Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What to do?

On Friday afternoon last week, as the kids were leaving school, one young man thought it would be fun to push over as many of my planters out the front of the shop as he could - yes I am aware that boys will be boys - but when I got out there I will admit to be exceptionally angry (and had I been able to run fast enough to catch him, I'd probably have pulled his ears off as I dragged him back to the shop to clean up the mess he left me with, which then would have got me arrested - what a world we live in when the person committing the crime has more rights than the victim, but that's a blog for another time and not shop related). So I never caught him, but a young lady saw what happened and gave me a name for the boy. 

Now although he'd done about £50 worth of damage, I do appreciate that he probably never did it to cause any damage as such; I was a teenager and as such I used to hang around with teenage boys so know how stupidly mindless they can be, but by the same token I wanted him made aware of his actions and the fact it has cost money. I also wanted the school to be made aware, as he was in uniform, and they are technically responsible for him until he gets home. I have to say I felt the school a bit of a let down, which is where I wasn't sure what to do. 

The lady I spoke to when I telephoned said she would get on to the right people on Monday and get back to me about the outcome; it's now Wednesday morning and I have heard nothing.  I have had to phone them to find out what is going on and if the boy has been spoken to or not. This has annoyed me a bit I will admit, as I shouldn't be the one having to chase this up; I was placed on hold for 5 minutes today, while the lady on the phone got hold of the one I had spoken to on Friday, so she could let me know what was going on. As with these things after being on hold for so long, I was then told she was on the other phone so they would have to get back to me - and I thought energy and mobile phone suppliers were good at passing me from one person to another, with me getting nowhere fast, but the school did a pretty good job of giving them a run for their money.

As I finished typing that last paragraph I received a phone call from a policeman who is apparently attached to the the school for 2 days a week (when did things get so bad that schools had to have a policeman attached to them?) He told me the boys (there were 3 of them in total, but only 1 that caused the damage) have admitted it. He then asked me what I would like done? I found this an odd question; for some reason the school have told the police (something I would not have bothered to do as I really only wanted the boy to be made aware of his actions, and have his parents informed) who is then asking me what I would like done. Do our police not have any powers left these days to deal with things as they see fit? Surely he should have told me what he had done and how they had been dealt with?. The best bit though (and I am being sarcastic on this) was when he told me the school hadn't got back to me because they were waiting to see him and inform him of what had happened. They couldn't pick up the phone to me on Monday to just bring me up to date? I will admit I told him that I'm actually more annoyed at the school and their lack of response now, than I am about the boy who did the damage in the first place.Maybe I expected too much.

As for what I want done; I wanted the boy to genuinely apologise to me on Monday - any apology now will mean nothing as I have had to chase it all up. I'd have liked him to be the one to have to spend an hour in the pouring rain clearing up the mud that had gone everywhere when he pushed the planters over; I'd have liked for him to have to pick up all the broken bits of the planters, and the plants that were scattered to all four corners of our forecourt area. I'd have liked the school to show some professionalism by getting back to me before I had to chase them 3 days later. 

But what I'd really like, is for parents to teach their kids some respect for other people and their property. I work hard, long hours, each and every day to be able to cover the bills during these tough economic times and to provide a service to my customers - I've even had to sacrifice my own wages some months for the benefit of the business and the people I serve. The planters were an expense I didn't need - and really couldn't afford at the time -  but they were something I invested in to help make the area outside the front of the shop look a little less concrete, and a bit more cheerful for my customers, and the general public passing by the shop.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

All change

So in my infinite wisdom, I thought it would be a good idea to try and find a better - more obvious - way of sharing different links, to different sites that we have set up; you will find my efforts to the right >>>>>>>>>> and I have to admit as someone that is pretty much IT ignorant, I was really pleased with myself and my efforts - I have no doubt some of you are shaking your heads, because you could have done better, but I'm quite proud of myself and pleased with the results.

