Register or log in —

Newer blog post
more in Blog
Older blog post
Newer blog post by Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs
more by Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs (oldest)
Older blog post by Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs
nancyliuchin's Picture
Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs, San Francisco Vendor: Florist Website: Nancy Liu Chin Designs About Me: A San Francisco native, Nancy graduated from the University of California - Berkeley's Haas Business School where she studied finance and marketing. Beyond running her floral studio, Nancy is a huge fan of Top Chef, loves to travel to exotic locations, is an avid reader of contemporary fiction and considers herself on Team Edward (Twilight fan!), entertains friends in her loft style home in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood, and can be found at SF Giant's home games. Nancy and her husband, Kevin are a dynamic pair and can be frequently seen walking their white Bichon Frisee, Chin Chin around the city and lounging at cafes sipping Italian sodas.
About nancyliuchin

A week ago I bumped into a floral friend. As always, we were talking shop. We were both at the end of our busy season so to say that we looked a little “beaten down” was an understatement. Both of us had dark circles under our eyes, hair a little out of place, and shoulders sagging from feeling weary about the season ahead. Both lacked sleep. Tired. Yulp.

After spending some time chatting, she mentioned that after 20+ years in the wedding floral business, she was struggling with paying the bills. And that she didn’t have much to show for it. After seeing so many ups and downs, she said that this year was the worst.

If someone with her experience is still having trouble making ends meet after investing 20 years in this business, then what can we learn from this?

During these times, it’s hard to feel bullish (confident and upbeat). Given that my background is finance, I often seem to have a “bear” mentality when it comes to business and consumer confidence, though on a personal level, I think I’m more glass-half-full than the glass-half-empty type.

In business and when it comes to consumer confidence, I confess that I’m conservative and bearish all the way (a bear investor or analyst is one that is “accompanied by widespread fear and pessimism” as defined by Wikipedia. ). And because I am bearish, this is what I have to say to those who are thinking of starting a career as a floral designer or a florist (or more simply put - anyone just going into business for yourself).

Save Save Save

When it comes to your business, you better know how to save. Save for a rainy day. Save your profits on a yearly basis for future expanse or for the growing opportunities. Save now for next year’s unexpected expenses or downward sales. Save for the unknown.

Many businesses, especially floral and event designers, forget how to stay on budget. Stick with a shopping list, and buy only what is needed. I totally understand when you are in your element of design that it is always so so so easy to buy more more more. Or when there’s a great sale from your suppliers we get carried away. I say, “stop and evaluate”. Do you really need it?

What I am saying is that you have to be good at saving. Learn to buy wisely. Learn what deals are worthwhile. Learn to save for upcoming projects. Does not mean you go cheap. No No No.

In well managed companies (small or big), cash flow is crucial. Especially during tough times, those companies who have strong cash flow can weather the downs.

For Richer, For Poorer
This piece of advice is for those who haven’t started their business and are still on the fence. No matter what I say, I know many of you will jump right in but I’m going to say it anyway. If you are one of those that don’t care about making good money, working long hours, waking up early, and being enslaved to your work, then you don’t need to read this section. However, what if you do care?

For those of you who would like to have a home one day and might need money to pay for the mortgage (or your credit card bills or your college loans or even a shoe collection), who want to have a life outside of their work, and who might care if they have to give up weekends, then read on.

I am sure that many people will bash me for saying this so hold on tight… unless you are at the top top top of your game in your community, most floral designers do not make that much money in comparison to averages. Period. (Did I just burst your bubble? sorry!) (****The top of the market or top volume businesses are excluded from this conversation)

The profit margin is horrific. Horrific.

That’s why after so many years, my dear floral friend was crying on my shoulder. She’s having a hard time meeting her financial needs and feels that she doesn’t have much to show for 20 years of work in this field. I feel that way too.

Why do so many floral designers gripe that they don’t make much. It has to do with low profit margin and consumers’ expectation of what is an acceptable margin. Planners don’t get it. Editors don’t get it. Venues don’t get it. Consumers don’t get it. As a floral designer, we’ve heard people moan, “wow - flowers are so expensive!”. Sure, but that’s because they are perishable, usually imported, and are rare things. Most flowers are not common commodities like oranges, beef, water, and pork bellies that can be traded on the NYSE.

Let me continue.

Did you hear that Apple’s last quarter profit margin was over 35%? Wall Street applauded this. A 35% gross margin on a $100 item from Apple, would equal a pre-tax profit of $35.00. Wall Street and most investors of Apple did applaud the company for managing their bottom line and thus the stock jumped on trading news.

