Market Observations From The Buyers

A buyers panel featuring representatives from Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist, Whole Foods and Winn-Dixie discussed an assortment of topics May 24 at the Lilytopia Grower Symposium, including today’s lily market, favorite varieties, where cut lilies sold in the United States are sourced, a consumer trend from cut lilies to pot lilies and more.

Cindy Hanauer of Winn-Dixie, a supermarket chain with 500-plus stores across the United States, says Winn-Dixie sold 100,000 Easter lilies in a 10-day span this year. Hanauer says Easter lily sales were up 12 percent this year over last year, and considering the economy, Winn-Dixie is pleased with the growth.

Whole Foods, on the other hand, was in a different sales situation over the last year. Sandy Pilgrim of Whole Foods says all floral sales were down 20 percent last year. Whole Foods is just now seeing an upswing in the floral sales, and it’s seeing the upswing because the number of SKUs was reduced dramatically from 2009 to 2010. Simply too many SKUs were available at retail before, Pilgrim says.

As for the most popular lily variety the buyers have found? That would be Stargazer, at least for cut lilies, which the panelists virtually agreed is the one consumers at least know by name.

Where lilies are sourced was a talking point for the buyer panel, as well. Whole Foods is interested in buying lilies as locally as it can. Local isn’t always an option, though, as Pilgrim says some lilies are sourced from California.

“When we do grower profiles, we’re looking for vendors we can source product locally from,” says Pilgrim, a regional buyer based in Atlanta.

Still, buying lilies locally isn’t always the most cost-efficient approach for buyers.

“If someone wants to grow lilies here, it costs growers here more in input costs – heating and cooling, for example,” says Steve Catando of the Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist, an importer and wholesaler of plants based in New Jersey. “So in a lot of ways it’s easier to buy in (overseas) than source material locally.”

Whole Foods has a different customer base. It wants its customers to know where its lilies originate, and Pilgrim has found consumers will sometimes pay more for locally produced material. Other times they won’t.

One trend Winn-Dixie’s Hanauer has seen develop is consumer interest in pot lilies over cut lilies.

“We’re seeing a definite switch in trend from cut to pot,” Hanauer says. “Consumers seem to be going more to potted items than they have in the past.”

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