Under Howard Hurst’s leadership, florist Tipton & Hurst has built a thriving online presence and now has five brick-and-mortar stores in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway and Pine Bluff. Born and raised in Little Rock, he is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Tipton & Hurst is the second-oldest specialty retailer in Arkansas.
Tipton & Hurst is a venerable Arkansas company. When did you know you wanted to get into the family business?
My grandfather co-founded Tipton & Hurst in 1886. It’s what I’ve always known. As a child, I saw my parents work hard to grow the business and foster a culture of excellent customer service — all while bettering the communities they served. I’m honored to follow in their footsteps and serve as president of Tipton & Hurst, where we continue to deliver on my grandfather’s promise of guaranteed satisfaction with every order.
How do online flower sources affect local florists?
Traditional retail florists now account for less than 30% of the market share. Online competition is becoming fiercer by the day, primarily due to entities like Teleflora and 1-800-FLOWERS. Tipton & Hurst has been able to capture local, regional and national dollars by investing heavily in e-commerce and social media.
In fact, we expect nearly 50% of Valentine’s Day orders to come from our website.
Is sustainability an issue in the floral industry?
We’ve seen increasing interest in growing and sourcing products in as eco-friendly a manner as possible. There’s also been an industry-wide push to decrease packaging. Tipton & Hurst has been focused on sustainability since day one — even building a greenhouse as part of our first contract in 1886.
Today, we recycle all our cardboard and opt for recycled glass, natural baskets or pottery containers instead of single-use plastics. We’ve invested in energy-efficiency upgrades for our buildings, but we’re still waiting on electric vans!
How do you source your plants?
We source flowers and plants from around the world, with a focus on locally grown and made varieties. We have long-standing relationships with growers, both domestically and internationally, and are able to buy directly from them. Every step of our process is focused on ensuring the highest-quality products possible — from purchasing to transporting in climate-controlled vehicles straight to our stores.
What has changed most about the floral industry over the years?
Fifty years ago, flowers were sold primarily at retail florists. Now, it’s a mix of big-box stores, online delivery, grocery stores, freelancers and event designers.
Unlike traditional retail florists, Tipton & Hurst is a full-scale, specialty retailer, with direct access to the best product from around the globe. We are proud to offer customers the latest in floral design, plants, gifts and décor, including online registries, and the largest inventory of fresh flowers anywhere in Arkansas.