However, when it comes to wedding flowers, most average consumers would probably question if a floral designer made $35.00 per every $100 of flowers ordered. I’ll give you an example. If a boutonnière is priced out at $20.00, a floral designer should make $7.00 - right? However, most consumers probably would feel that it is too much. Not all consumers, but many. I’ve actually had many brides ask me why a single stem of flower that should be worn on the lapel should be over $5.00. (That’s another decision which I am not supposed to talk about.)

For argument’s sake, let’s look at this backwards from the cost perspective.

Let’s price something out with an APPLE 35% profit margin. Once you buy all the ingredients, you take that and multiple by 3x. For this example, let’s use this bouquet below.


Recipe and Costs
1 bunch of orange tulips at $9.00 a bunch
1 5 stem bunch of orange orchids at $10.00 a bunch
1 bunch of orange mini calla at $20.00 a bunch
1 stem of green cymbidium orchids at $22.00 a stem
1 bunch of orange Asiatic lilies at $9.50 a bunch
1 bunch of 50 cm deep orange roses at at $18.00 a bunch
1 stem of orange cymbidium orchids at $22.00
1 bolt of ribbon at $7.00 a roll for 10 yards
1 box of pins at $2.25 a box
1 1inch floral tape at $2.00 a roll

Are you ready for the costs? Total approx costs - $122. The retail should be (@ 35% margin) - $366.00. What is the market expectation for this bridal bouquet probably - $250 to $300.00.

It is because some (not all) wedding markets cannot bear to afford a $366 bouquet before delivery and tax that so many floral designers have to lower their margin. Thus most arrangements are probably being produced by floral designers with a 2x or 2.5 times mark up. If so, you might guess that after labor, overhead, rent, utilities, sales tax, trucking, liability insurance (and on and on), that a 15 to 20% overall profit margin might be obtained. (As for my own business, we average 25%, which isn’t good and isn’t bad. There’s always room for improvement and I’m working on that.)

What does this mean for a floral designer or new florist?

Well, if your profit margin is say 20%, you do 40 weddings at $3000 per wedding, then total sales equals - $120,000. Your end of year gross before taxes would be ———-

$24,000

Let’s say you live in the Bay Area; this would be far below the average salary. According to Indeed.com, as of October 20, 2009, the average salary in the Bay Area is $85,000. It’s no wonder since the average one bedroom rent is around $1839/month according to rentaldata.com. So if you make $24,000 per year, you could barely make rent.

Do you see where I am going? When an average bride spends $1000 on wedding flowers, if your profit margin is 20%, you make $200. If you spend 30 hours on that project including setup, phone calls, emails, etc, you make

$6.66 dollars an hour.

I once calculated how many hours I spend and it turns out that I work an average of 6 days a week, 46 weeks a year, totaling over 2700 hours per year. We do over 40 weddings per year plus I meet with 80+ clients. The average wedding client gets 60 hours of my time (doesn’t include my staff). So if a typically client spends around $4500 before tax and delivery and if my margin is 25%, then I make roughly

$22.50 an hour.

I’m sure you know what I’m getting at. This business is not for the faint of heart. 2700 hours a year. 60 hours per client. That’s what it takes if you want to do above average, full customized weddings in which you service the client and write customized proposals.

If your community does not have the floral business that some areas like San Francisco has, you need to do more weddings at a lower average ticket and you have to be able to get a higher margin if you want to stay in it for the long run.

Of course, money doesn’t have to matter. But I’m not talking about making millions. I am talking about making a standard of living so that you can have a good quality of life. Before you jump in, ask yourself

Can your community support the type of business you want to run?  What do you have to do to make you stand out so that you can be innovate like an Apple so that your client will accept a 35% margin? Where do you have to cut expenses in order to reach an acceptable margin? What do you have to charge?

Your Worth Know your worth. If you’ve spent many years in this business, you know it’s tough. If you are lucky like I am, you work with great vendors. You have a wonderful selection of fresh products. You have a great talent pool of resources and designers to choose from. You have wonderful clients who understand. Not many of us floral designers are remotely this lucky and fortunate.

Yet after it’s all said and done, I kept thinking about my floral friend and I wonder, was it all worth it? 20 years and still being unable to pay the bills. Was it worth it?

And for me the answer is very simple. No matter what, there is much more to life. And as much as I love to do what I do, I know what’s important to me. And I know that it isn’t about the money. It’s not even about the respect and admiration of your peers.

