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It’s a wilting industry but one that has a lot of potential nonetheless. Independent florists struggle to play catch-up with an increasingly online dominated world and persisting monopolies. On the other hand, many of them simply don’t have the capacity in terms of financing their own fully fledged ecommerce sites as well as having access to large product volumes of stock to compete with bigger online giants.
If ecommerce is where the money’s at, how can smaller companies compete with bigger, sometimes international brands? By sourcing third-party florists’ products across the country, customers from all over South Africa and the world can choose from hundreds of different flower bouquets and arrangements. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, and launched in June 2012 SA Florist not only aims to offer the best online shopping experience to shoppers looking to decorate but also provide so many local struggling businesses with an opportunity to survive as well as grow further.
The platform acts an online marketplace where traditional florists are given an online presence. “We allow them to run their entire business from a single tool giving them a fully integrated ecommerce Platform that does everything from a world-class website,” notes founder Nicholas Wallander. Florists are enabled to send and receive (relay) orders nationally and internationally at less than 30% of the cost of the current service providers.
Like so many small businesses in emerging markets, “Independent florists simply have not been able to capitalise on the ecommerce revolution and now find themselves at the mercy of large, monopolistic players who put further pressure on them by overcharging for an out-dated (fax-based) service,” he argues. This is where SA Florist steps in.
After seeing his mother’s traditional florist business go under, Wallander identified a number of flaws and monopolistic tendencies in the industry due to lack of competition and innovation. Wallander describes himself as an entrepreneur at heart and took 8 months out of the corporate world and designed SAFlorist 1.0.
This is where SA Florist stepped in. As mentioned above, by skillfully sourcing florists from across the country, SA Florist is able to provide customers with a massive variety of its unique product range. Traditional third-party florists, on the other hand, have a new store in the cloud and access to greater markets. Apart from Kenya, South Africa is the continent’s biggest exporter of flora.
Flowers and other gift services are luxurious as well as affordable, making them disposable goods. Though flowers are a seasonal product, having a storefront in the cloud theoretically gives florists access to international markets based in either hemisphere which means they’re able to operate all-year-round.
SA Florist, not only provides a face or a storefront online, it offers a “comprehensive, end-to-end solution for this embattled industry.” One platform that can run the entire business.
Flowers and gift baskets are generally considered discretionary purchases, ordering product via the comfort of your hassle-free laptop, is incredibly attractive and while emerging markets such as South Africa increasingly have access to online services as well as disposable income, companies such as SA Florist has potential to bloom.
From a customer’s point of view, with so many online alternatives, however, it’s difficult to see exactly what SA Florist currently brings to the table that gives it an edge over the rest.
The fact that SA Florist provides a comprehensive platform to florists, hopes to makes it stand out from many competitors such as online retailer NetFlorist and InterFlora. The company argues that while florists use many different tools to manage their businesses, SA Florist is the first fully integrated platform that can do just about everything.
Wallander further explains the platform provides, “Stock and order management system with financial reporting and accounting, point of sale and consolidated stock procurement which gives them access to prices that only the biggest players in the market currently can.”
Today, the company is self-funded at around R800 000 though, Wallander notes it’s potentially looking for a VC to fund the next phase of the business.
Taking it to the next level means putting sales people on the road while diversifying its product range. SA Florist has further plans to franchise the platform globally and says that it’s already in talks with prospective franchisees in Australia and the UK.