However; it was as I was fiddling around with the blog and changing bits and pieces here, there and everywhere, I noticed that some photo's are missing from older blog entries. I have NO idea where these have gone to, or why they're not there any more. I did consider trying to find them all to upload again (and maybe when I have a bit more time one day I will do so) but for now I'm going to leave the bit exclamation marks (these are in place of the photo's) for the time being. I did notice there are several photo's that were uploaded from my phone, so they don't even exist any more, but the missing pictures of bits and pieces we've made can be found in any of our online albums (these can be found by clicking on one of the new links I made to the right) >>>>  Pinterest is a nice one to view the photo's and you are welcome to share them around from the site as well; it always gives me a fuzzy feeling when someone has taken the time to share one from there :) 

Someone asked whether it was worth my time bothering with all the different social network sites I work so hard at keeping up together, and I can only answer "Yes" to that; I currently have 5 weddings booked in for next year where the bride has come across us on the web, added us on one of the social sites to learn a bit about who we are, and what we can do; they obviously liked what they saw and how we operate enough, to trust us with the flowers for one of the most important days of their lives. I think the fact I do it all myself helps as well; I'm forever getting companies offer to take over the running of the sites for me (for silly amounts of money) but I could never do that. Aside from the costs involved (and nobody regardless of what they might tell me - or show me can guarantee me top rankings on google) I like having that personal connection with everybody that has taken the time to add us as a friend, like our pages, or interact with us via any of our pages. To lose that would be awful; I am sure it works for these big corporate companies where the customers are just a means to an end, but for me our business is more than that. It's about the personal interactions with our customers; letting them know we are accessible and contactable on a personal level, regardless of their questions, queries or issues. That to me is the basis for any business; I just wish a few more of them operated in the same way - it would mean I spend a lot less of my personal time complaining about things. :) 

The other thing that will be changing (aside from the weather which just doesn't seem to be able to make up it's mind) is the website; Clive is now steaming ahead on the changes and new ideas, and I think it should be good to go live by the beginning of December; just in time for the Christmas rush. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Windows and Websites

So as you all know the Halloween window display has been in place since last Tuesday (I know; I probably should have waited a week) but to me the whole month of October should be dedicated to it (if we can have Christmas for 6 months then I'm sure we can allow Halloween for 1 month).

As you also know I am often complaining about how hard it is to get a photograph of our window displays, due to our position, lack of shade and tinted glass ( I dread to think how hot it would get in here without the glass) so I knew I needed to try and get up at night. Our neighbour offered to take some photo's for me which I thought was lovely of him, so that's how I was going to leave it; I was going to wait for him to share the ones he had taken, before I shared with you all.

Then I found myself driving back from Ferneham Hall on Saturday night (I'd been to see the mighty Showaddywaddy - who were fab and you should all go and see if you ever get chance) so thought I would swing by and see if the window was still lit up (we have the lights on a timer as there's not much point them being on all night). Thankfully they were on when I got here and I don't mind admitting that I patted myself on the back when I saw how it looks (nothing like a bit of self praise) :). It looks much better than I thought it would, and I'm glad I took out the main light bulbs and replaced them UV ones (I do love a UV bulb).

The full view

The left side

The right hand side
It's amazing to think a few UV bulbs and a couple of fish bowls, ikea lamps, a party tray, some cob-webbing stuff and a few flowers can produce something that glows so well, but as you can see they do. The thing that makes it even better, is that I won't be here when it all needs taking out and putting away; that job is being let to Becky as I am off to Scotland on a Floristry jaunt on the 1st November. Don't worry though; she has strict instructions on what she needs to do for the Remembrance Window (the one that always replaces Halloween) and I have no doubt she will do a great job.

Of course Vlad couldn't be left out, and although he wanted to be in the window (smack bang in the centre no less) he is still there - you just need to look a bit closer and you'll see him glowing in the background. 