It is good knowing that I just love creating beautiful weddings and working for myself. Yet, I know what my limits are. And I know that it takes sacrifice to be a success, but no matter what no sacrifice is worth it if I don’t have the things that are dear to me… my health, my hobbies (outside of flowers), my friendships, my family life, my time with Chin Chin( my baby dog),my only time, and my hopes.

Bottom line: Know what you are worth. Stand for what you need to make. Weather the storms by being a good saver. Spend wisely. Cash is king.

Tags: |   Link for this post | Share this post:  Share this post on Facebook  Add to Kirtsy
Newer blog post
more in Blog
Older blog post
Newer blog post by Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs
more by Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs (oldest)
Older blog post by Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs

64 Responses to “Behind the Scenes: Bear, Bear, Bear”

1.
Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions
Pro
Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions (message)  360 posts, Helper bee

I love your “behind the scenes” posts. I recently made a leap and left my day job to become a full-time Celebrant, and it’s true - I may seem to charge a lot, but for the time and effort I put into travel, expenses, advertising, and my writing it doesn’t work out to be that much. But, of course, it’s something I’m passionate about, which does make it a bit easier. But still - sometimes it’s easy to get hidden behind the wedding industrial complex.

 
2.
Guest Icon
Guest
busybuttons

Hi Nancy,

This is a great, great post. Thank you for telling it like it is, as always. I love getting this insight from an experienced and talented vendor like yourself. You’re an inspiration!

 
3.
Bee Icon
Bee
Mrs. Cookie (message)  795 posts, Busy bee

AMEN!

 
4.
Member Icon
Member
NC Girl (message)  228 posts, Helper bee

Wow. Really… WOW. This is such great information and insight… and you broke it down in a way that makes perfect sense. THANK YOU!

 
5.
Mrs. French Bulldog
Bee
Mrs. French Bulldog (message)  1,088 posts, Bumble bee

Great post Nancy! I think more ppl need to understand what they are paying for. One of my teachers this quarter in design school was telling us how our market it showing it is in our best interest to charge ppl for goods (sofas, tables, wallpaper etc) at the SAME price we paid. To make our profit we charge a design fee for our knowledge, creativity, experience etc. Like your business ppl don’t know how to pay for talent, knowledge etc.

 
6.
Guest Icon
Guest
The Broke-Ass Bride

Nancy, thank you for this post! It was *so* well-written, so well-thought, and such good advice! It is helpful when things are put into perspective, especially when passion is involved. Hopefully some entreprenewbs will be saved a load of heartache from this - I know it helped me realign my perspective and I’m not in the floral business! xo

 
7.
Guest Icon
Guest
saundra

THANK you so much for this post. That was tremendous and so important for people to read.

I’m glad at the end you talked about some of the things that are important. It’s been a tough year, I’ll be glad to see to see 2010.

 
8.
Guest Icon
Guest
 
9.
Guest Icon
Guest
bmolavi

Wow! awesome post!

 
10.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

My darling friends. Can I give everyone a group hug??? Can I send out a message of hope??? I’m there with you. It’s been a tough year. And we all need encourage and also a dose of reality. I truly thank you for your comments. This post was in my “trash” bin. I didn’t want to write it because I hate sharing the ugly truth and I cannot tell you how much your response means to me. Just know that I think of all of you out there and I want to encourage you to stay the course if you love it as much as I do.

 
11.
Guest Icon
Guest
Snide Bride

Nancy -
I applaud you for keeping it real. Removing the ‘wool over your eyes’ and swallowing a healthy dose of reality can only empower you and others.
Taking a look at the ugly truth allows you to make decisions, based on fact, and not ‘what ifs’ or innuendos. The wedding industry does not = 24/7 glamour.

 
12.
Guest Icon
Guest
isha | isha foss events

Nancy,

This subject is very much on my heart at the moment. Thank you so much for this post.

 
13.
Guest Icon
Guest
LVWedding Concierge

Nancy,
Thank you, thank you for your honesty and realism and you put in very eloquent words what all of us, as Isha Foss said, is “on our hearts” at this time.

Tracey

 
14.
Guest Icon
Guest
Emily Ley

Great post. I’ve been in business one year and really enjoyed what you had to say. Very insightful - I like wedding pros who look at this industry from the business perspective. As a stationery designer, I often look at it from the “design” perspective and have to take a step back (especially when it comes to buying top of the line supplies). Many thanks!

