Whether flowers are needed for a wedding, a funeral, or as part of that perfect gift for the one you love, somewhere, a florist is behind every arrangement you see. If you have an eye for detail, a creative nature, and a desire to own your own business, then you may want to consider starting a flower shop.
Launching a successful flower shop requires more than just arranging beautiful bouquets, which is why we have put together this guide to help aspiring flower shop owners navigate the process.
A flower shop, also known as a florist, sells fresh-cut flowers, floral arrangements, potted plants, gift baskets, and related gift items to consumers and businesses. Besides displaying flowers and plants, shops provide services like custom floral design, event decorating, delivery, and wedding consultations. Common types of flower shops include online, phone orders, retail, and wedding specialists. Most are small businesses that are owned and operated independently rather than as part of a franchise or chain.
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In 2022, the retail florist industry brought in $9 billion in annual revenue, according to market research firm IBISWorld. According to the Society of American Florists, the typical flower shop is a single-location operation with 4-5 employees generating $679,000 in annual sales.
Demand is driven by gift-giving occasions like holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and funerals. Florists face competition from online flower delivery services, mass retailers, supermarkets, and wholesalers selling directly to consumers.
Several notable trends are impacting today’s flower shops:
- Rising online sales: More consumers, especially younger shoppers, are purchasing flowers through e-commerce websites and apps for delivery convenience. Shops must establish an online presence with ordering and boost web marketing. Despite the rise of e-commerce, local flower shops have held their own, thanks to the personal touch they offer.
- Increasing corporate sales: Businesses are buying more plants and flower arrangements to decorate offices and gifts for employees and clients. Shops should nurture corporate relationships.
- Specialization: Couples are spending more on customized wedding flowers. Specializing in bridal work can increase sales.
- Experience-focused retailing: Flower shops create engaging in-store experiences through floral education, workshops, social events, and subscription services to attract customers.
Steps To Start A Flower Shop
Starting a flower shop requires dedication, hard work, and, of course, a passion for flowers. To help aspiring business owners get started on the right foot, here is a list of steps that are needed to start a flower shop.
Step 1: Conduct Market Research
So you’ve got the vision, the talent, and the enthusiasm to start your flower shop. That’s wonderful! But hold your horses – or should I say, hold your bouquets. Before starting any business, it’s important to research whether there is enough demand to support a new business.
Conducting market research can provide valuable insight into the industry, competition, and potential customers to help determine if there is a viable market for a flower shop before investing a lot of time and money.
A few ways you can do this include:
Why not start by asking potential customers directly? A well-designed survey can offer valuable insights into what locals want. Use online platforms like SurveyMonkey, or even good old-fashioned pen and paper. Direct feedback is gold. People often share not just their preferences but also what they find lacking in existing flower shops.
Social Media Polls
Leverage platforms like Instagram and Facebook to run quick polls. Social media can provide immediate engagement, helping you understand consumer preferences and concerns within your network and beyond.
Use Google Trends to examine the search frequency of keywords related to flower shops in your area. A high search volume can indicate strong interest, whereas a declining trend might serve as a red flag.
Visit local flower shops and study their customer traffic, services, and even gaps in their offerings. Knowing your competition inside and out can help you find your unique selling proposition.
Census Data and Demographics
Study the demographic makeup of your targeted location. Websites like the U.S. Census Bureau can offer invaluable data. Certain age groups and cultural communities might have a stronger inclination for floral products. Knowing this can help estimate the size of the local market.
Community Boards and Local Events
Keep an eye on local events and community boards where flower shops might be needed or commented on. These are potential customer touchpoints that can offer more insight into the needs of your area.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
You’ve done your homework, and the signs are encouraging. The market research suggests there’s a demand for your flower shop. While it’s tempting to jump right in, it’s time to sit down and draft a business plan. Think of this as your playbook, a document that outlines your business goals and maps out the route to achieving them. For lenders, this plan serves as proof that you’re not only passionate but also understand the business.
When writing a business plan for a flower shop, there are several sections that entrepreneurs should focus on to make a strong case for funding.
Market analysis: This section clearly explains why your flower shop is set to flourish. Use the data gathered during your market research phase. Compare your offerings with local competitors and identify your unique selling proposition, whether exceptional service, unique arrangements, or competitive pricing. Your market analysis proves you’ve done your homework and understand the business landscape.
