Hilverda de Boer USA Aims at High-End Event Planners

Staff
11 Min Read

Fifteen years ago, Marco Groot’s childhood dream came true when he became CEO of Hilverda de Boer USA. What is it like to live and work in the United States for a Dutchman? Marco goes all-in when he speaks openly about why he’s crazy about flowers, about his work, and about living in America.

Marco Groot From HdB USA

Hilverda De Boer (by industry professionally generally shortened as HdB) is a big player in the United States that has had a foot on the ground since 1983. Not because it aims at the bulk wholesale market, but rather because it is a household name among high-end retail stores and event planners.

 

 

When you have attended a big-scale event in the US in recent years, and you admired the floral works of art that were presented, big chance you will be standing face-to-face with flowers supplied by the American filial that Marco Groot runs for this original Dutch flower conglomerate.

Marco:

“Together with my wife and two kids, I moved from the Netherlands to the US about fifteen years ago. I have always been a flower aficionado and in love with America, so when I was asked by the HdB management to revive the existing business over here I jumped on this great adventure.

My love for flowers makes me love what I do. Ever since I was a kid, working in greenhouses in my neighborhood, I have been enchanted by flowers and the value they represent; I can still enjoy so much seeing a new tulip or hydrangea, and — at the same time — I realize that these flowers are worth hard cash money. That golden combination makes me do what I do.

I worked hard and looked at the same time well around me to spot business opportunities. That has led to a nice growth over the years, where Hilverda De Boer has become a staple in the floral industry. We are not a ‘sexy’ company, but a very solid organization with an unparalleled range of flowers. We are very proud of that achievement.”

Flower Formats in the USA

Marco has elaborately investigated the American flower industry to be able to make the right choices, aiming at the best segments for HdB’s business. He explains:

“The flower market in the US is segmented as follows:

One, there is the traditional flower wholesale traditional market, such as the New York Flower Market, the Boston Flower Exchange, the San Francisco Flower Market, and so on. Every major city has a concentration of companies in one building or street where florists go to buy their flowers.

Two, in the more rural areas some large stand-alone wholesalers supply florists in a radius around the company. These are generally speaking the more traditional florists.

We as Hilverda De Boer are not focussing on either two. We do not have a filial, shop or stock, because our format is targeted at direct delivery from all over the world, like the Netherlands, Italy, Central and South America, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and so on. From major airport hubs, we ship consolidated flower shipments straight to our customers anywhere in America. By taking out one piece of the chain — the warehouse — we are able to deliver faster and without overhead costs. We do not need our own trucks either, because all flowers are delivered by affiliated trucking companies from one of five main ports Miami, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, or Chicago.

Besides cutting on overhead and logistics, the other best things about this system are speed and freshness. Our customers do not need to order two weeks ahead but can see the availability with growers around the world for ordering delivery in five days tops. In short: it reduces the risk for florists when ordering is possible closer to the date they actually need these flowers.”

Florist Segmentation Developments

Although the florist market in the US is still quite traditional, some shifts are happening quickly. The bulk of the market is still taken by the regular florists, who are settled in mostly rural areas. Next, there is the growing segment of e-commerce that is also rooted in the flower industry, especially among young consumers. Third, you have supermarkets where you can buy your flowers. Lastly, there are high-end stores that are also event planners, which is the segment that Hilverda De Boer supplies.

The market in the USA is very much event-driven, Marco explains. This makes it highly unpredictable. Today, an event needs thousands of Red Naomi roses, and tomorrow another event needs a large shipment of yellow calla lilies, simply because the event is in that style.

Marco:

“You can imagine how hard it is to guestimate the demand and to purchase your products all over the world a long time ahead. Keeping flowers in stock is no option because they arrive here from anywhere in a box without water. Then they must be unpacked, put in water, and then repacked for transport. This is not only a big hassle, but also not good for the quality of the flowers.

If you supply the regular florist, this might be OK, but event planners have a higher standard. They know what’s available when certain flowers are in or out of season, and they understand best what it takes to get top-notch quality and the true cost of flowers. So we speak the same language. And we offer them a unique service that allows them to order their flowers on short notice, giving them optimal flexibility in planning.

Moreover, imagine that big events are often not in big cities; not in New York or LA, but in remote locations such as beautiful Jackson, Wyoming, or in Aspen, Colorado. There’s where large-scale events are organized. The lean and mean logistics system we have set up, working with the five main ports that are directly supplied from all over the globe, ensures that all these places can be reached quickly as well.”

Inspiration for Designers

The link between HdB USA and their mother company in the Netherlands surely helps Marco and his team by providing not only the best flowers but also useful information and inspiration for US designers Marco dares to make a bold statement about this:

“By having this Dutch connection we know so much about what’s happening. We know all about availability, seasonality, niche products, and prices. The HdB team in Holland helps us in every which way to make us stand out.

And, of course, because of the role Holland is playing on the global floral stage, many American designers are infatuated with Dutch design, which is on a high technical level. Basically, American designs are usually more of a high commercial level.

I follow many designers and high-end florist stores, such as the phenomenal Plaza Flowers in New York, and floral celebrities like Jeff Leatham and David Beahm. And there are many more that are so good!

I myself also admire many American designers and the way they are raised to become one. Young floral workers have to work hard to get where they want, from the bottom up. This starts very humbly cleaning flowers, then perhaps they are allowed to do a small piece of the designs, and if they show their natural talents they can gradually grow to do more designing, being taught by their superior. In Europe, it is the other way around; first, you go to school for four years, learn all kinds of techniques, become a Master Florist, and then you start working.”

Floral Trends: America vs Europe

Despite the eye on Europe and the Netherlands when it comes to designing, Dutch trends are not always adopted by American florists.

Marco:

“Americans like more compact and colorful bouquets, more traditional arrangements. The designs they create are not trend-sensitive at all. When a design style works (commercially), why change it? That must be the reason why they skip the European trend of creating wild designs like loose field bouquets. No need to change flower fashion twice a year.”

Living and Working in America

It looks like Marco Groot is having the time of his life in America and he feels totally good being there. He has picked a niche in the vast floral market that turned out to be very successful, making Hilverda De Boer USA a reputed supplier to high-end stores and event planners. If you find yourself at an event with beautiful flowers, you probably won’t meet Marco himself, but big chance you’ll get acquainted with HdB’s flowers.

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