 
15.
Guest Icon
Guest
Marcia- Beautiful Kreations

Nancy I will forever be grateful for Twitter and so proud to be a solid follower of you. I too come from a finance background and your article was so well put together. And yes i embrace your group hug, and yes do share the tough truth about this business. Without a doubt this has been a very tough year, but one if you pay close attention can steer you well into the future. Whoever doesn’t use this year as a guide will definitely bottom out. I have become a more conservative, frugal shopper who needs to splurge, why? Save, Save, Save has been my mantra. Lessons well learned this year will guide me and I hope all of us floral designers as we approach many more success and successful years ahead! Thanks Nancy.

 
16.
Guest Icon
Guest
Latrice - Bridal Opulence

Thanks for posting this!! Very informative & ties into where I am right now with my 2010 vision model. Thanks for your honesty!!

 
17.
Guest Icon
Guest
Great post! Know what you are worth « Brittanyflowers™ Weblog

[...] October 27, 2009 Great post! Know what you are worth Posted by brittanyflowers under Uncategorized Leave a Comment  http://www.weddingbeepro.com/2009/10/27/behind-the-scenes-bear-bear-bear/#comments [...]

 
18.
Guest Icon
Guest
Carol

I own a custom wedding accessory business. I have been reflecting the past few days about 2009 sales/profits so this article could not have come at a more perfect time. Thank you for sharing!

 
19.
Guest Icon
Guest
Jen French

Nancy,
THANK YOU for writing this. It is a subject very much weighing on me these days. I ran headlong into this business years ago with love in my heart and lots of passion, but lacking a solid business background of any kind. I’m afraid I’m one of those people crying at the end of the busy season, tired and worn out, and yet wondering how I’m going to make it through the winter financially. Thanks for this frank perspective.

 
20.
Guest Icon
Guest
Jasmine S.

I am bewildered by your math. If the materials cost $122 for a bouquet, then a 35% margin on the sale price would dictate a sale price of $188. (Work it backwards: $188*.35=$66, which is your margin over costs, which were $188-66=$122.)

So $66 would be your margin, or the compensation for your time. Does it take about 3 hours to put together a bridal bouquet? (At $22 per hour…)

 
21.
Guest Icon
Guest
Amber Events

Great post, Nancy. I spend a lot of time educating my clients on why wedding vendors charge what they charge.

 
22.
Bee Icon
Bee
Mrs. Quiche (message)  3,150 posts, Sugar bee

Great post!!

 
23.
LatteLove
Hostess
LatteLove (message)  5,567 posts, Bee Keeper

this is a really helpful interesting post! thanks for sharing!

 
24.
WeddingMediator
Member
WeddingMediator (message)  6 posts, Newbee

I’ll add my thanks to all the others singing your praises. Wedding folks come to their work full of creativity and passion. For me, it’s about making a connection and helping others to do the same. That feels intimate, personal and not something that ‘business’ should sully. Yet, I know if I don’t understand and manage the financial side I’ll be out of business, unable to help anyone enjoy a happier wedding experience.

I’ve shared this with my tweeps as well as on Bridal Tweet because your writing and reasoning is so clear and unarguable. I agree with Marcia that this year will separate hobbyists from those who disciplined about building a sustainable business. Nancy, you rock!

 
25.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

Dear Jasmine

The math is correct. You are not looking at it correctly.

What I am saying is this. Inorder to produce a bouquet that costs $122.00, you will need to mark it up 3x to $366. However, most floral designers do not mark it up the correct way. They do 2x. So floral piece that cost $122 will be sold at $250. The difference is $128 of which the majority of the cost will go to overhead like labor, utilities, rent, workers comp, business supplies, staffing, and on and on.

What you are missing is that the profit is not just the gross price of goods - the cost of goods. There is also overhead. That is why most floral designer make very little margin.

Once you include labor, worker’s comp, employee tax, rent, utilities, business expenses you will see that you can’t just do a straight 2 times marking.

Let me continue.

A company’s rent might be 10% of it’s total sales. Labor could be 15%. Utilities might be 5%. Marketing might be about 5%(that includes postcards, business stationary, ads, etc). Sales tax is CA is 9.5% for SF business. Misc operating expenses include Accounting/Bookeeping, Computer and Equipment maintenance, Vehicle/Truck Rental, and the list goes on.

I would say that if materials cost 35% then the other overhead cost range around 40% for many businesses. Thus 25% margin is what I usually get once the books are done.

