It goes without saying that the internet has revolutionised retail, forcing most shops to adapt to the new way of doing things or else die out. But it has also created a new lease of life for that most traditional of disciplines, logistics.
The number of parcels sent in the UK jumped 30% to 1.7 billion between 2005 and 2012, according to a report by PwC, and that's projected to increase to 2.3 billion by 2023. That boom in deliveries has created a problem though, as daytime drop-offs have left those in work with the familiar chore of having to trudge down to their nearest Royal Mail depot. Retailers have come up with innovative solutions to this – from click and collect to parcel lockers in newsagents. But what if you are sending a gift?
Bloom & Wild aims to cut the faff out of sending flowers to your nearest and dearest by fitting its bouquets into specially-designed boxes that can fit through a letterbox. Founded in 2013 by former consultant Aron Gelbard (its CEO) and former hedge fund partner Ben Stanway, it has just raised £2.5m from VC firm MMC ventures, employs 20 staff and is beginning to turn a lot of heads.
Bloom and Wild's innovative flower packaging can slip through letterboxes
'We had both sent flowers to people in the past and had them not arrive when they're supposed to, or a person would need to wait in to receive them, which would ruin the surprise,' Gelbard tells MT. 'So we wondered if there was an opportunity to use technology and create something people would love using.'
Initially that meant renting space by the hour at New Covent Garden Market and adapting prototype packaging bought from Ryman's in a bid to test whether the concept could catch on.
'When we started we thought it could be impossible,' says Gelbard. 'We were still trying to see whether the whole idea of sending flowers through the letterbox was something that could work – wheteher we could create bouquets, what sort of conditions the flowers would arrive in and whether people would enjoy or mind arranging the flowers themselves.'
As it happens, says Gelbard, packing flowers more lightly for transit makes them less prone to damage as they can't move around so much. You might think also that fitting flowers into a slim box (and making the recipient arrange them) would take some of drama and fun out of sending them, but Gelbard says the feedback has been positive, and the business certainly seems to have gained some serious traction.
Though he's not keen to divulge financials at this early stage, he says they are now sending out 'thousands' of bouquets per week, a number that's growing by 'a double-digit percentage' per month. With its cheapest bouquet costing £20, MT reckons that equates to an annual turnover of at least £1.5m, and growing fast.
Gelbard has big plans for his latest cash injection too. 'We’re working on an express delivery service starting in central London later this year, where people will be able to get flowers within an hour or two,' he says. Rapid delivery is a hot topic at the moment, with Amazon offering one-hour fulfilment in parts of central London and tax app Gett delivering bottles of Veuve Clicquot in just 10 minutes.
Gelbard also wants to use the money to heighten the company's profile more generally.
'[When] you remember a birthday or maybe you hear some sad news that could affect a loved one, or somebody has down something for you and you want to thank them, [those moments] often happen when you’re out and about on the go,' he says. 'People often want to do something in response to that trigger right when it happens and say thank you or I forgive you or I'm sorry. We would like Bloom and Wild to be the first thing people think of.'
Bloom & Wild's packaging bears an obvious resemblance to that of snack company Graze, and Gelbard admits he is a fan. 'What they pioneered with letterbox delivery of physical products was amazing,' he says. 'I was an early subscriber to their boxes myself.'
But just as Graze has spawned a plethora of competitors, there is surely a whole host of startups hot on Bloom & Wild's heels - not to mention the big florists like Interflora who likely have something similar in the works. Gelbard will need to be mindful of these threats, but having a head start is an invaluable asset.