Growers grow flowers, suppliers procure them, they then sell these flowers to the wholesalers or retailers before the flowers finally reach consumers. This sounds like a simple value chain, except that the players involved come from all over the world. The vast majority of flowers are grown in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America and the consumer base comprises of Western Europe along with North America and Japan. However, despite this fact, the biggest trade center is the Netherlands.

The world cut flower trade is characterized by a high degree of concentration by sources. Germany is the main market for imports, and the Netherlands the world's leading exporter. Exports from the Netherlands to Germany are a principal component of the world cut flower trade, they make a significant part of the intra EU trade, which itself accounts for a large part of the world trade. In the Americas, Colombia is the major supplier to the United States. Japan receives its supplies from a more diversified base, with Taiwan, New Zealand and Europe being the most important ones.

Since the 1950´s Netherlands has been at the center of the world flower trade. It has a good and functional trade system to facilitate the movement of cut flowers, which form a majority of flowers which are traded. Flower growers from all over the world assemble at the famed flower auctions to find suitable buyers for their produce. These flower auctions offer a central marketplace for buying and selling of floricultural products with good facilities for growers and buyers and effective logistics. Flowers are imported from various countries in order to create the largest possible assortment of flowers. This allows the industry to overcome the handicap of wholesalers not having the opportunity to import directly out of these countries.

The flower industry on the supplier side is dominated by a few major players, who themselves are a cluster of interconnected companies each with their own export markets and specializations. The Dutch Flower Group is by far the largest flower supplier with a turnover of more than 500 million euro and member companies situated in the Netherlands, England, France, Switzerland, Spain, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. The other big supplier is the Zurel group with a turnover that exceeds $150 million. It is one of the big names in the southern European market. Dole inc., is one of the largest importers in America. Flowers grown in Colombia and Ecuador on Dole-owned land or through independent growers are imported and marketed by Dole primarily to wholesale florists and retail grocery chains. These are the among the biggest suppliers of cut flowers in the world, supplying flowers to the entire Western flower market.

Import and export of cut flowers are handled by different constituents within these groups. Also,there are different entities within the group which manage wholesale and retail customers separately. The Dutch Flower Group comprises of 16 affiliates which are subdivided into three divisions: wholesale, supermarkets (retail) and import. The Zurel group comprises of three divisions each dealing with the above mentioned facets of the flower trade.

Wholesale Division
The wholesale division is characterised by the fact that the businesses in this division supply traditional flower wholesalers. The wholesalers are presented with a highly comprehensive range all year round, this requires flower procurement from regions growing different flowers. It has been estimated that about two-thirds of the flowers on the market are consigned to wholesalers. Traditional wholesalers fulfill a number of functions for their retail florist customers, including product sourcing, brokering and handling, providing product information and being a source for credit.
Retail Division
At the retail level, flowers are being sold through a variety of outlets including traditional florists, garden centres, supermarkets, and market and street vendors. The manner in which the retail divisions interact with customers is quite different from the wholesale ones. The number of supermarkets that sell flowers has increased over the last decade, and in many countries are setting trends. Chain-stores also have specific needs when it comes to assortment, service and other related issues.

The advantage these groups have is pretty clear from the supply chain map. It requires immense cooperation among individual entities of the group to carry out this operation all round the year. Input suppliers also include those suppliers who supply accesories to these main flower suppliers.

Many flower suppliers give discounts on flower purchases through such marketing strategies by issuing certificates like flower coupons, flower deals and such other customer-centric offers, which can save money for the customer as well as enable him to send more and more flowers thus boosting the overall flow of flower trade.

Flower suppliers also include those suppliers who supply flower accessories to these importers. The inputs from these suppliers of flower accessories are required by either of wholesaler suppliers or retail suppliers.

Flower bouquets contain a lot more than just flowers, after all what good is a bouquet without the accessories. The foliage, technically referred to as fillers includes a combination of cycas palm, asparagus, limonium, wide variety of ferns, marble queen, senseviera, dresena and maranta.

Flower accessories also include add-on equipment like flower foam, flower stems and corsage supplies that make up a flower bouquet. Other essential features include artificial foliage, containers, ribbons and vases. These are procured by the companies directly from wholesale accessory sellers and incorporated into the flower bouquets.

One remarkable feature is that it is possible for assembly line arrangement- to cater to the wholesale clients, and manual flower arrangements - flowers which are sold at the premises to be done at the same place in most of these companies.

The other major accessories are the specific packaging equipment used for reliable transport of the perishable cut flowers. These include ice packs- which provide optimal cooling facility, flower mats- which absorb humidity and flower foils - used for packaging of flowers. One of the biggest suppliers of these flower accessories and equipment in Europe is Cold And Fresh International, a member of the dutch flower group.

Of late, there have been companies which claim to short cut this entire value chain, and offer flowers directly from the growers. These companies have farms of their own and flowers are shipped from the farms after the order is placed. However this has been a subject of controversy, with rivals questioning the claim.