If the cost of goods were your scenerio and it was 65%, you can see really easily that I’d be in the RED.

I have no issues trying to explain but markup and profit margin are two different things.

 
26.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

Thank you again for all your wonderful remarks.

And please when you are pricing things out. Do not for any reason just do NOT just multiple your direct costs by 1.35. No No No.

You will see that if you did that, you have not taken into account fixed costs and business related expenses.

Final cost of a product is not just the cost of materials. I repeat….Do not multiple your costs by 1.35x.

If you are trying to figure out how to price your goods. Please take into account

Overhead
Rent
Labor
Labor related costs
Utilites
Office Equipment
Truck/Vehichle
Marketing
Travel
Education Expense

And many others. If you don’t understand, please go see a CPA or accountant. You can also buy very simple business books from your local book stores.

I want to repeat. Do not confuse profit margin and markup.

 
27.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

This link to EBIT

Which stands for Earning Before Interest and Taxes is a good way to understand why the components to a price is NOT simply the cost of goods sold.

Additional expenses that must be addressed by all businesses include

Operating Expenses
Selling Expensese
Adminstrative Expenses
General Overhead Expenses
Depreciation/Amoritization
Non Operating Income

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earnings_before_interest_and_taxes

As you can see I’m very passionate about this and I just don’t want the Math comment to be taken out of context. Jasmine is very right when you look at a very simple equation of just cost of goods - price. However what I have been saying for so long is that cost of materials ONLY is not the complete picture. I hope many of you read the post and took away that point.

 
28.
Guest Icon
Guest
Eric Keith Scott photography

Your numbers are way off. You can not pull the numbers out of the air like that. You can not say 20% of the 120,000.00 is your before taxes profit.

You have tax deductions in there. You can not compare an Apple Pie to a florist business.

I like the attempt you made to discuss this topic but there are not many truths to this. Sorry.

Eric Keith Scott photography

 
29.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

Eric…Do you mean that it should be lower or higher than $24000?

You missed the point. I was giving a very simple math that IF a business had a profit margin of 20% on $120,000 it would be $24,000. I did not say that it will or it should. I am merely trying to tell people who to calculate.

Also, if you re read you will note that this is the demostrate the key explain which is that margins are often low because business do not price their services/goods correctly.

That’s my main point. I am not saying that all businesses have a 20% profit margin. I’m not even saying that at all. I’m merely demostrating or theorizing why my floral friend made her initial comment which is

After working in the business for so long, why doesn’t she have anything to show for it on her books….which does include the fact that she may not be marking up her services/goods correctly.

There are many reasons for why businesses are having a tough time. Do not just look at the profit margin. There are many reasons beyond that.

Once again readers…please see this not for all the numbers but the heart behind it which is that we have to be smart about our business and that there is more than just COST of MATERIALS. We need to look at all our costs.

Thank you Eric…and I appreciate the comment.

Sorry if my numbers are way off. But please be specific next time if they are way off low or way off high. I don’t think it’s high!

 
30.
Guest Icon
Guest
Jasmine S.

Thanks for the clarification Nancy! I definitely see your point (costs of doing business are high; it’s hard to make a buck)… I just found the math part of the exposition opaque. The example is hard to understand unless we come up with concrete estimates for the many other overhead costs you listed in your reply. I’m sure that Apple’s reported 35% margin is over & above their direct labor costs, shipping, etc. I think that’s your point too.

I enjoyed this post; I like thinking through the math on these things. And I like your posts in general–love seeing your floral designs!

Best wishes!
Jas

 
31.
Guest Icon
Guest
Eric Keith Scott photography

Hey Nancy, Sorry I missed your phone call. I was out photographing my sons football game.

I get your point. I love the fact you put yourself out on the line like you did. I enjoyed the article very much. I had never heard of this site till just a few hours ago.

Again sorry I missed your call, would have loved to chatted with you. With teenagers in the house we keep a busy schedule and I usually text way more then I talk on the phone.

Keep up the great work.

 
32.
Guest Icon
Guest
Wedding Critic

@Nancy Liu Chin: @Nancy Liu Chin: @Nancy Liu Chin: @Nancy Liu Chin: @Nancy Liu Chin:

I think your friend needs to shop better than that, those prices that you put up here are more like that of retail, for the menu you put on here..They need to really shop better than that.

 
33.
Guest Icon
Guest
Eric Keith Scott photography

nancy lets get together and make a new mandatory law across the country that no florist or photographers can create their price list without going through you and me. Deal? We will have all wedding professionals making 7 figures within two years.

