Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Buying and running a florists shop

Over the past few days my bedtime reading has been a newly published book on this subject by Alan Peck. It is interesting as it is written entirely from the point of view of financial bottom line, there is none of passion for flowers (or even, to be honest, an interest in them) that would tend to cloud most florists accounts. Peck and his wife Elizabeth owned 2 florist shops for 8 years until she died of cancer in 2004.
It has made me very glad that I work in the way that I do, that the flower business has developed from the need to grow things rather than the need to sell things. I am also so glad that I have my own flowers to draw on as much of the book is devoted to the need to pass off old stock to customers (as well as how to get them to add a helium balloon to their order!?) before it becomes wastage. I found that I was sad the weeks I sold out this year as there were no flowers to send to Crofatmie Nursery on the Monday.
Even worse is the compromises caused by his reliance on buying from the Dutch wholesalers.
Peck writes "When you purchase flowers from a wholesaler you do not know when they were cut. You do not know what sort of conditions they have been kept in since cutting. " Peck regards a £20 bunch of flowers as cheap (and frequently insinuates that it is insulting to the recipient!) - if I was spending £20 on flowers I would expect the vendor to know exactly when and where they were cut and how they had been treated since then.
The book is obviously aimed at would be florists and I suppose it is unlikely to be read by many flower buyers, - should they happen across it, however, they will become very cynical about flower shops.
One thing that I didn't know was the practice of relay selling - a company takes a flower order for say £40; it then passes it on as a £30 order to a local florist and it would then be the local florist who appears to be offering rubbish value for money while the relay company takes the profit. I was approached by a number of these firms as soon as I put my number into the Yellow Pages this year but felt that I wasn't enough of a conventional florist to be able to do remote orders - I like to know who is sending and who is receiving flowers and to make sure that the bouquet is going to suit. I like connection. It hadn't occured to me that it was a scam.


Heather said...

This is an interesting post because it offers a look at contradictory images of business.

I would subscribe to your point about having a connection with the product - however, the book was about having a detachment from the product and running a successful business - some might suggest that this in itself is reward enough -that the attachment to the product clouds the issue somewhat.

My experience too has brought a deal of cynicism to my work - that costings and perceived value for money out weigh principles. In fact there have been times I have resented my own ethics especially when I know the customer doesn't really care anyway.

I wish there was more heart to successful business but I fear the Pecks of the world prove a sad point.

I push on but I'll never be a millionaire on it- sometimes I think I'd like to give it a go.


Jane said...

I actually think that this book is worthwhile - a lot of florist shops (antique shops, cafes, bookshops) are opened because people have a dream of having said business and they then ignore all the practicalities of costs etc, try it and consequently fail.
I think that it is slightly different with your business Heather as, although you are retreating from having the shop, that was only part of the business and it is your passion for devising and making the soaps and perfumes that form the core. Although customers do not ask directly about the ethics and although your ethics probably outweigh what you would need to do to sell, I think that these things shine out in non-tangible ways.
I would have hated to have begun from the point of view of opening a flower shop and then discovered that I could only turn a profit by pushing the customers to up their bouquet costs or passing off last week's stock.
The way I work - with mass plantings and no direct cost per bloom (though obviously these are costed, I'm not that bad a businesswoman) - means that I can afford to be generous without it effecting the bottom line.