The time of the pandemic was an entrepreneurial exam for the owners of florists and workshops

Altana chłodnicza w kwiaciarni Bukieciarz

The time of the pandemic was an entrepreneurial exam for the owners of florists and workshops

Feb 17, 2022

He became involved in the floristic business over 25 years ago. He runs a florist company operating in various sectors of the flower market: florists, florist workshops and wholesalers. He trains and advises people who run a flower business or want to start their adventure in the floristic industry. He also shares his knowledge on the pages of Nasz Dom i Ogród - Flora i Florysta magazines, on his own blogs: wsparcieflorystów.pl and otwieramkwiaciarnie.pl. At the end of last year, he equipped the Bukieciarz florist with our flower refrigerator. So we took the opportunity to ask, among others for the challenges that await florists in 2022. We invite you to read our conversation with Andrzej Dąbrowski.

 

How has the floristic industry changed by the pandemic?

The time of the pandemic was an entrepreneurial exam for the owners of florists and workshops. Some were scared of threats and restrictions, slowed down for a long time, and even closed their businesses. The others, after a moment of breakdown, reflection and analysis, became active and began to adapt their actions to the new situation.

Fortuntely, the flower industry did not collapse despite many restrictions affecting the sale of flowers. In the first pandemic year, people did not travel, sat at home and began to care for their surroundings. They eagerly reached for cut flowers, so on occasion, in a vase. They also started looking for interesting plants for the house, balcony, terrace and garden. Florists who noticed this trend and adapted their offer to these needs benefited from it, and despite the pandemic, these businesses continued to thrive.

I personally have worked a lot during this period and my business is now in a different place than it was before the outbreak of the coronavirus. It was a time of many changes, analyzes, decisions, transformations and business optimization. It was an intense time of development.

What flowers are customers looking for? Is it better to have a large selection of different, exotic species or proven varieties from which you can create a variety of bouquets?

The simplest definition of the word "florist" is a shop that sells flowers. Unfortunately, many florists forget about it and transform their business into shops with products for PLN 5, but with a bit more expensive goods. I am aware that many people operating in the industry have a problem with maintaining an attractive range of floristic material for the customer. Because it costs money, because flowers have to be sold in a few days, it's not easy.

In our flower shops we always try to have a wide and deep assortment of cut flowers including many interesting facts, for example this week's aloe vera flower. Not only on flower days, but on a daily basis. This is what customers are looking for, it is appreciated by customers - a large selection of flowers, including exotic ones. Of course, some customers are satisfied with these common flowers - roses, carnations, tulips, chrysanthemums, but many focus on uniqueness, including interesting floral accessories that affect the beauty of the bouquet.

 

What to consider when choosing a wholesaler or supplier?

Choosing a good supplier is a difficult challenge for beginners in the industry. Those who work longer have it better organized, although it is never a stable situation.

When choosing suppliers, you need to pay attention primarily to the assortment they offer and prices. Of course, the lowest price is not the main selection criterion. The owner of a florist must be aware that forcing low prices has a negative impact on the quality of the service (smaller assortment, higher risk of error, selling to the last flower). Undoubtedly, the access to the offer via the webshop and the curiosities on offer is a big plus.

It is also important whether the wholesaler follows the rules of wholesale. It is worth paying attention to whether the supplier knows flowers and plants, or knows at least the basics of floristics and storage of flowers and plants. It seems obvious, but in practice it is not. Another selection criterion is efficient communication. Is it easy to get along with the supplier or make a call? Does he understand the needs? Is he available? Is it possible to order the necessary assortment in advance?

Valentine's Day is behind us, Women's Day in a moment. How do you prepare your florists for such important days?

