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This flower company survived Mother’s Day, but the future remains uncertain

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst May 11, 2020
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For companies like Farmgirl Flowers, the second weekend in May is one of the most important of the year. Boris Horvat/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

This flower company survived Mother’s Day, but the future remains uncertain

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst May 11, 2020
Heard on:
For companies like Farmgirl Flowers, the second weekend in May is one of the most important of the year. Boris Horvat/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

For companies in the flower business, Mother’s Day is essential.

This year, Christina Stembel, CEO and founder of the direct-to-consumer bouquet company Farmgirl Flowers, had to scramble to set up new distribution centers after San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order forced the company to close down its main facility. 

“There were a lot of unknowns,” she told Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal. “But it all went well, and all the planes took off, and all the trucks left, and delivered thousands and thousands of bouquets to happy moms.”

Stembel said she’s hoping a strong Mother’s Day will carry Farmgirl Flowers through the slow summer months into fall, when sales typically rebound. “However … if there’s a recession on the horizon, we’re all just going to be at the mercy of what that looks like,” she said. 

After missing out on a Paycheck Protection Program loan in the first round of funding, Stembel kept applying. “I spent hundreds of hours applying, and one of them came through,” she said. “This is the thing that might be able to take us through if the economy does decline considerably.”

Click the audio player above to hear the interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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