South Florida Flower Businesses To Merge

Two 20-year-old flower businesses in South Florida are combining operations to reduce costs in an economy where flowers are less of an impulse buy.  Field of Flowers, which has retail stores Boca Raton and Davie, and wholesaler Tradewinds Wholesale Florists said Tuesday that they would merge operations. Tradewinds will become the wholesale department of Field of Flowers, moving into its Davie store, said Field of Flowers founder Donn Flipse.

Flipse said the combination of the two floral companies makes sense in today’s economy.  By merging operations, they will reduce rent, electricity and insurance cost; and can share flower buyers and drivers to pick up imported flowers at Miami International Airport.  They’ll also save on office operations such as accounting and human resources, he said.

Flipse and Tradewinds co-owners Jim, Barbara and Bill Bensen began talking about a merger in the spring. The merger “creates what we’re calling a flower market. It will be attractive both for the public and for the trade buying flowers in wholesale quantities,” Flipse said. “We look at it as a new type of store.”Field of Flowers employs 80 people and Tradewinds has 11 workers. No employee layoffs are expected due to the merger, Flipse said. “Both our companies are growing, so we don’t expect there to be any reductions.”

Consumers also will benefit in flower prices, Flipse said. “Between buying in bigger volume to negotiate lower prices, we should be able to reduce prices to customers by 10 percent,” he said.

Both flower companies’ sales have been down about 15 percent in the past two years from their peak of 2007. “The economy forced us to look at ways of being more efficient to serve our customers better,” Flipse said.

Jim Bensen, whose family has operated Tradewinds since 1990, said the merger will enable Tradewinds to expand its wholesale business into new lines, such as floral supplies.

“We’re excited about it. We’ll be able to bring more products into the South Florida market,” said Bensen, who with his sister will stay on with the combined companies. He said his brother Bill, who was the company’s accountant, will not

continueworking for the merged businesses.Flipse and the Bensons have had a long-time business relationship. Jim and Barbara formerly managed the wholesale division of The Exotic Gardens, a 75-year-old florist owned by Flipse and his family until it was sold in 1989.

This is second acquisition for Field of Flowers since last year, when it acquired a

Miami-Dade County flower business.