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Independents merge to fight the flower powers

Privately held and say that they will join forces to better compete in the fast-growing online flower market. and joined forces today to compete in the fast-growing online flower market.

The two privately held companies merged today in an all-stock deal, company representatives said. They declined to discuss the financial details of the deal, but said that the combined company will be called Proflowers and will be headed by current Proflowers chief executive Bill Strauss. Flowerfarm chief executive Abe Wynperle will become the president and chief operating officer of the combined company.

Strauss said Proflowers chose to merge with Flowerfarm because the company wanted to expand internationally. Boca Raton, Fla.-based Flowerfarm currently ships to 19 countries, including the United States, Brazil and France.

"We identified global sales as way to grow our business and a huge opportunity," Strauss said. "We're going to combine our marketing expertise with Flowerfarm's operational infrastructure and really kick this thing off."

Forrester Research projects that online flower sales will grow from $354 million in 1999 to $2.5 billion in 2004. Public companies such as and have taken an early lead in the market.

La Jolla, Calif.-based Proflowers hopes to distinguish itself from its competitors by offering a seven-day guarantee on its flowers. The company's shipping methods ensure that customers receive their flowers 24 to 48 hours after they have been cut, Strauss said, adding that the company plans to offer the same guarantee to its international customers following its merger.

"This translates to longer vase life in consumers' homes," Strauss said.

Customers who place orders on receive them directly from flower growers.