The Australian flower industry is seeing substantial growth in a surprising new area for the market – online retailing.

Market revenue is forecast to grow at an annualised 7.3 per cent over the next five years to reach $73.2 million. This is according to data from research firm IBIS World, and encompasses existing retailers expanding into individual online offerings, totally online services and order-aggregators.

Through 2013-14, revenue is forecast to grow by 3.1 per cent.

“The strong growth is attributable to a wide acceptance of the internet as a shopping medium, combined with improvements in consumer sentiment and discretionary income,” according to IBIS World industry analyst Andrei Ivanov.

Traditionally, flower shopping has been focused on retail stores, largely due to product requirements. Flowers require constant care in the time between initial delivery to the store and customer purchase, as wilting occurs extremely easily.

“Online flower shops have a significant advantage over traditional bricks and mortar retailers because they can display a wide range of products online and execute orders as they come, minimising stock costs,” Mr Ivanov explained.

Online ordering has been attempted in the past, with a variety of different business models. For example, order-to-gathering models which speed the purchasing process. No previously tried models have achieved a large degree of success, and retailers have remained the primary purchasing outlet.

Flower arrangements for events such as weddings, corporate shows and other functions have been the dominant area of the flower retail market, with customer purchasing following behind. With online ordering gaining traction, the flower market could see a substantial pickup.

Introducing new services such as timed deliveries would also provide businesses with a wider degree of planning, allowing dispatches to be allotted over a longer period of time.

As online ordering is expected to grow, flower retailers will likely have to invest in retail design early to stay ahead.