Hope Continues to Bloom

With springtime comes flowers and Easter, typically one of the largest floral holidays on the calendar – which means, this is one of the busiest times of year for the Prime Group of companies.

 

Traditionally, Easter Sunday and spring weddings make this one of the highest demand periods for growers, florists, flower importers, and shippers, and of course logistics companies such as Miami-based Prime Logistics, Prime Fresh Handling, and PrimeAir.

 

Last year, coronavirus shut down churches and restaurants – two major consumers of flowers for Easter services and brunches. Shelter-in-place orders meant fewer families could host Easter dinners at home. Spring weddings also were postponed, all severely impacting growers across the world.

 

But this year, hope is in the air – in the form of the new life-saving vaccines developed to help control the spread of virus that has plagued us for so long. Company names like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna now play large in the world of pharmaceutical logistics. These names have also become part of our everyday conversation, signaling an awakening from the darkest period of the pandemic and providing overwhelming sense of relief, re-emergence, and renewal.

 

Aren’t these the very themes of Spring itself? The season associated symbolically with dramatic changes such as rebirth, resurrection, and waking from sleep.

 

Turning the Corner

What a difference a year makes – in stark contrast with April 2020, when the pandemic was in full swing, international trade had altogether halted, and the entire global economy was collapsing before our eyes. Like most business in the world economy, needless to say, the cut-flower industry was very severely impacted.

 

Thankfully though, we’ve turned the corner, as traditional importers who sell to wholesalers who sell to retailers, supermarkets, big box retailers, online distributors, as well as to traders at the world’s largest trading site in Amsterdam – are all now enjoying the resurrection of the industry.

 

Of course, this also includes a resurgence of businesses at the root of the flower industry: the farms, in-country forwarders, and shippers serving the verdant regions of Colombia and Ecuador. Great news for those local economies.

 

Rosier Outlook

Today, global sales related to the spring-time floral business are now booming because of the weddings and other events that had been rescheduled after long delays. This upward trend is expected to continue, reaching the same economic levels as compared to late 2019.

 

Even rosier is the outlook for the worldwide market for flowers and ornamental plants over the next five years. It is expected to grow roughly 6.3 percent, reaching $57.4 billion USD in 2024, up from $42.4 billion USD in 2019.

 

While the global floral market is faring better than initially anticipated, the economy will no doubt continue to be impacted by the consequences of the pandemic. Nonetheless, consumers are thankful they are getting back to being able to brightening the day of their loved ones with flowers this spring.

 

“Let Hope Bloom”

In the midst of the crisis last year, the Dutch Flower Council created a social media campaign called, “Let Hope Bloom.” This uplifting message reminded consumers of the importance of flowers in their lives and in fact did lift spirits – and sales!

 

But for me, it also reflected the resilience of an industry that has endured unexpected turns in the economy, the environment, and a multitude of other unpredictable forces over the years.

 

I am confident hope will continue to bloom this year, and that the floral industry will be stronger than it ever has been as the world continues to emerge from this crisis, and well into the future.

 

Happy Spring – and please stay safe.

Growing Presence of E-Commerce Making Holidays Even Happier This Year

The explosive growth of e-commerce accelerated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is offering a more than a twinkle of hope for those of us in global supply chain management— especially as we go into the holiday season.

As consumers have grown accustomed to a digital-first shopping mindset, they plan to do more online shopping this holiday season than ever before, and that’s great news for the logistics industry.

To meet this challenge, producers of consumer goods worldwide and their requisite distribution providers are keeping pace, learning to adapt, and growing stronger. This silver lining to the pandemic is also being seen in the global shipment and handling of perishable foods and fresh flowers, Prime Group’s core business.

As we march into the holiday season, new data from PriceSpider on consumer purchasing behavior shows a 113% increase in year-over-year e-commerce sales through the first three quarters of 2020.

Factoring in the recent spikes in COVID-19 infections in tandem with flu season this winter, there will likely be even more stay-at-home orders as consumers continue to avoid brick-and-mortar retail entirely. So, happy holidays, New Year, and beyond…

Frenzy for Food

With grocery e-commerce now ranked among the fastest-growing product categories online, Prime Group companies are committed to providing the highest levels of service for our fresh food customers and forwarders around the world. And it’s not just retail grocery; online sales are also skyrocketing in the food and beverage segment, as they too have successfully adopted alternative methods to meet emerging customer preferences.

