Research reveals how different ages buy flowers

May 07, 2009
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A new consumer research study by the Society of American Florists (SAF) reveals how different age groups perceive, buy, and use flowers and floral outlets, and will be used to help direct the floral industry’s promotional messages. SAF’s Generations of Flowers Study, completed in January, assessed three generations of consumers: generation Y (ages 18-30), generation X (31-44), and baby boomers (45-60).

The study methodology included interviews with generational and gift giving research giants, Iconoculture and Roper; two online focus groups of 57 individuals; and an online survey of 1,557 flower consumers. The report focuses on florists but sheds light on flower buyers and their intentions at garden centres as well.

Key Findings from SAF’s Generations of Flowers Study

Attitudes Toward Flowers

The research shows that most people value flowers, but they appear to have more depth of meaning for older generations. When probed about why they appreciate flowers, consumers are most likely to relate to the sensory & emotional aspect of flowers, agreeing:
  • The color of the flowers adds to the impact of a gift (64%)
  • The sight and smell can improve my mood (60%)
  • Flowers are an emotional gift (56%)
  • Flowers make me feel special (56%)
  • The fragrance is important to me (53%)
  • Flowers have a high interpersonal resonance.
Consumers believe the gift of flowers signifies being caring (61%), personal (58%), and sentimental (58%). Further, people who give flowers as gifts are most likely to be perceived as thoughtful (77%) and sincere (57%).

While many saw flowers as a traditional gift, this is not considered to be a negative, but a time-honored and valued custom.

Flowers and Gifting

While traditional gifting makes up a significant portion of the market for flowers, “just because” gifting and purchases for the home are also important.
  • Flowers are the number one gift of choice for romantic situations and also housewarming parties. (Iconoculture interviews indicate a growing trend of hosting among gen Y.)
  • Buying flowers as a “present to myself” also accounts for a sizable number of purchases.
Flowers also appear to be a popular “second choice” for many other gifting situations (such as an anniversary), perhaps presenting an opportunity to position flowers as a complementary gift.

Flower Purchase Behaviour

Retail venues that provide convenience and low price options are most popular, especially among younger generations.
  • A higher percentage of consumers stated they typically purchase flowers at supermarkets (73% for themselves; 68% as a gift) versus a local florist shop (61% self, 64% gift).
Florists are respected and held to higher standards than other retail outlets.
  • Offering flower quality and freshness (76%), getting what you expect (76%), and flower longevity (70%) are all very important to consumers when shopping at a florist.
Although most consumers prefer to purchase flowers in person (67%) and only one in eight prefer to purchase flowers online(12%), the Internet plays an important role in the purchase process.
  • Of those who have used the Internet when purchasing flowers, a majority have gone online to see pictures of different arrangements (53%), to price flowers (45%), and to send flowers out of the area (42%).
  • This is an important marketing implication for local florists, as two in five (42%) consumers have used the Internet to find a local florist’s phone number or location, and one-third (32%) have gone online to find a local florist’s Web site.
Despite current economic conditions, more consumers indicate they will purchase flowers as gifts more frequently than previous years (32%), rather than less often (25%). The opposite is true when purchasing for themselves (9% more often, 37% less often).

Generational Differences

Generation Y (Ages 18-30)

Compared to boomers and gen X’ers, gen Y consumers are significantly less likely:
  • To have a high appreciation of flowers or agree with other emotional aspects associated with the gift of flowers, such as the ability to lift one’s spirits. This indicates a pressing need for updating the image of flowers for this generation to allow for a higher level of personal resonance.
  • To see giving flowers as “personal” or to purchase flowers as a “personal pick-me- up." This suggests a relative lack of identification with flowers that must be addressed by the industry.
  • To differentiate florists from other retailers in terms of key attributes, such as quality and freshness. Only 1/3 of gen Y are knowledgeable about the best places to buy flowers, significantly lower than other generations. Florists are challenged to maintain their distinctiveness and value as a retail option among this generation.
  • To purchase mixed flowers and most likely to purchase individual flowers, including roses, tulips, lilies, daisies and orchids. This may indicate a new, individualized aesthetic relationship to flowers that could be leveraged.
Gen Y is most likely:
  • To purchase flowers in person and deliver flowers themselves. This echoes a “personalization” trend in the gifting characteristics of this generation.
  • To purchase flowers to impress guests in their home significantly more than other generations. This indicates an opportunity to reposition the value of flowers for the younger consumer.
Generation X (Ages 31-44)

Gen X is the “in between” generation, often occupying the middle attitudinal and behavioral ground between gen Y and boomers.

Gen X tends to be more emotionally connected to flowers than gen Y, although they are significantly less likely than baby boomers to have a very high appreciation of flowers.

This generation strongly connects with the sensory aspects of flowers — including the color, sight and smell, and fragrance.

Gen X most likely purchases flowers as a traditional holiday/occasion gift for someone else, as a “just because” pick-me-up gift, and for home decoration.

Of the three generations, gen X is least likely to prefer purchasing flowers in person (60% vs. 66% boomers and 74% gen Y). They are also the generation most likely to prefer purchasing flowers over the Internet. This fits with their timestarved and tech-savvy lifestyles.

Baby Boomers (Ages 45-60)


Baby boomers are significantly more likely than other generations to have a high appreciation of flowers and are most likely to agree with the other emotional aspects associated with the gift of flowers.

This group is significantly more likely to purchase mixed flowers and significantly less likely to purchase specific types of flowers including roses, tulips and lilies.

One-half of baby boomers use the Internet to send flowers outside of their area, significantly higher than other generations.

This generation is significantly more likely than other generations to consider flowers when purchasing a gift and to find flowers appropriate for a broad range of gifting situations.

Baby boomers can be more demanding: They consistently had the highest expectations of florists and are most likely to view the cost of flowers as a purchase barrier.

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