Florists in The Woodlands area adapt to a changing market amid event cancellations

Florists
Area florists are offering delivery or pickup options for their flower, plant and gift options. (Courtesy Sprout Fine Floral Concepts)

Area florists are offering delivery or pickup options for their flower, plant and gift options. (Courtesy Sprout Fine Floral Concepts)

Florists are among the many local establishments that have been affected by concerns surrounding the new coronavirus outbreak and related guidelines surrounding business and social gatherings.



In The Woodlands, some flower shops remain open to service smaller events and are offering delivery options to avoid face-to-face interactions. Florists said current disruptions and future concerns associated with COVID-19 have effectively ended their event services while forcing them to adjust some of their store operations.



“A lot of our business is weddings and galas, and unfortunately a lot of those have been postponed,” said Cullen Handfelt, owner of Piney Rose Flowers & Decor. “It’s tough on our customers to have to postpone the weddings. It’s very sad. ... It’s going to be a busy fall once things get back.”



Mary McCarthy, owner of The Blooming Idea, said the cancellation or postponement in weddings—which she said make up around 25% of her business—has dropped off over the past week due to venue closures and health concerns. One of McCarthy’s clients with a wedding scheduled at a Conroe venue for March 21 was forced to cancel and hold the ceremony at home March 20.



“Beginning this week, I’ve just been on the phone with brides that had to cancel all their events. Cancel their wedding or postpone it to later in the summer. So that’s been a little bit stressful,” she said. “Every weekend we’re doing weddings. And all that business is gone through May.”



Ann Engelbrecht, owner of Sprout Fine Floral Concepts, said she has also experienced a decline in event orders over the past week as officials have imposed closures and occupancy limits throughout the country.



“The shutdown of all of the dining and things like that has had a domino effect on the flower business,” she said. “Besides just weddings and corporate events, luncheons and things like that, all of those have been cancelled, which is huge. ... If there’s no contract or no retainer or they don’t want to postpone it, they just want to cancel it. Florists have to refund the money, or they have to discuss how that’s going to happen. And that’s a huge burden for florists.”



Engelbrecht also said Sprout has taken a hit on some of its business in The Woodlands area after the store halted hospital delivery services due to health concerns for patients at local care centers.



“It’s hurtful to clients because they want to visit their friend in the hospital, and they’re not allowed either. ... So the poor person in the hospital, there’s nothing there to pick them up, cheer them up. There’s not a visitor, not a flower to look at, nothing,” she said. “It’s not that they’re not allowed to accept them, it’s just it’s too high-risk for us to even visit to deliver.”



Florists adapting

Handfelt said Piney Rose, which opened in early December on Research Forest Drive, has closed its storefront but is still offering curbside pickup and free delivery service throughout The Woodlands.



“A lot of people in these dreary times have really enjoyed sending a bit of cheer to their friends and family members. ... They get a beautiful bouquet to cheer them up,” he said.



The Blooming Idea is still getting smaller orders and remains open under shorter hours, with both curbside pickup and a contactless delivery option available for its customers.



“People are still ordering flowers because they want to keep in touch with family. And at this time, flowers seem even more valuable in a sense to let people connect and reduce their social distancing to let people know that they’re still thinking about them,” McCarthy said. “People are home now. And certainly the benefits of having flowers and plants in your home; it cleans the air and just makes people happy. So we’re hoping that people do support us and continue buying flowers.”



Sprout is filling individual pickup order and delivering, including a no-touch option. Engelbrecht said the effects of such services, and customers’ new reliance on impersonal ordering, could linger for florists even after coronavirus concerns subside in the future.



“This epidemic is going to change the floral industry in a big way because it’s going to be even more virtual and online. It’s going to force it that way, and it might not come back from that,” she said.



Limiting offerings



Engelbrecht also noted that florists often rely on larger vendors with an international reach, and said supply concerns will likely limit stock in the near future due to declining sales and the temporary closure of some regional vendors. Once her current supply of flowers is exhausted, she said she plans to shift to offering only longer-lasting plants and other nonperishable items such as balloon bouquets, gift baskets and home fragrance products.



“The inventory I have now won’t be worth selling, and then I won’t be able to get replacement fresh flowers because the vendors are closed,” she said. “Out of Holland, The Netherlands and Ecuador, they're throwing away 50% of the crops. ... The growers are even saying, ‘We’re not doing this. We’re not going to spend all the money to harvest, package, ship and then throw it away.’”



