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Every year at about this time, retailers, floral importers, shippers, consolidators and transporters are sitting down and evaluating their supply chain planning and execution for one of the most important floral holidays of the year.

While floral retailers are busy putting the finishing touches on in-store merchandising, the rest of the industry is evaluating how to improve speed to market, reduce bottlenecks, and extend vase life through a complex, temperature-controlled, international supply chain.

Biesterfeld-HeadshotRobert Biesterfeld The increased demand associated with floral holidays can wreak havoc on the supply chain if all stakeholders are not aligned with a strong plan going into the rush. In addition to growth in supermarket floral and other traditional outlets, there is strong growth in non-traditional channels such as drugstores and convenience stores. This growth causes supply chain planning to become even more complex.

Domestically, the tension between supply and demand for temperature-controlled transportation is largely balanced. So if not properly planned, any large regional swings in demand, such as the floral holidays, can have profound impact on cost of service. Additionally, regulations such as the pending changes in driver hours of service and the California Air Resource Board’s clean-air limits on equipment will cause even more headwinds for future holiday surges.

Attention now turns to planning for Mother’s Day. There will never be a perfect way to control all of the variables associated with a holiday rush, but selecting the right transportation provider for you can prevent many problems. When selecting a floral transportation provider, consider:

• Collaboration and flexibility. Find transportation providers willing to work collaboratively between suppliers and receivers throughout the year as an extension of your business. And let’s face it, our industry is dynamic. Orders change daily based upon production, unforeseen delays and changes in demand. A good provider can adapt to these changes.

• Quality and visibility. The experience that the consumer receives when they take your flowers home can be impacted by the cold chain. Select providers that have the right type of equipment to haul your product and that use strict operating protocols to ensure cold-chain integrity. The best providers will provide you visibility to the location and temperature of your product while it travels throughout the supply chain.

• Cost management. Look for providers willing to make longer-term commitments to pricing and volumes. Ideally a provider should be able to move your product in the lowest-cost mode, such as converting small parcel to less tthan truckload and LTL to consolidated truckloads, to drive down your net landed cost.  

• Broad service offerings.   The ability to deliver straight loads from your facility to a customer distribution center is just the start. Strong providers will have multiple consolidation points, forward distribution capabilities and be able to make direct store delivery and expedite shipments via air freight.  

• Managing risk and honoring commitments. Your providers must be able to monitor and report on carrier safety ratings and have the financial stability to honor cargo claims when something does go wrong. Be sure they can honor their commitments to price, capacity or quality.

With the right collaborative planning and the right transportation providers, delivering the goods on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or any other floral holiday can be a more manageable process.

Robert Biesterfeld is vice president, temperature-controlled transportation and sourcing services at C.H. Robinson Worldwide in Eden Prairie, MN. He can be reached at 952/683-3378 or