He's trying hard to look scary but it's just not working :)

As for the website; well you know how we like to keep things as fresh as we can, and it's beginning to look a little bit tired, so to tie in with the new database system we're going to be running (this will mean we can email you photo's as we've delivered, invoice you and send you receipts immediately) we're going to have a re-vamp of the website. Clive is on the case to make the online ordering system as easy as possible, as we know some of you do struggle with it as it is, and we will also be making sure everything that is on there, can be ordered online, rather than just the few handtieds/bouquets that we have at the moment. Hopefully it should be up and running in time for Christmas (but it may not happen until the New Year) I shall of course let you know as soon as it's up and good to go.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The lonely bouquet

Back last year – or it could have been earlier this year -  a florist working on the continent (originally from over the pond on the west coast USA) hit on the idea of *The Lonely Bouquet*.  A great idea that has since been adopted by florists all over the world.

Now the official day for it this year was Sunday 30th June, but  things being as they are, we never got round to get out and about to share our lonely bouquets around, so we have decided to make this month – October 2013 – our Lonely Bouquet month; this means shutting the shop for an hour one day a week for the next 5 weeks, while Becky and I drive (well I’ll drive and she’ll be the one doing the bouquet drop) around  our area, dotting lonely bouquets here and there. We’ve decided to cover Hill Head, Stubbington, Warsash, Titchfield, Wickham and Fareham on our routes – places we deliver to every day anyway – in the hope that one of you (our lovely customers) will be the lucky finder (or even recipient if found by someone else) of one of our bouquets. I say bouquets but 2 of the ones we are taking out on the first run are arrangements – but you get the general idea.

Beckys Lonely bouquet offering

You could find one sitting on a park bench, hanging from a gate, or resting itself against a bus stop; until we actually get out there with them we really have no clue where they will be left (although we do have a rough idea for our first drop). Can I tell you where? Or course I can’t; It’s all about the luck of being in the right place at the right time. If you are the lucky finder/recipient please be sure to take photos of yourself with your find and email them to us, so that we can share them on here, or our other social networking sites. Who knows; we could make you famous J

I am toying with the idea of doing a similar thing in the spring though but am keeping that one under my hat until the plan is completed (I can’t be giving away ideas to the competition). 

Wondering if I can find this one??  :)

This is my favourite

Will you leave this one hanging?

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Something original?

and not just one of the designs we've had to make up recently either - which I will post further down the page for you all to let me know what you think.

By original I am meaning a company called Hidden Originals; a local company that specialise in personalising photo frames. We currently have 1 of each size in the shop (they will be in the window display later on today too) and they are lovely. They are what I believe are called "box frames" in that the glass is raised an inch or so above the back of the frame (I have some at home that I use as display cases rather than just for a photograph - so they are pretty versatile and can be used in numerous ways).

In the shop we have a 6 x 6 natural wood; an 8 x 8 black and a 12 x 12 white frame, so if you wanted to pop along and have a look at them in the flesh you are more than welcome to.  Price wise you can see from the photo's I've posted how reasonably priced they are. 

If you want to check out the full range click this LINK and you will be taken straight to their website; alternatively if you are on facebook, you can check out their fb page HERE

Now back to our own originals. Last week I was asked to make some personal creations myself.  I was asked to make a motorbike (I've made several before) so getting the basis for that right wasn't so much of a challenge; the family had also given me a photograph of the exact one they wanted, so I did cheat a little. I enlarge the image and printed it out to use as a template (don't know why I've never thought to do that before - I always draw out all designs freehand). 

I will admit I was a little disappointed with the gaps not showing through as well as they should have done in the photograph, but in the flesh they showed ok, which is all that matters. 

I was also asked to make a helmet; now I was sure that company that make foam frames, made a helmet, but I scoured the internet and wholesaler websites for hours - all to no avail - so I had to take a couple of foam bricks, grab my knife and get carving. I was quite pleased with the shape I ended up with. 

I desperately wanted to put a proper a visor for it (well one made by me that resembled a proper visor) but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get anything to bend in the right way; everything I tried left a crease in it somewhere or other, so in the end I had to leave it off  but I was pleased with the shape and overall effect it created. 

