FTD Gets Caught In A Terrible Game Of Pickle

Century-old floral delivery stalwart FTD filed for Chapter 11, sending shivers through C-suites of venerable brands everywhere. In a growing US flower market, this pioneer should have dominated. It’s long offered eCommerce and delivery, features that competitive direct-to-consumer (DTC) upstarts now play to disrupt markets. But eCommerce alone does not today a competitive strategy make. Consumers’ purchase drivers are changing. Quality in the floral business now means sourcing local product and sustainability — mirroring trends we’re seeing in food and consumer packaged goods. Trust now means supporting transparent and fair labor practices. And eCommerce implies direct relationships that enable new forms of value, such as customization or curation or direct sourcing for lower prices. In failing to adapt to these trends, FTD got caught in the middle between nimble, niche DTCs and speedy, cheap Amazon. Now, they’re out.

A Standard Strategy Blinds FTD To Changing Customers

The scariest part about FTD’s demise is that the company’s initial response looked quite reasonable to most boards. Acquiring brands like ProFlowers and Shari’s Berries probably did offer requisite synergies on the back end and immediate revenue boosters, but it didn’t infuse FTD with the DTC-like breed of agile talent and processes that the enterprise needed to creatively (and quickly) rethink the value it brings to market — like Edgewell’s purchase of Harry’s. And betting the future on technology was right but failed without complementary pivots in market and organization adaptiveness.

A Lesson For All Brands: Hyper-Focusing On Today Sacrifices Tomorrow

In the end, the biggest problem was one we often hear from brands: the tension between current vs. future priorities. My colleague Tina Moffett is just finishing research on this very pain point. FTD chased short-term sales and shirked long-term investments, not just in tech but in understanding how its products and services should evolve to meet increasingly empowered customers. Consumers are changing in new ways — not just in the channels where they shop but in why they choose the brands they do. If you’ve long been business as usual, you might soon be looking at no business at all. In discussing FTD around the office, I mentioned to my research associates that FTD could go the way of Woolworth’s. They all just looked at me blankly — they’d never even heard of the once-leading retailer.