John Kurtz used to be able to look at his business ledger from the year before to gauge how many flowers to order and what to expect for upcoming holidays at his County Seat Florist shop in Mays Landing.
Now, the latest news on the economy and world events make it more difficult to predict because news has been affecting his customers’ spending habits more, said Kurtz, 62, who lives above his shop and is also president of the Mays Landing Merchants Association.
“Things are impacted so much by the media and events and things that happen it changes almost instantly,” he said. “Your business can be up and down based on what’s happening in the world.”
People are also making more last-minute flower purchases close to holidays. Kurtz said this was his busiest Christmas Eve in nearly four decades in the floral business — predominantly because shoppers put off their purchases later.
As these habits change, mom-and-pop florists such as his compete with larger retailers.
“All you can do is be one step ahead of the curve. Offer quality service, delivery, offer to let them pick and choose what they want, and customers will come to you for that reason,” he said. “The mom-and-pop stores can cater more to what people really want.”
Kurtz grew up in the floral business. When he was a boy, his mother owned the Garden Florist on Michigan Avenue in Atlantic City, where he picked up the trade early.
He went on to work for and manage several florist shops before opening Egg Harbor Florist and Gifts in 1983.
When he opened County Seat Florist, he operated both shops for a while before closing the Egg Harbor City business in 2001, focusing on the location he felt was busiest.
Kurtz found one economic sign in the floral industry that may point to more people forgoing long-distance holiday travels: Flowers sent with the message, “Sorry we can’t be with you this year.”
Spending on flowers given for no special occasion also has declined as people have cut back on discretionary spending.
But the floral industry is resilient.
“In our business, you have certain aspects that are always going to be there,” he said. “You’ll always have babies born, you’ll always have funerals.”
Funerals account for nearly two thirds of business, he said.
Holidays are also popular times.
The Christmas and Hanukkah holidays and Mother’s Day are the top two flower-giving holidays, accounting for more than half of special-occasion sales volumes and revenues, according to the Society of American Florists.
Kurtz said the industry is always changing, and staying on top of trends is important, and he still attends courses and seminars on trends.
“Colors, styles of bouquets and flowers, you have to stay up on that — what’s the hot color for the year, new flowers that are crossbred with others. Longer-lasting flowers. I can remember 40 years ago you have five or six choices in colors of roses. Now you have 60 choices,” he said.
Kurtz said being in the flower business has its perks, something that’s kept him in the industry for decades.
“It makes people happy,” he said. “When someone gets flowers and gets emotional when you bring them flowers, that’s a reward in itself.”
For someone considering starting a business today, Kurtz recommends he or she do extensive research on the location, competition and costs, as well as developing a detailed business plan.
“You just can’t turn a key and open a front door and expect customers to come in,” he said.
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