Management team: Here, you’ll describe who’s running the show. Include resumes or summaries for the owner(s) and any key team members, emphasizing experience relevant to running a flower shop. The reason for this is that the success of a business is often related to the people behind it. Entrepreneurs should focus on highlighting their prior experience, skills, and accomplishments to demonstrate their ability to successfully lead the business.
Location: Discuss the proposed location of your flower shop. Provide detailed information about the demographics of the area, foot traffic, parking, and accessibility. This section should also highlight any unique features or advantages of the location that will benefit the business.
Financial projections: This section will include your projected income, costs, and break-even analysis. Banks and investors pay very close attention to this section and want to see evidence that the business is financially viable. Entrepreneurs should be able to explain their projections and demonstrate how they arrived at their numbers.
Before you walk into the lender’s office, get a second pair of eyes on your plan. Whether a seasoned business owner or an accountant (or both), they can spot weak areas you might have overlooked and offer actionable suggestions. This additional scrutiny will make your plan more robust and prepare you for the kinds of questions lenders might ask.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Source Funding
So, you’ve done your research and completed the business plan. But before you dive into lease agreements and bulk flower orders, there’s another crucial step: securing the funds to get your dream off the ground. It’s essential to make sure you have adequate funding before progressing. Without adequate funding, even the most promising business will struggle to take root.
Most new business owners will start by assessing their personal savings. Because of the potentially high cost of starting a flower shop, personal savings often aren’t enough to cover all startup expenses.
There are several common outside funding sources used by flower shops. These include:
Traditional lenders: Banks and credit unions are the standard go-to for small businesses. If you’re considering this route, know that lenders generally have rigorous requirements. It’s common for banks to require the owner to invest up to 25% of their personal funds towards the total project cost. A good credit score and sufficient collateral are also needed as well. If the bank deems the loan risky, they may opt for an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan guarantee, which lowers the bank’s risk.
Friends and family: While asking loved ones for a loan can be awkward, it’s a common practice. What’s key is putting terms in writing to avoid misunderstandings and strained relationships down the line. A handshake is easy but a contract is best.
Microloans: For those unable to secure traditional funding or who need a smaller sum, microloans are an option. These are smaller loans, often less than $50,000. Some organizations offering microloans also provide valuable business training. While these loans might not build your whole business, they can help you get started or cover specific costs.
Step 4: Register the Business
You’ve planned, you’ve budgeted, and you’re ready to start selling beautiful bouquets. But before you even think about snipping stems, you need to make sure your flower shop is legally sound. Here’s what you need to know to get started:
Choosing a business structure: The first step is to decide on a business structure, as this will affect your taxes, liability, and even your business name. The most common structures include:
- Sole proprietorship: Easiest and least expensive to start. You’re the only owner, and the business assets and liabilities are tied to your personal assets and liabilities.
- General partnership: A step up from a sole proprietorship. You’ll have one or more partners, and you’ll share the profits, losses, and responsibilities.
- Corporation: Offers personal liability protection but comes with more complexity.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): Combines elements of a corporation and a partnership, offering liability protection without many of the corporate formalities.
For flower shops, sole proprietorships or LLCs are often popular choices due to their ease of setup and flexible management structure. However, LLCs offer the added advantage of liability protection, safeguarding your personal assets from potential business debts or legal claims.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: License and permit requirements for flower shops vary depending on location. Louisiana is the only state to regulate retail florists through the Department of Agriculture & Forestry. Even though no other state requires a specific license for a flower shop, most states require general business registrations such as a local business license, sales tax permit, resale certificate, Employer Identification Number, Occupancy Permit, and others.
Step 5: Acquire & Set Up the Shop
The moment has come: you’ve secured funding, legally registered your business, and now you’re ready to set up shop. This step transforms your hard work and vision into a tangible space where you’ll create and sell beautiful floral arrangements. Let’s break down how to make it happen.
Your choice of location can make or break your business, so be sure it aligns with your target market. Whether it’s a bustling downtown corner or a quiet suburban plaza, make sure it’s a fit for your intended customers, regardless of how good of a deal it is.
Before you think about signing a lease or purchase agreement, double-check that you have your funding in place. Financial delays or loan denials can cause a lot of problems if you’ve contractually committed to a property. Also, ensure the property is zoned for a retail business like a flower shop. You don’t want any surprises that could stall your progress.
After you’ve secured a location, the next step is purchasing the necessary equipment. Think refrigerators for fresh flowers, display tables, a cash register system, and storage units for your inventory.
Step 6: Find Suppliers
Finding the right suppliers is the next step in starting a flower shop. The flowers themselves are, of course, your main product, but you’ll also need other items like vases, ribbons, and floral foam. So, where do you start?
