A New Year - A New Hope?

Small businesses have struggled during the pandemic, but pivoting or rearranging a business model doesn't mean automatic success. What lessons have you learned? What makes you hopeful for 2021? Let me know -- and we can share your story!

-- Brenda Rees, Biz Buzz Editor

Contact me at brenda@TheEastsiderLA.com

Florists take on a new pandemic role

Psychopompos Floral

“Talking to a florist it can be emotional for many people,” says Gustavo Robles of Psychopompos Floral in Silver Lake about customers who are want to send a sympathy floral arrangement or to friends or family members they haven’t seen face-to-face in months.

“It’s a bittersweet time for us,” admits Gustavo Robles, owner of Psychopompos Floral in Silver Lake. He's talking about about the recent uptick in creating condolence arrangements as well as gifts for birthdays and other milestones to recipients who can’t be physically seen because of the pandemic.  

Like many other small floral shops, Robles' business has been fueled by people wanting to send cheer, to express sympathy and to convey a good old fashion “Just Thinking of You” message to loved ones who are shut in.  

Overall, however, the pandemic took a heavy toll on the florist business last year.

According to a recent report by IBIS World, “the pandemic is expected to generate the florist industry's largest single-year revenue contraction in recent history” due in part to social distancing guidelines that is hampering revenue from wedding services and funeral homes.

Overall, the industry in the United States has a combined yearly revenue of over $5 billion which is spread across around 15,000 retail flower shops. It’s a highly fragmented industry; the 50 biggest floral companies (FTD, Teleflora, etc.) only make up 10 percent of the revenue – people often turn to the convenience of supermarket chain stores, the biggest competitor to small mom and pop shops.

Customer interaction and personalized attention may give shops like Robles’ the sensitive edge.

“Talking to a florist it can be emotional for many people,” says Robles about responding to family members and friends who may have lost a loved one or who haven’t seen their loved one face-to-face in months.  “I say, ‘Tell me about this person, what are they like? What do they enjoy?’ I tell them ‘We’ll get through this!’ and we often end up laughing.”

Robles often suggests customers include one living plant – often a succulent or an herb – so recipients will have a living plant as a memory of the gift.  On the average, people spend about $100 on his custom artful arrangements.

Customer sympathy

“Sending a floral arrangement is reaching out to someone in a special way, it’s like receiving a very personal letter,” says Art Bacilio, co-owner of My Blooming Business in Eagle Rock.

When the pandemic initially shut down the business, Bacilio had a lot of orders to fill – birthday and anniversary wishes. He worried that customers would just cancel. “”We have a lot of beautiful customers who understood and were sympathetic,” he says.

Bacilio runs the shop with his mother, Zoila, who started the business 12 years ago designing handcrafted arrangements – mostly for weddings – from her Sunland garage. The shop has gained a steady following since it moved to this storefront nine years ago.

Today orders arrive from all over the country, mainly New York, Texas and Florida. The shop offers free delivery (often same day) or curbside pickup. Many deliveries these days are going to nursing homes and to those who have lost loved ones.

With no funerals being held – or done virtually – sending an arrangement becomes an important connection, says Bacilio.

"It's another way people can express what they are feeling. We are in the 'Bringing Smiles Business' even when those smiles have tears with them."

POLL: What was the reason for your last floral purchase

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Biz Buzz Asks: How's Business?

We posed the question to Ben Lehrer, president at Kitten Rescue in Atwater Village

How's Business Kitten Rescue

Kitten Rescue is located at 3519 Casitas Ave. in Atwater Village.

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Holiday sales winners, loser

Online sales grew dramatically over the holiday season by a whopping 49% according to a report from Mastercard. Tallying numbers between Oct. 11 and Dec. 24, the report looks at all categories of retail sales (minus automobiles and gasoline). Some businesses saw increased sales and others losses. Furniture and furnishing sales increased by 31% overall, with a 16.2 increase in online sales. Home improvements sales jumped by nearly 80% with a 14.1 increase in online sales.

Apparel sales decreased by 19.1% despite a 15.7 increase in e-commerce transactions. Jewelry sales declined by 4.3% although online sales were up by 44.6%.

Overall sales on luxury goods, excluding jewelry, decreased by 21.1%.

Brick and mortar support

A new grant program aimed to help brick and mortar small businesses in Los Angeles County will be open for Round Two Registration from January 11-17. FOUND/LA Small Business Recovery Fund is grant program that brings together partners Pacific Community Ventures and TMC Community Capital.

The goal of the grant program is to support local entrepreneurs.

Click here for more information.

Confused about what the second COVID-19 means to small biz?

The new government package includes many provisions for small business owners and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) breaks it down for you in this free pre-recorded webinar. Topics include the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance Grant as well as business-friendly tax changes to both programs. Extending some tax credits from the first recovery package will also be discussed.

Ascent: Women-owned small biz

Women-owned small businesses can take advantage of Ascent, a newly launched program by the Small Business Administration. To kick off the program, the SBA is hosting a live webinar to announce the details of this digital online learning platform that is geared to help women-owned small businesses grow and scale up. The webinar takes place on January 7 at 10am PST.

Click here to register.

Welcome 2021!

2020 was a roller coaster of a year for small businesses that are now looking forward to new opportunities and assistance in 2021. Biz Buzz wants to hear one thing that your small business wants this new year. Drop me a line and let me know how business is going -- or not going -- for you! 

-- Brenda Rees

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