The other item I was asked to make, was a pair of motorbike gloves. Now these would have presented a really big challenge, as to get the details needed without losing the shaping they would have had to be huge, so after explaining to the customer that they weren't really that practical to make it was decided an old fashioned style fruit machine would be a good choice. So that's what I made; again the photo really doesn't do it justice, but I was really pleased with the finished result. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Scam? or Genuine?

I faced a dilemma over the weekend; one that actually kept me awake most of Saturday evening, and although at the time I know I did the right thing, even now I am still having doubts.

"What is she going on about"? you're asking yourselves   Well on Thursday evening I took a phone call from a gentleman who wanted to order 2 bouquets at £35 each, to be delivered on Saturday morning. Not a problem, and after discussing the flowers required, card message etc he passed on his Credit Card details to me. As with all phone orders, as soon as the call ended I put his card through to be processed, and unfortunately his card provider declined the payment. In this situation I often doubt myself over whether I have taken a number down wrong - even though I read it back to the customer as I took the numbers down,  and I read it back as a whole when I had finished to make sure I'd got all I needed. Because the gentleman was the last caller I hit 1471-3 and phoned him straight back. Obviously busy as it went to answerphone, I left him a message explaining I thought I had made a mistake, and asked if he could ring me back as soon as possible. I heard nothing, and when I came in Friday there were no messages from him to say he'd tried to get back to me. 

I tried calling him again several times on Friday morning, but to no avail, and by lunchtime my desperation took over - I knew I needed to get the order for the flowers he required in sooner rather than later - and so I made the very impersonal and (in my opinion) exceptionally unprofessional decision, to text the gentleman just in case he hadn't received my phone messages. Explaining who I was I mentioned there was an issue with his card and asked if he could ring me (I gave the number or he could have phoned me back on my mobile - yes I text him from my personal phone I was that keen to make sure he got my messages) as soon as was possible. Again, I heard nothing. 

Not sure what to do when I put my order in for the next day, I made the decision to order some of the flowers he required - ones I knew I would be able to sell if I didn't hear back from him - just in case he phoned on Saturday morning; I wanted to make sure I had what he required to fulfill the order. By closing time (and an hour after the agreed delivery time we had made) I had no choice but to assume the order was no longer required and cancelled it. 

Still unsure if I had done the right thing, I spoke to several florist friends of mine; some said they would have made the orders up, and left them in the van where they would have knocked on the door of the recipient to ask if the gentleman that ordered was available to make payment - this is something I couldn't have done, because say the gentleman had not been there I couldn't then ask the recipients to pay for their own flowers; had I previously had dealings with the gentleman I would have delivered the flowers and sorted it with him at a later date so as not to let him down, but this was the first (and I assume the last) time he had placed an order with me. Everyone else said they would have done exactly the same thing I did, and taken the gentleman's lack of response as his wanting the order cancelled. 

Then a local florist friend I spoke to told me I may have just been lucky enough to get away with not being scammed; this I was not expecting and the thought it could be a scam wasn't anything I had even considered. It appears there are people obtaining credit/debit cards by illegal means; they are then phoning orders through to florists using these details; IF the bank (or customer whose card has been used) realise and get things sorted then obviously the card is cancelled and the shop processing the details will find it declined. Apparently the rouse they use is that the bouquets are thank you's for a party that has been organised (my 2 were thank you's for a party that had been organised). Now this group of scammers used to order flowers for collection and pay over the phone with cloned cards, but as people got wise to this, they then use the information on the stolen cards to find the card holders home address, and when delivery is made they will intercept the driver before he gets chance to knock on the door; they then have the flowers which they load up in their own vehicle and sell on elsewhere, pocketing the cash. Several shops that have had cards declined, didn't take the steps I did to cancel the order, and were paid in cash (fraudulent notes) at the time of delivery; by the time the shop realised the money was fake, the scammers were long gone. 