Now, how shall we do this?

 
34.
Member Icon
Member
Lillindy (message)  10,356 posts, Sugar Beekeeper

Awesome post!

 
35.
Guest Icon
Guest
Daevid Reed

Thank you, the post was very insightful.

 
36.
Guest Icon
Guest
Barbara Del Sol

OOOPS!

Big time math error in your article!!!
3X + 300%. A 35 % margin is .35 or $.35 per dollar!!! in your example the MATH for the total cost $122.00 on your little bouquet with at 35% margin (%%%% not XXX) is $164.70 NOT $366.00. Good Grief!!

 
37.
Guest Icon
Guest
Randi

Thanks Nancy! Yet another great post… keep ‘em coming! :)

 
38.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

I want to thank Eric Keith Scott who just made my day. We had the best conversation. I can’t wait to take all his good business advice and write another article.

What I have learned is that we are not alone in our challenges. We are not alone is our moments of frustration and struggles. We can all help each other.

I’m utterly thankful to all of you who responded. Keep it up.

 
39.
Guest Icon
Guest
Eric Keith Scott photography

nancy is trying to educate. get past the numbers folks and create your own. Nancy is trying to give you the idea to think own your on. Your numbers will not be the same as my numbers. In Texas I can live very nice off shooting 20 weddings a year. If I lived in San Francisco 20 weddings a year would get me a card board box behind a hamburger joint eating the scraps.

Eric Keith Scott photography
972-613-0023

 
40.
Guest Icon
Guest
Immune? | Weddingbee

[...] like everyone else – it’s their job and it’s how they feed themselves and their families (see Nancy Liu Chin’s recent Weddingbee PRO post – she does a great job of outlining the financial reality that a lot of wedding vendors face). [...]

 
41.
Guest Icon
Guest
Asema

Really interesting aricle! Its great the way you broke it down!
Asema/Magnolias Linens

 
42.
Guest Icon
Guest
jhphi

@Barbara Del Sol: please check out Nancy’s explanation, in comments 25/26/27. The cost of the actual flowers is not the total cost to the florist, for the bouquet.

 
43.
Guest Icon
Guest
 
44.
canegirl08
Member
canegirl08 (message)  158 posts, Blushing bee

hallelujah friend!

 
45.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

Wedding Mediator - well spoken. Very inspirational. You also know what you are doing. Read your blog!!! loved it.

Wedding Critic - I hear you. You are absolutely right. Did you know that many florist and floral designers in SF pay almost retail for our flowers at the wholesale market? This is no secret. A whole bunch of us floral designers always say that we cannot compete with the local grocery chain that sells certain flowers at 1/3 of the price that we get from my wholesale vendors.

I’ve been fighting and challenging the wholesalers to get with it but they fight back and say that our quantities are too small for bulk pricing.

Bulk is not just a few bunches to them.

Yes, you can get really good pricing when you “cut out the middle man” and go direct, however not every bride or every wedding or every event can meet some of the grower’s minimum bulk. Some can, some cannot.

The online wholesalers want you to buy in large quantities and sometimes all you really need is just a bunch. If you want to buy a bunch of lily of the valley for the bridal bouquet and you are forced to buy in bulk…is that smart? What if you might need 50 stems of Peonies and the wholesaler box is 100 stems. What to do with the other 50?

My list varies every week so I can’t always buy in grower’s quantities. Not trying to make excuses, I’m just being realistic. Also, our foliage, branch, and organic vendors are amazing and you can’t really “ship” that. You should see what Green Valley and Florist at large get. Their cutting are very unique. You have to go in and see their stuff every other day or you lose out on the finding the most unusual things like Pistachio or Hawthorne or Oak branches.

Buying direct has it’s benefits for certain and we can all take a lesson in negotiating better. I got you!! Good call out - could not agree with you!

 
46.
Guest Icon
Guest
Lisa

“As a floral designer, we’ve heard people moan, “wow - flowers are so expensive!”. Sure, but that’s because they are perishable, usually imported, and are rare things.”

Not to be snarky, but can you please explain why my florist charged $250 for a bouquet of peonies when I found a an eight stem bunch at Whole Foods that very same week for $12.99?