Valentine's Day is the most difficult time of the year for florists. This is a worldwide celebration, so the demand for red flowers is peaking around the world at this time, and with it, prices from suppliers are rising. During the month, they increase twice, and this year we expect an additional increase in prices by an average of PLN 5 compared to last year. This year's price increase is driven by the increase in energy, gas and air transport costs, which translates into higher production costs. The increase in prices has an impact on disturbing combinations of suppliers - roses a little weaker, a little cheaper, often of dubious freshness. And yet, on this day, customers buy flowers for their loved ones. There is no room for mediocrity here.
We have been contracting roses for Valentine's Day for many seasons already in mid-January in a Kenyan farm, from where we collect roses systematically throughout the year. Such cooperation pays off in these more difficult moments. We buy flowers at a stable price, beautiful and, above all, fresh. Our florists' customers appreciate this quality.
The question is how big this order should be. Red flowers will be on sale in bulk only on Valentine's Day, or the day before. That is why you have to order as many as possible, so that we do not run out of them, and at the same time, so that we will not be left with a lot of flowers on February 15th. Because then they hardly interest anyone anymore and the demand drops significantly. When planning an order, you need to take into account various factors, including what day of the week does Valentine's Day fall, or is it the time of winter holidays. Now, it is further complicated by a pandemic and the threat of forced isolation for our employees and customers.

The roses arrive at our warehouse a few days earlier in cardboard boxes. We have to cut each rose and put it in containers with water and conditioner. Before placing in a cool place, all flowers should remain in the warm water solution for about an hour to allow them to fully hydrate, making them plump. Then we put all the roses in the cold store and we try to sell them as soon as possible.

3 days before Valentine's Day, we prepare bouquets in various sizes and prices, and bunches of roses in various lengths. This helps a lot to relieve queues at the flower shop on flower days. Because nobody likes to stand in line. We always prepare an additional counter on such days and serve customers who decide to buy a ready-made bouquet. On flower days in flower shops, we increase the number of employees several times - all hands on deck! This allows you to maximize the florist's potential and has an impact on customer satisfaction.

 

Which florists are the best choice for cooling devices?

I cannot imagine running a flower shop without a cooler. It provides optimal conditions for cut flowers, thanks to which we can gather a richer assortment, but also larger quantities. As we always have large amounts of roses, we often receive customers from our competitors who need several dozen or even over 100 roses.

Here, I would distinguish two types of cold stores - those in the back room, for storing surpluses, and those in the sales room, where flowers in vases and ready-made bouquets can be displayed under optimal conditions.

 A flower refrigerator is definitely useful in premises in shopping malls and shopping arcades. I know something about it, our florists have been operating in such locations for 20 years. At the beginning, I noticed a disturbing situation where fresh roses, strong varieties, brought in from the warehouse in the morning in the evening, did not look attractive anymore. I started looking for the cause of this problem. When I started my business in the shopping arcade, I was glad that the entire area of the store was air-conditioned. After all, a lower temperature means a longer life for cut flowers.

Then I did not think about the second factor - air humidity, and it was this factor that turned out to be a problem. Room air conditioning and ventilation dry out the atmosphere. In my florist's shop, I tested the humidity and it turned out to be 40%, in a second florist's in a traditional building, without air conditioning, the measurement was above 50%. In the flower shop in the shopping arcade, the water balance of cut flowers was disturbed. The water from them evaporated faster than they were able to draw water from the vase. Fortunately, flowers sell out quite quickly here, and we deliver fresh flowers several times a day. At night, most of the cut flowers are transported to the cold store, which also improves their condition before the next trading day.

A cold store in a flower shop is particularly important at the beginning of a florist's operation. Then we must have a wide range to attract and delight customers. Anyone who has opened a flower shop knows how difficult it is to reconcile the dependency - to have a satisfactory customer assortment and not to throw away too much. In Kwieciarnia, which we opened in July of the pandemic year 2020, the sales volume, which prevented us from throwing away too many unsold flowers, was achieved in December, 6 months after the opening, so quite quickly. A flower refrigerator will undoubtedly significantly reduce the stress level while waiting for the customer to buy the next bouquet.