In response to the boom, one step we’ve taken is to increase cold storage capacity all across our global network of warehouses and handling facilities. The demand for coolers and freezers was already high prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now we are even better positioned to maintain the cold supply chain for our customers shipping temperature-sensitive fruit, vegetables, cheese, and fish.

We are also continually beefing up our technology and introducing new and more efficient systems by which we track and monitor our customers’ precious cargo to ensure fresh, safe, and on-time delivery worldwide.

Forget Me Not

‘Tis also the season for fresh flowers. Despite the major challenges imposed on this industry since the beginning of the pandemic, fresh-cut flower distribution, buttressed by e-commerce sales, is also taking off again. And just in time. With nearly 30 percent of adults in the U.S. purchasing flowers or plants to give to others on Christmas and Hanukkah, many will also click and buy blooms for themselves.

As you’ll recall, early in the pandemic, retailers struggled to keep floral shelves stocked, due to shortages in production and a lack of transport capacity. Since May, however, the industry has gradually gotten back on track. In fact, according to the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), after two months of near identical gains, floral sales gains actually exceeded fresh produce growth by about one percentage point in September.

Here again, the increased prevalence of e-commerce is feeding growth in this key market segment. Although the idea of simply clicking on a button to order fresh flowers is nothing new for this industry, now that consumers are wary of mingling with other shoppers, they appreciate the sterility offered by the flower e-commerce industry.

Life as We Knew It

The pandemic has reshaped life as we know it, and in the process, has accelerated consumer reliance on alternative means of accessing food and merchandise. So buckle up, this e-commerce boom is not going away any time soon.

For 20 years, our customers have depended on Prime Group to smooth out the bumps in the road by identifying ways to swiftly adapt and respond to sudden and sustained changes that affect the cold supply chain.

Just know we’re here with you for the entire ride.

Prime Group’s Long Affair With Valentine’s Day

If you’re involved in any sector of the fresh-cut flower business and you’re reading this right now – get back to work!

Although we’re just moving out of the peak Valentine’s Day period, January 25 through February 7, there’s still a lot of work to be done. With International Women’s Day around the corner, the clock is ticking and there’s little time to rest.

But all kidding aside, I’m glad you’re here, because it gives me an opportunity to say thanks to all of our freight forwarders with whom we get to work so closely this time of year, and to our shippers and air carriers who so depend on us.

I’m also grateful for the passion for perfection exhibited by our team of dedicated hard-working employees who continue to do what they do best – especially over the past few weeks.

The monstrously high volumes we are presently handling is nearly unimaginable for the typical consumer. But we’re used to it. We’ve been working with perishables for so long, it’s become second nature to expect nothing less – and to provide nothing short of perfection.

So hats off to the dedicated folks in our two divisions that play such an integral role in preparing, shipping, and delivering such delicate and highly time-sensitive product as fresh-cut flowers – PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling. Our customers depend on you and you deliver every day.

This is also the time of year that my business partner Omar Zambrano and I pay homage to the company’s core business of providing top-line logistics support for the flower industry. Since day one, shipping roses and other fresh-cut flowers from South America to the U.S., and now Europe and beyond, has been our main focus.

In fact, flowers are the very reason Prime Group exists today – and continues to succeed. They are the seed that started it all, and that are allowing the company to thrive and strategically expand into other profitable business and product lines.

It’s a busy time. It’s an exciting time. And there’s always time to say thank you.

So thanks! And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Prime Group team harvesting business at BOG show

Easily one of the best opportunities to meet the most important people in the floral industry is at the most important flower show in Colombia – Bogota’s Proflora.

As one of the biggest in the world, the show is mostly for flower growers and breeders to show off their wares, but myriad providers of services and products that support the core industry are also represented.

So naturally, Prime Group has been attending for years.