Most suppliers won’t even discuss pricing or consider setting up an account until your business is legally registered. They want to work with serious, legitimate businesses, so get your registrations in order before approaching suppliers.
Types of Suppliers in the Flower Shop Industry
- Wholesale flower markets: These are generally the go-to source for fresh flowers. They offer a wide range of options and are often open to negotiating prices for bulk purchases.
- Local growers: Sourcing flowers locally helps the local economy and can be a strong selling point for customers who prefer locally sourced products. However, the variety may be limited to seasonal flowers.
- Importers: If you want to offer exotic or off-season flowers, you’ll likely need to work with importers. Just keep in mind the extra costs and time involved in shipping, as well as potential quality issues.
- Non-floral suppliers: These are vendors who provide other items like vases, floral foam, scissors, ribbons, and wrapping paper. Often, these can be found through specialized craft or retail supply companies.
Step 7: Hire and Train Staff
If you’re planning to hire employees for your flower shop business, it’s important to be prepared and understand the legal requirements involved. Common types of employees that a flower shop may hire include floral designers, customer service representatives, delivery drivers, and administrative staff.
Before you post that job ad, you need to get some legal ducks in a row before becoming an employer:
- Obtain an EIN: Also known as an Employer Identification Number, this is like a social security number for your business and is required for tax reporting.
- Employment eligibility: Make sure any employees you hire are legally allowed to work in the U.S. Usually, this involves filling out an I-9 form.
- State requirements: Employer needs differ from state to state, so check what your particular state mandates regarding new hires.
- Worker’s compensation insurance: Most states require you to have this insurance in place to cover any job-related injuries.
- Labor laws: Be aware of both federal and state labor laws concerning minimum wage, overtime, and work conditions.
Step 8: Create a Marketing Strategy
Marketing is vital to the success of any business, and a flower shop is no exception. There are many popular ways to market a flower shop, and here are a few common ideas to consider when marketing your flower shop:
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can be great tools for showcasing your floral design skills and promoting your business. These platforms allow you to share pictures of your arrangements, provide updates on your services, and interact with customers.
Having a website is crucial in today’s digital age. Your website should include information about your business, such as your location, hours of operation, and services offered. It’s also important to have high-quality images of your floral arrangements and contact information so potential customers can easily get in touch with you. Claiming your business on relevant online directories, such as Yelp and Google My Business, can help potential customers find your store when searching online.
Cultivating relationships with other businesses in your community and joining the Chamber of Commerce can help you gain exposure and referrals. Consider partnering with local businesses for events or offering discounts for their employees.
Step 9: Prepare to Open!
As you near the opening day of your flower shop, there are several more tasks you’ll need to tackle to ensure a smooth launch and sustainable operations.
Business insurance: Having adequate insurance is key to safeguarding your investment. Look for policies that cover liability, property damage, and other risks specific to retail businesses and flower shops.
Setting up bookkeeping: Consistent financial record-keeping is essential for tracking your expenses and income. You can do this manually, hire an accountant, or use software like Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks.
Bank account: Open a separate business bank account to handle all transactions related to the shop, making it easier to manage funds and file taxes.
Setting pricing: You’ll need a well-thought-out pricing strategy for your flowers and services. Factor in the cost of goods, labor, overheads, and your desired profit margin.
Industry associations: Joining organizations like the Society of American Florists, the American Institute of Floral Designers, or the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association can provide networking opportunities, educational resources, and credibility.
Grand opening: Preparing for the grand opening involves creating a marketing plan, ordering inventory, hiring staff, and conducting a soft launch to work out any kinks before the big day.
Common Questions When Starting A Flower Shop
How much does it cost to start a flower shop?
On average, the total costs to start a flower shop can range from $50,000 to $150,000, depending on the size and complexity of your business.
Location: Renting a small retail space will cost $2,000 to $4,000 per month. Expect to put down the first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit equal to 2-3 months’ rent when signing your lease.
Buildout & equipment: Outfitting your shop with flooring, walls, lighting, refrigeration, shelving, counters, and a workstation can cost $15,000 to $50,000. Used floral coolers and displays can reduce costs.
Starting inventory: Stocking a basic selection of fresh flowers, plants, vases, and supplies will require an initial investment of $5,000 to $10,000. Inventory costs fluctuate seasonally.
Point of sale system: A POS system tailored for florists runs $1,500 to $5,000. Add hardware like a computer, receipt printer and bar code scanner.