What marketing activities are the best to invest in as a florist?

Social media creates sales, you have to be active in them. It is difficult to achieve large ranges with activity alone, sometimes it is worth helping to reach potential customers with sponsored posts. Google helps in searching for specific products, you have to be high in order to sell. A Google map helps you easily find a local florist and show the way, it is worth supplementing the current opening hours, contact details.

The florist's website sells, attractive visibility from the street is an asset, so location is very important. Florists working alone cannot afford advertising in the national media, so local portals and newspapers remain, but in the case of florists, I doubt the effectiveness of such advertising. I have a negative experience with the effectiveness of printed leaflets, there are too many of them and they are treated like garbage.

We cannot forget about the proven method - satisfied customers recommending our products and services to others. I think we do it all the time, but not by accident. For many years, we have been focusing on good quality and unique products, and they are not cheap. Our florists have interesting interiors and a well-matched assortment. We have been operating for the third decade and every year we try to do it better and better!

Where and how to best learn and develop your knowledge?

Where and how depends on the needs and possibilities... including the financial ones. Good floristry schools cost money, but there is a second barrier - time. Usually, learning lasts a year and you need to find time for commuting and descents. Now, when it is difficult to find good employees, the declaration of participation in a one-year school seems impossible.

In recent years, more and more multi-vocational schools have opened the field of floristry. A small plus is that you can choose such a school somewhere close, local, and the bigger disadvantage is the randomness of selecting the staff and too little expenditure on floristic material, and how to teach floristry without flowers?
For overworked people who want to develop, I suggest a few days of workshops. There is a choice of the subject of the workshops and the person conducting. This is a good way for today. For several years, we have gone one step further and are organizing a 3-day workshop "Travels educate florists". It is a combination of study, rest and sightseeing during a week's trip. We have already been to Tuscany, Sicily, this year we are planning Apulia, Normandy, Tuscany and Sicily.

So there is a lot to choose from, you just need to think about what we need, how much time we have and how much money we want to invest in learning.

 


What challenges will the floristry industry face in 2022?

Today we are facing another challenge - the 5th wave of COVID-19, the new tax policy in Poland, which has become the nightmare of accountants, the rapidly growing costs of running a business, and an increasingly less affluent client portfolio.

How to run a florist shop today, how to live? Now it's worth doing a SWOT analysis of your company. Look for strengths and use them, improve weaknesses, look for opportunities in the environment and eliminate threats. Undoubtedly, it will be a time to look for an idea to increase income, but also to look for savings. It is necessary for florists to earn money when everything becomes more expensive - flowers, plants, decorative items - rents, heating, energy, fuel, employee salaries, social security contributions.

When you think about increasing your revenues, one thing that comes to mind is increasing your margins! But when we take into account the increase in flower prices, and when we add a higher markup, the price of the bouquet will increase significantly. Will the customers accept it? Undoubtedly, we can achieve an increase in revenues by engaging in sales. But are florists good salespeople? For some, selling is a natural skill, others can be taught to sell effectively. This is a must when we need to increase revenues.

Where to look for savings? Rents are rather rising, gas, electricity, fuel have increased significantly, we are unlikely to find savings here. Thoroughly analyzing the cost structure of my florists and the way to save money, I noticed one thing - wasted cut flowers and potted plants thrown into the trash. Increasing employee involvement in caring for flowers and plants is the first way to save money. The second aspect is to provide flowers and plants with the right conditions. Here, undoubtedly, the nutrients for cut flowers that extend their durability are important, but also the Flower Refrigerator, thanks to which we display flowers in a favorable conditions. I have already checked it, after equipping my florist Bukieciarz with a cooling device, we significantly reduced the amount of roses thrown into the basket, and consequently we reduced the costs.
 

If you would like to equip your shop with a flower refrigerator, you can configure the device to fit your needs by clicking here.

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