As a veteran of many flower expositions around the world, over and over CEO Roger Paredes says he comes to the same conclusion: “The floral business is as much about the flowers as it is about the people – perhaps even more so.”

For sure, there were hundreds of exhibits and sessions this year highlighting emerging trends and the latest and greatest flower varieties. But Paredes and his sales team, joined by Prime Group’s Chief Operating Officer Omar Zambrano are much too busy to take in any of the “local color,” so to speak. That’s because they are almost solely focused on meeting with new and existing customers.

According to Paredes, it’s all about maintaining and building relationships. “We focus on building new business, but we also taking full advantage of the opportunity to meet with the existing customers of PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling in particular, to continually reinforce those important relationships.”

PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling (PFH) are the primary divisions of Prime Group Holdings that support the fresh-cut flower business. PrimeAir serves as the general sales and service agent (GSSA) on the ground in Latin America for the biggest players in the air cargo industry – including Atlas Air, and Emirates SkyCargo. These carriers alone transport millions of kilos of flowers out of Bogota and Quito each year.

PFH serves as a strategic ally for its clients by handling the logistics end of the business – from start to finish – in order to achieve safe and fresh delivery of fresh flowers and perishable goods to their final destination. With strategic warehouses and handling facilities around the globe, PFH offers a complete menu of logistics services from cold storage and inventory services, to document processing and customs clearance.

“It was a great show,” Paredes reported. “We arrived with solid sales leads that would allow us to continue developing our portfolio of services, and were able to meet with a handful of new customers that we’d already started working with out of Bogota. At the end of the day, it’s always a good thing to meet clients face-to-face, after interacting for so long via just phone and email.”

Other meetings during the show, scheduled in advance of the event, were set aside for existing customers, he said, to thank them for their business and to check in to see if everything is copacetic.

“What we heard most, thankfully, were expressions of satisfaction with our service,” he added.

Mission accomplished.

For information, visit www.primegroup.aero. To contact Prime Group at its Miami world headquarters call 305-592-2044 or send an email at info@primegroup.aero.

A Prime Approach to Teamwork

Prime Group’s enchantment with flowers continues this month. As our intense focus on Valentine’s Day shifts to meeting the high demand for flowers for International Women’s Day, we stand ready!

Last time, I talked about how the transport of delicate roses from South America – the core of our business since 2001 – has helped to create a hard work ethic among the Prime Group team, one that is unmatched in the industry.

After all, if you can achieve great success in handling precious, time-sensitive flowers year after year, you can pretty much handle anything.

So when I say we have a long enchantment with flowers, I mean our entire team does – from our world headquarters staff in Doral, to our traffic agents in Bogota, to our ramp workers in Quito.

 

Back in the Day

It was on the ramp at Mariscal Sucre International Airport where I saw my first box of fresh-cut flowers, Ecuadorian roses, in fact. That was way back when I got my start in this business, as part of the ground-support crew working flights for Challenge Air Cargo. So I guess you could say, from the very beginning, I was pricked by the rose trade.

It was supposed to be a quick summer job, working as a warehouse guy, building pallets and loading trucks. I had never seen the airport from the air cargo side, let alone right out there next to a plane. It was so exciting. But all the while I’m thinking, “wow, I’m actually doing this!”

Now, all these years later, flowers and aircraft are still such a huge part of my life – a summer job that became a life-long career…

So, today, when I talk with my front-line employees, I get a sense that some of them don’t believe their CEO actually got his start in the industry doing exactly what they are doing.

But it’s all good. Because knowing exactly what it’s like to be in their shoes this busy time of year, working back-to-back flights, week after week, allows us to strike an immediate chord of camaraderie.

In fact, it’s a real sight to see when employees suddenly realize I am not just a corporate “suit,” but a seasoned “jumpsuit, too.”

What I also get to see and understand, first-hand, is that our team has amassed an amazing base of knowledge and expertise over time, to the point where they can expertly avert all kinds of issues on their own – very often before a problem even arises.

What this is about is good old solid teamwork. And it makes me proud to be part of this team.

At Prime Group, we’ve had a long affair with flowers, logistics support, and great customer service. I’m glad we’re working together – for you!

Wishing a wonderful and happy Women’s Day.