Monday, 19 January 2015

Competition

Now when I say the word competition to you, I don’t mean we are running one (although that is something I might think about for later in year; if I can find time to think of anything other than how to get all the orders completed before the end of the day) but between rival businesses –whether that be florists, gift shops, newsagents or supermarkets. There is, always has been and always will be competition between businesses that sell or provide the same product, but this really doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact (to me) it’s a very good thing, which is why a lovely customer who came in this morning shocked me with her reaction when I didn’t have the flower she specifically wanted (or anything that would have been a viable substitute). Because I wasn’t able to fulfil her order I suggested she try the shop over the road in case they had what she was looking for. She was genuinely horrified that I would be willing to send a customer to my competition; thankfully after explaining it to her she was able to understand why I would.  My reason for doing this (it’s not the first time) is because at the end of the day it’s not all about me or the shop; it’s about the customer. More importantly it’s about the customer leaving the shop feeling they have been treated well – have been served in a courteous and friendly manner, and that they have been able to achieve what they set out to do when they left home. If I can’t provide the product the customer wants, then I will suggest somewhere they may be able to get it (the service side of things are always paramount to me, so I hope that nobody ever leaves feeling they’ve not been served correctly – if they do I have failed).


I know there are lots of business owners that would never dream of doing such a thing; I’ve worked for/with some people that wouldn’t even offer to send a customer to a rival in another town, let alone one within just a few paces, but this to me is so silly. There is plenty of room for us all.  In fact I know one of the other shops over the road has been approached by a florist in another part of our area who wants to supply them with bunches and ready-made tied bouquets; this is to get her florist business more promotion, but would also give the other business a new product to offer. The shop owner told me he is really tempted by the offer but doesn’t want to do it in case he offends/upsets me. I told him not to be so daft; at the end of the day business is business, and if he can make some money without any cost to himself, then he is a fool not to go for it. I certainly wouldn’t be offended by him doing so. Competition keeps us on our toes and just because we’re business rivals, doesn’t mean we can’t help each other out and be happy for each other. 


When the new girls took over the other florists back in October I made a point of going over to introduce myself (as I had done with the previous owners). I remember how hard it was in the beginning for me when we first opened. I had 18 years’ experience at the time, and was starting from scratch so I only had to build a reputation. They were newly qualified, and taking on a business that had been running for 9 years; they have to keep up the reputation that someone else has built through their hard work, time and effort. I can only imagine the pressure they must have been under, which is why as soon as I got back from my holiday (I was away when they took over) I went over to say hello. I also told them I’d heard good things about them (everyone needs to feel they’re doing things right – yes our friends can post on social media sites about us and praise what we are doing, although I’d like to think businesses don’t use their friends to do such a thing; I ask my friends not to do this, as I want our reputation to be down to every day customers, and not friends and family who would say anything they thought I wanted to hear, however much they thought they might be helping to boost things). I wished them all the luck and told them if they ever ran out of something to give me a shout – I am more than willing to help out someone else (I have several other shops in the area I call on if I run out of something and get desperate, and vice versa).  My customer this morning also thought that was mad of me until I explained why to her. 


To me, anyone that fears competition is either not confident in their own abilities (at which point they are obviously in the wrong business) or they will go round dissing the people they are competing against (that one really gets me. I don’t understand what anyone thinks they will gain by dissing and saying bad things about another owner which makes them look not only petty, but shows exceptionally bad customer service skills). You are only negative towards those that you perceive a threat.

In short I love having competition; it keeps me on my toes, which is turned means the shop gets more attention and my customers always get the best (whether that be from my shop, or anyone else in the area selling the same products) which is something they have come to expect.

Friday, 9 January 2015

What an amazing

Christmas period we had this (last) year :) which has been followed up by a phenomenal start to 2015 – for that we have you (our customers) to thank.

Due to having 3 drivers out on the road Christmas Eve, all deliveries were completed by 11.30 am (one driver in particular covered the West End, Denmead and Gosport areas for us – we couldn’t have given him a more spaced out round – with the other 2 sticking local). Almost everyone collected on time (there was one regular who turned up 20 minutes after we closed – you know who you are :) ) so we were able to get away as planned early enough to go out and do our own Christmas shopping and ready ourselves for the big day. As for stock left; we managed to get that right again this year too, with just 2 stems of curly bamboo and a couple of poinsettias left, and not a single customer turned away. We call that a success :)
 
However, even more of a success has been the start to 2015 for us. I know you all understand why we close between the Christmas and New Year period – no matter how much the wholesalers will tell us the flowers during that time are fresh, we know full well they are only what’s left over from before Christmas, and we would rather not serve our customers, than lose them due to poor quality; in fact one of my wholesalers admitted to me this week how bad they felt selling some of the stock they had in during the time we were closed, so we definitely made the right decision.

Opening up Monday morning we honestly expected this week to be quiet (with the children going back to school, people going back to work, and nobody really having that much money left after the festive period) so we planned on having a deep clean of the shop. You know what they say about best laid plans? It appears everyone waited for us to come back and for 10 hours on Monday the phone didn’t stop; the shop door was constantly open with a stream of people in and out.  You’d think after 28 years nothing would surprise us anymore, but Monday most definitely caught us out. By the end of the day nothing had been cleaned – although we did manage to take the window display out and pop some bits and pieces in just to rid it of Christmas – and we couldn’t move in the workroom or kitchen for boxes, flowers and sundries. 

We did hope when we opened up on Tuesday that the cleaning fairies may have taken pity on us Monday night and paid us a visit; this was not to be. By the time we went home that evening nothing much had changed in the shop at all because it was a busy as Monday had been; with one exception, and that was the amount of brides we saw. Who knew so many men were planning on proposing over the festive period? On a normal week we book in anywhere between 1 – 3 weddings; on Tuesday we booked in 17 (we don’t ever remember a day like it. In fact we’re sure we’ve never taken that many in a whole week, let alone just one day).  Some of those have taken up the limited amount of spaces we have left for this year (if you’re getting married in 2015 and wanted us to organise your flowers you really do need to book in quickly, as some weekends are already fully booked) while the rest were bookings for next year (2016). With weddings bookings taking us up to 2018 already, it looks like we’re going to be around for a few more years yet :)
 
As for the cleaning? Well the door’s been scrubbed, but for now the hoover, polish, mop and window cleaner have gone back into the cupboard. There are just too many flowers to be playing with :)
 
To our regulars, your loyalty again has proved unfaltering, and to the many new customers we seem to be acquiring on a daily basis, we cannot thank you enough for choosing us. Without you we would not be here.



Happy 2015 everyone; may it bring you all you could wish for.