 
47.
Guest Icon
Guest
Amy Marella - The Hidden Garden

Lisa,
I own a flower shop in Los Angeles (with 10 years of experience) i’ll give you my opinion …and it is just my take on flower buying for weddings.
you are paying for “perfect flowers” on your wedding day when you hire a Floral Design Company. You are not looking for flowers on special. Places like Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Costco etc buy flowers in “bulk” and/or buy flowers that are “flushing” from the growers. (flushing means that flowers are coming in great abundance and the grower is willing to get rid of them quickly/cheaply because they have a very large quantity). This is not to say that the flowers at these locations might not be perfect but they are not “hand picked” by the buyers. There is no guarantee what might be there week to week. They are brought to these places in “bulk” therefore offering consumers lower prices than your local floral shops.
Another thing to consider is the pre order of your flowers. I’m assuming that your florist “pre ordered” your flowers for your wedding 2 weeks before your wedding date to ensure that the “exact” flowers you want for your wedding are what she receives (pending any unexpected Mother Nature issues). These pre orders don’t usually result is lower prices. A florist actually pays a slightly higher premium to guarantee that the flowers they need for a wedding are EXACTLY what they want. My company (The Hidden Garden) does exactly this. We might cost a little more across the board but with that comes piece of mind for the bride. We always (again pending any mother nature issues) show up with the EXACT flowers that the bride requested for her special day. We don’t hope for “specials” and we pre order or cherry pick each bunch of flowers used for a wedding. All of those elements (including my time to do this) result in a higher cost to the Bride than what Whole Foods has to offer. You are essentially paying for piece of mind.
Hopefully this helped understand the high cost of those beautiful peonies!! love that flower! - Amy

 
48.
Guest Icon
Guest
This Week In Business :

[...] this has been going around the networks this week but I wanted to join in the chorus of praise for Nancy Liu Chin’s article over at WeddingbeePRO. Nancy discusses the cost of doing business as a florist and how profit [...]

 
49.
Guest Icon
Guest
Christine

Thank you Lucy and thank you Amy for your comment/explanation of floral costs.

Brides too often just don’t get that wedding professionals are in business to make a profit.

 
50.
Guest Icon
Guest
Lisa

@Christine: Christine, I think every bride is well aware that vendors are in business to make a profit. You’re not charities, and we’re well aware of that. However, I think every bride realizes there is a substantial markup in florals. If a vendor’s overhead is equal to your realized profit, it’s a business decision that the vendor makes and must live with.

Early in my planning, I met with a florist that worked out of a huge warehouse space and another that worked from her home. One quoted me $3K and the other quoted me $8K. I decided that it wasn’t my job to fund the costlier vendor’s rent and utilities. I didn’t end up booking either vendor, but I just wanted to provide this example to show that a vendor’s overhead is a calculated business decision. If it hurts your bottom dollar, you should change it, instead of labeling us as naive brides.

 
51.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

Lisa

I understand how you must feel and you are not a naive bride.

As a whole, the way floral designs and florist do business looks to be in for a change.

I did respond to you via my blog today.

If you need anymore clarification, please do not hesitate to call me or email me.

Best,
Nancy

 
52.
Guest Icon
Guest
david d

Great initial article and excellent repostes as well. Cleary, going forward floral designers will need to seek out more esoteric products that exhibit real beauty and really provide value through proper mechanics and a fundamental understanding of design. The days of flower stuffing are a thing of the past. I belive that these changes will ultimately prove a good thing for our industry as there are cleary far too many people calling themselves designers who ought not to be in this business. But the winnowing process will be tough, but necessary.

 
53.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

If you are seriously a floral designer with multiple years of running a wedding floral business, please email me at

weddings@nancyliuchin.com or twitter me.

Amy of Hidden Flowers
Karen Tran
Audrey of Studio Stems

We want to do a Wedding Flower Summit in SF. How wants to join us?

Feb 2010.

Anyone?

 
54.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

I typed too quickly - Amy of Hidden Garden Flowers

 
55.
Guest Icon
Guest
Evelyn

Nancy, what an amazing article it’s very truly appreciated thank you for telling it like it is. Thanks to Khris @ Behind the Scenes for posting this link, a great find.

 
56.
Guest Icon
Guest
Eric Keith Scott photography

If it is this difficult in SF to purchase flowers at discount prices then why not solve the problem instead of complain about it? Get together create an organization with the buying power. Get together and purchase a warehouse and demand the buying power. If you can gripe about it, then there must be a problem, then you can get rid of the problem.

 
57.
Guest Icon
Guest
Paul Retherford

As a Full-Time Wedding Photographer for 7 years, I know about profit margin and I price myself accordingly. I love my work BUT I am in business to make money. My customers always receive top of the line products, material, and service.