The gentleman did leave a message on the answerphone after we had closed on Saturday asking when his flowers were likely to be delivered; it was during this message he also spoke the words "I know you've phoned me several times, so I hope there isn't a problem". Surely if he knew I had phoned, he would have contacted me to make sure there wasn't a problem? Also I had told him when I left the messages, there WAS a problem, so I can't understand why he wouldn't have phoned me back.

At the time of writing this the shop has been open 2.5 hours and I've not heard a word about the non-delivery, and I would like to think if the gentleman was genuine (I know if it was myself and my order hadn't been delivered) would have been on the phone by now wanting to know what happened and why the flowers didn't arrive? 

What would you have done in the same situation?

Thursday, 15 August 2013


I think not - don't worry, the title will make sense further down the page :O) 

As those of you that visit us in the shop regularly will know, I absolutely detest being hot; I know I'm a rare breed as most people can't wait for the summer to arrive and have been relishing  the recent temperatures (when the thermometer dipped the other week to only 24'c and people were saying it was "chilly" I could have screamed :) ) I have been despising EVERY single second of them. Don't get me wrong, I love to see the blue skies and sunshine, but when there is a nice hard frost on the ground, and icicles hanging from the trees. Those to me are the perfect days, when you can pop your coat, hat and scarf on and head off with the dog to the woods for a proper ramble (and my argument to the people that tell me the cold is awful is that "you can always wrap up warmer, but you can never unwrap any cooler). 

Now because the shop window is in full sun from pretty much 11am until 9pm this time of year, it gets mighty warm inside; add to this the lowered false ceiling we have, and the chip shop next door (we really do notice a huge temperature increase once they've been open for an hour) and it can be like entering a sauna. Opening the front and back door do very little as we face the wrong way for a draft, and more often than not all that gets dragged through is more warm air. Because of this we invested in a free standing air conditioner (we did have this in the previous shop that had 3 sides of pure glass so was always in the sun - but there we also had more space so the heat wasn't quite so noticable). It was a 2nd hand reconditioned unit when we purchased it and for 7 summers it has been forced to work 24/7, and it has performed its task admirably. Then the week before last it decided it didn't want to pump out cold air any more; it was happy to just play at being a fan. For 2 days we phoned round different suppliers, looked online, visited DIY stores to get a new one, with the result being the same each time "sorry out of stock". What does this "out of stock" mean? No air con? Heat in the shop? Totally not acceptable. Clive did get a man out to look at it who told us we needed a new one (we already kind of new that) and who said he would get back to us with a quote - the very next day - for a new free standing one but also a full on shop fitted one that would cover all areas - we are STILL waiting for this quote. The thought of watching my poor little flowers struggle in the temperatures (the thermometer INSIDE the shop one day showed over 45'c - that is HOT) and the thought of having to continue working in such temperatures was not something I relished at all. 

And then this little *miracle* happened. Chris appeared in the shop doorway and uttered the words "I've got something for you in the back of the car". Normally I would be concerned if someone wanted me to go to their car with them, but as it was Chris I knew I was ok, and the sight that greeted me as I edged towards his boot filled me with tsuch  happiness I actually hugged him; for there was a shiny, white, lovely air con unit. I was that excited, the thought of how much it was going to cost never even entered my mind. Now as I knew that everywhere seemed to be out of stock I did wonder where he'd got it from (this is where the despicable bit will from the blog title will come in to play).

One of their customers decorates blimps and Chris had gone down to see them that morning; while there he happened to mention how well the shop is doing (we are exceptionally busy at the moment) but also said how *grumpy* I currently was (it's true; I was mighty grumpy being so hot) and explained why I was being such a grump. Then the lovely Colin (blimp man) said "I've got a spare one upstairs sat doing nothing; Sarah is welcome to borrow it if she would like". If I would like? I very muchly would :) Within an hour of Chris returning, the shop was back to a more sensible temperature and I was back to being *not so grumpy* as I had been. 

This week Chris had to visit Colin again, and I sent down some flowers to say "thank you" at which point he told Chris the loan period is over; it is now mine to keep. Enter one very HAPPY Sarah  - the flowers really appreciate it too.