Delivery vehicle: Purchasing a used cargo van or box truck for deliveries starts around $10,000 for a basic option. Branding it with a wrap can add $500 to $2,000.
Insurance: General liability insurance for florists costs $600 to $1,500 per year. Property coverage and workers’ comp add more expense.
Licenses & permits: Business license fees are typically $50 to $100 annually. Some areas require occupational permits.
Marketing: Initial advertising, like print materials and website development, averages $3,000 to $6,000.
Other expenses: Legal fees, utilities, accounting software, credit card processing fees, and office supplies require about $5,000 upfront.
In addition to these costs, it’s also a good idea to have 3-6 months of operating expenses available as a contingency reserve while establishing your shop.
How profitable is a flower shop?
There are several factors that can impact the profitability of a flower shop. To help come up with an estimate, let’s look at industry data.
The Society of American Florists shows that the average flower shop generates $679,000 in annual sales. While that may be ambitious for the first year of a flower shop, let’s estimate $250,000.
Industry research indicates that a typical retail florist sees gross profit margins around 40%-50% of revenue. This means if a flower shop generates $250,000 in annual revenue, about $100,000-$125,000 is left over after the cost of goods sold, which includes wholesale flowers, plants, vases, delivery expenses, and other direct material costs.
Out of gross profit, the florist must pay operating expenses like rent, payroll, utilities, insurance, and other overhead. These expenses generally eat up 40%-45% of revenue. For example, with $250,000 in revenue, operating expenses could total $100,000-$112,500.
That leaves a net profit before taxes of $12,500-$50,000 annually for the owner.
The bottom line is that an efficiently run flower shop with good pricing can yield solid profits. But, owners must carefully control costs and aim to exceed industry benchmark margins to achieve their income goals.
What skills are helpful when running a flower shop?
Running a flower shop doesn’t require a business degree, but the following skills and experiences help start and manage the business.
Floral design experience: Experience working in a floral shop or department can be an advantage in starting up a shop of your own. Familiarity with different types of flowers, their care, and the techniques used in arranging them can eliminate some of the learning curves when starting up a floral shop.
An eye for design: Understanding how to pair colors, why certain types of flowers work well together, and how to design an arrangement so that it looks its best are all skills that allow florists to create professional products that draw customers into a store. Design skills are also important in marketing a flower shop, especially when it comes to photographing arrangements so that they look their best.
Creativity: Whether it’s selecting a variety of flower types to stock in the shop or coming up with a new type of flower arrangement, creativity is a valuable skill to have when owning and running a flower shop.
Customer service skills: Experience and talent in working with customers – and keeping them happy – are also important in this industry. Attention to detail and the willingness to always make sure that a customer is happy can lead to positive reviews and valuable repeat customers.
Business skills: You don’t necessarily need a business degree to start a flower shop, but some business skills are helpful. Flower store owners need to maintain inventory, calculate prices, market their businesses, and more. If you don’t yet have the business skills needed, taking some business classes can help prepare you for what to expect in running your business.
What is the NAICS code for a flower shop?
The NAICS code for a flower shop is 311811.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Related: What is a NAICS code?
Other Things To Consider Before Starting A Flower Shop
If you have a passion for floral arrangements and design, opening a flower shop may sound like an ideal business venture. But just like other types of businesses, flower shops have some risks and challenges.
One challenge of owning a flower business is that fresh flower inventory eventually spoils and dies. In retail stores, inventory sitting on the shelves takes up space and eats into the business’ working capital, but in a flower shop, too much inventory means lost money and lost products. Some types of flowers live longer than others, and properly caring for the flowers in the shop can help prolong their lives. This can be a steep learning curve, so try to find an experienced florist who can advise you or gain some experience working in a flower shop before venturing out on your own.
Certain times of the year, especially those surrounding major holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, are hectic for flower shops. Other times of the year can be very slow. Finding a way to branch out into other services, such as establishing the shop as the go-to shop for local memorial services and funerals, can increase income year-round, helping a store get through those slow times. Creative marketing and specializing in particular types of flowers, such as arrangements for weddings, can also help position a flower shop well in the local community, driving sales.
Speaking of peak times during the year, florists are challenged by having trained staff to complete orders. Some will have a network of family and friends that will pitch in; however, this can be a risky strategy to rely on. It’s essential to get your product out on time and to look its best.
Since customers are often purchasing flowers for a special occasions, consider adding other gift items to generate additional upsells.
Though there are absolutely some challenges in starting a flower shop, it can also be a very rewarding and exciting venture.