Your article really lays out a scenario where so many Professional Vendors struggle. It is one thing to get a job and another to get a job and lose money. A lot of Vendors are losing money! Yikes! Thanks for the insight!
Cheers!
Paul

 
58.
Guest Icon
Guest
Cindy Wagner

I just wanted to thank you SO much for the reminder and great info!
It’s easy to get a little crazy and depressed/worn out this time of year.
I totally love being a wedding photographer and sometimes I think I’d do it even if I had to pay my clients! On the other hand, there is no way I could do this and stay in business, ie. pay for the new and top of the line equipment I use, pay my assistant photographer, buy the albums, pay my student loans, advertising, not to mention health care and retirement on top of a living salary.
So many of us are passionate about what we create and don’t have great business management skills and it’s hard to even think about charging prices to our clients that we could never afford ourselves. (We are probably not our own ideal clients.)
Thanks again for giving me the strength to press ahead with reasonable pricing and business management improvement!

 
59.
Guest Icon
Guest
Summer

I always feel so sad for floral designers. It is one of the toughest ways to make money in the wedding industry because the overhead is so expensive. Working out of one’s garage/house cuts costs, yes, but it is a very dismal working environment. I’ve done it…and I HATE doing it. What makes me even more sad is that floral designers are so often beat up for their high costs, despite the fact that profit margins are so low! Nancy…your article hit the nail on the head. Thank you!

 
60.
Guest Icon
Guest
The Fairy Wedding Father™

THANK you for the post! It breaks my heart to hear the pricing plights of our colleagues!

Thank you for helping light the path to help them.

 
61.
Guest Icon
Guest
Dina Eisenberg

Thanks, Nancy, for your kind words. Eighteen years in the conflict/communication world means I hope I learned a thing or two.

What really needs to be highlighted is something you said in response to Eric, ‘

What I have learned is that we are not alone in our challenges. We are not alone is our moments of frustration and struggles. We can all help each other.

That’s so true. Just about every struggle could be answered by someone else in the wedding community if we all decided to collaborate. As in ‘co-labor’ to make all our businesses a success. How much happier (and successful) we could be if we were as generous and transparent as you’ve been. You’re an inspiration, Nancy.

Warmly, Dina

PS Thanks for reading my blog!

 
62.
Member Icon
Member
GlitzandGlamour (message)  2 posts, Wannabee

Excellent post. So many of us LOVE what we do so much that the business perspective can get lost at times. I definitely came to a point where my family & my sanity come first, which meant revisiting my business practices so that I can be in a position to continue doing what I love while actually making a real profit. Thanks for this!

 
63.
Guest Icon
Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

More thanks to all of you.

Hopefully this shows that the world of flowers is not all together “rosy”….but I don’t think us, floral designers, want people’s pity —- for sure.

I LOVE what I do. I wouldn’t keep doing this every day if I wasn’t passionate. I believe that many others must agree with me. We LOVE creating. We LOVE working on wedding projects. We must LOVE so many things about this business.

IMO, this is the best and most rewarding experience of my life! I wouldn’t trade my 6 figure job in retail and corporate life for anything because MONEY does not buy you happiness.

Let’s never lose sight of the JOY of what we do.

 
64.
Guest Icon
Guest
diy flowers « five almonds

[...] of florists resonate with me more. I’ve read other posts about the cost of flowers (like this one and this one) and additional more big-picture feedback from consultants like Sean [...]

 

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Newer blog post
more in Blog
Older blog post
Newer blog post by Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs
more by Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs (oldest)
Older blog post by Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs
Visit our sister sites eHarmony
Online Dating
eHarmony Advice
Dating Advice
Project Wedding
Wedding Songs
JustMommies
Pregnancy Calendar
Copyright 2004-2014, Weddingbeepro.com
 
Sponsors
Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs
Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs, San Francisco Vendor: Florist Website: Nancy Liu Chin Designs About Me: A San Francisco native, Nancy graduated from the University of California - Berkeley's Haas Business School where she studied finance and marketing. Beyond running her floral studio, Nancy is a huge fan of Top Chef, loves to travel to exotic locations, is an avid reader of contemporary fiction and considers herself on Team Edward (Twilight fan!), entertains friends in her loft style home in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood, and can be found at SF Giant's home games. Nancy and her husband, Kevin are a dynamic pair and can be frequently seen walking their white Bichon Frisee, Chin Chin around the city and lounging at cafes sipping Italian sodas.
 
More
 
Sites We Love