. Almost, almost all, not, not every single one, but I would, offhand, I’m going to call it 95%. 95% of the orders that we take are not for self consumption. So if you are sending flowers to somebody, you probably care about them, right? Just like right off the bat, you probably care about this person. (laughter) And so in that experience again, then there are different, there are different people might be placed, different values and different things and their different tastes and preferences. So like, it’s not to say that the boxed flowers are wrong, right. Because there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of good to be had in that kind of experience. But generally speaking, especially, you know, in, in Casey’s situation too. Just as an example, a lot of people say, oh, wow.
You know, that’s the aha, that’s the wow moment. They say, this is so different. And the value, the extra money, you know, it’s truly like, it’s not a matter of a hundred dollars difference. We’re talking about a 10 dollar difference, right? On average. And so, and yes, there are drastically different price points, depending on if you’re trying to get luxurious. If you’re trying to keep it even a little bit on the low end. You’re looking more for the, for the, you know, the door delivery than you are for the actual arrangement. So there’s a bunch of different things that can go into it. And we don’t have 10 hours to talk about this. (Jim: Unfortunately) I know. Right? (laughter) But so, but, but still it’s, it’s something that I think, like I said, FTD identified that, and that’s why the Pro Flowers model a little bit more closely aligns with the FTD model nowadays is because there’s absolutely, uh, a large market of people who want to get boxed flowers because people like to receive it that way.
They like to provide to themselves so on and so forth, you know, and it’s also a little bit on the more affordable side. That’s at play here. It’s just that if you, if you can justify the upgrade, that’s the way that I would put it truly is. It’s an upgrade because that’s another thing too, is that the actual floral arrangement tends to be a little bit more on the basic side for, you know, drop-ship type flowers, because they were cut from a farm, they’re put into a box, and then shipped. As opposed to a florist through, like I said, who’s an expert at this. And they’re putting the things together because they are the expert. They have been at this for, you know, for their whole careers. And so you can identify what experience you want. That should make it a lot easier for you to identify the types of cases that you want to send to this recipient and what kind of experience you want them to have based on the budget the year they’ve been coming to the table.
I like that a lot. Are you really trying to buy someone flowers, or are you trying to buy someone an experience?
When talking to Jake, I was really blown away by the idea that sometimes it might make more sense to buy from an online site that uses a local partners to deliver flowers. You get to benefit from someone’s real expertise, someone who lives in your area or in the area of the person who you’re giving the flowers to. And it makes a difference. It’s something I hadn’t considered, but after talking with Jake, I’m convinced
Special thanks to Jake Leganski. H. Borkowski is our story editor. And I’m Jim Markus. If you like frugal living, please share it with a friend or leave us a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening. Frugal living is brought to you by Brad’s Deals, a team of proud consumer advocates who scour the internet every day for the best prices on well, everything. That’s BradsDeals.com.
To hear more from Jake about the ins and outs of buying flowers online and how to get a deal on flowers, check out the latest episode of Frugal Living.
Frugal Living is a podcast for smart consumers. How do you spend less and get more? The show, sponsored by Brad’s Deals, features interviews, stories, tips, and tricks. Jim Markus hosts season two, out now.