McCarthy said her store is well-stocked for now after receiving a shipment this week, but she is also planning to reduce The Blooming Idea's offerings soon due to the constraints of her suppliers.



“One of our wholesalers has ceased operations, and the others are limiting deliveries,” she said. “They’re not getting any flowers from Holland. ... And I think the growers are just cutting back. They’re not cutting as many flowers. So I think in the weeks to follow, our product is going to be limited.”



Handfelt said Piney Rose does business with local suppliers, which should allow the store to continue many of its traditional offerings even as some regional vendors wind down their business.



“We have shored up our supply routes to ensure that we have a steady supply of flowers. One of our goals is to try to source from local farms,” he said. “We have a lot of connections with local farms. So even if they shut the borders, we may not be able to get the same variety and be able to offer all the products that we typically do, but we should be able to offer beautiful bouquets hand-arranged and hand-delivered to your home.”



Despite some product limitations, the florists encouraged those interested in ordering flowers and other gifts to call their stores or visit their websites over the coming weeks to continue supporting their businesses.

“Birthdays still happen. Unfortunately, ‘get well soons’ are going to go up. Anniversaries still happen,” Engelbrecht said. “I would love for people to think of us as a resource to help them still celebrate in their lives.”



MOST RECENT

Lone Star College System has moved about 97% of its more than 9,000 class sessions online since mid-March as facilities have closed during the coronavirus pandemic, LSCS Chancellor Stephen Head said. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pandemic changes move Lone Star College System to enhance online, workforce education long-term

Lone Star College System has moved about 97% of its more than 9,000 class sessions online since mid-March as facilities have closed during the coronavirus pandemic, LSCS Chancellor Stephen Head said. He foresees LSCS continuing to enhance its online options even after stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Houston fiscal year 2020-21 budget workshops run from April 7 through May 20. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Harris County launches Small Business Economic Assistance Loan Program, begins process of creating COVID-19 relief fund

In partnership with the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Harris County launched a $10 million Small Business Economic Assistance Loan Program on April 7 to help small businesses on the road to recovery.

Texas Children’s Hospital
Texas Children’s Hospital provides stipend to employees during COVID-19

Both full-time and part-time employees will receive a check on April 10.

Tomball, Magnolia ISDs implement full-day pre-K

The passage of House Bill 3 mandated Texas school districts to offer full-day pre-K to eligible students if half-day programming was already in place, according to the Texas Education Agency. Districts with 15 or more eligible 4-year-olds must offer pre-K programming, according to the TEA.

The Texas A&M Forest Service announced April 7 that it would temporarily close William Goodrich Jones State Forest effective April 7 at 5 p.m. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas A&M Forest Service temporarily closes W.G. Jones State Forest, other forests amid coronavirus

On the heels of Gov. Greg Abbott's orders to close all state parks and historical sites to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Texas A&M Forest Service is closing William Goodrich Jones State Forest in The Woodlands area until further notice.

Live music acts such as Houston-based band The Tontons have been wiped off venue schedules amid the coronavirus outbreak. Local musicians are now eligible to apply for monetary support from the newly formed Houston Music Foundation. (Courtesy Mark C. Austin)
Newly formed Houston Music Foundation offers relief to out-of-work musicians

The fund hopes to start cutting checks as early as this week.

Sheldon State Park, along with other state parks across Texas, will temporarily close at 5 p.m. April 7. (Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
State parks, historic sites in the Greater Houston area close under Gov. Greg Abbott's order

Gov. Greg Abbott announced via a news release April 7 that state parks and historic sites should be temporarily closed to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Abbott's order closes all state parks and historical sites effective 5 p.m. April 7. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Gov. Abbott closes state parks, historical sites due to coronavirus concerns

Abbott said the closure is to help prevent large gatherings and strengthen social distancing.

Nancy Garner works on face masks at her sewing machine. (Courtesy Nancy Garner)
See what these North Houston-area businesses are doing to stop the coronavirus

From face masks to hand sanitizer, North Houston residents and companies are getting creative to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

VIDEO: Texas Tribune interview with Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar about the coronavirus's effects on the state economy

At 8 a.m. April 7, The Texas Tribune will host a live interview with Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, conducted by Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey.

Gyms are planning a celebration once the coronavirus passes. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
The Woodlands-area gyms collaborate to prepare for end of coronavirus

Area locally owned gyms plan to give back to their members once coronavirus concerns pass.