So what's despicable about all this??  The most recent blimp Colin has decorated is this one ↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The first time :)

So, on Saturday we finally let our Becky out (to play?) so she could help Clive in the set up of one of our 4 weddings (yes it was a mighty busy weekend).  It was the first time we have let her venture further than the shops over the road (other than for important things like coffee and cakes - or the odd delivery that's within walking distance). 

Normally I would have started her off with something simple - carrying some arrangements into church/reception and sitting them on their stands - but being so busy I has no choice but to throw her in the deep end (she did have Clive with her so she wasn't completely alone) and I sent her off to Southampton to hang garlands and tied bunches from beams (she'd pre-made these before she left which helped) in the Merchants Hall - there was an arrangement for the registrars table too, but that was a matter of carrying it in and placing it on the table that was already set up. 

Registrars arrangement that was moved to the top table for the evening reception

Merchants Hall - Simple garlands that keep the rustic charm

Close up of one of the tied bunches attached to either end of every other beam

She was then handed a roll (or 2) of organza, some thin wires,  a pair of scissors, and  was told to " go and do something with the railings outside the hall". If you look closely you can just see her arm at the very top right of the photo :)

After leaving the hall she was then sent down to Ocean Village and the Princess Caroline ship where the reception was to be held that evening - apparently the constant bobbing and dipping made her a bit odd (but she's odd on her own anyway so this was nothing to worry about :) ).  Here she was tasked with attaching a foliage garland with organza trailing bows, to the gangway from the pontoon to the ship itself...

The railings around the outside balcony also had an organza garland (draped on both sides) with bows for decoration, but it was inside that the hardest part of the day trip was to be for her. There are 2 pillars inside that had to have foliage draped round them with gerberas and rope attached to them; because of not knowing the sizes these had to be made from scratch on board, but I think you'll agree she did a great job?

The hardest part of the whole set up (other than having to put up with Clive for a couple of hours) was what most people would assume would be the easiest thing; the placing of 2 Hydrangea heads in a jam jar. Now while this may sound easy, one of the worst things with hydrangeas is that their heads are too big for their stems. This isn't a problem if you are standing them in a tall vase, but in jam jars you have very little depth so it can be a bit of a balancing act to get the stem to stay in the water, while stopping the flower head from dragging the whole thing out of the jar; also the bride had told me the day before that the sand they had put in the jars (the jam jars were the brides own) was turning the water a dirty yellow shade if it was disturbed (even slightly). As you can see by the photo the jar on the table behind was disturbed and the water doesn't look that nice; however, the good news is that by the time Becky and Clive left the water had re-settled and was crystal clear again.

I have to say between them they did a great job, and any set up we send her out on from now will be a "piece of cake" for her. Bring on this weekend.

Monday, 15 July 2013


A few months ago we were asked by a young lady about the possibility of sourcing some different style flowers that she would be able to photograph as part of a piece of photography coursework she was doing. After several emails backwards and forwards, visits to the shop and trawls through wholesaler lists, we were able to get every flower she asked for, bar one.

Whenever photos are being taken - usually for weddings - I always ask if it would be possible to have a look at one or 2 - ALL brides promise; sadly so many forget - so I asked Alice (the lady taking the photos) if she would mind sharing some for us to see how talented she is. She has done just that, and now I want to share them with you.

Gloriosa Lily

I will be honest; I am a lover of photography (if I had the time I would love to get out and about armed with a camera - Architecture being my preferred choice) but obviously being in the flower business I also love to see photo's of flower and Alice has not let me down with these. They truly are beautiful and I will admit to being jealous that I wasn't able to take them. 


The strelitzia above is strikingly beautiful; the clarity of the colours is astounding and I could see this gracing the cover of either an art or photography book. 

It's so nice for us to see the flowers our customers are selling in a different setting; so often they end up in a vase with others squishing them, and the true beauty of them is lost, so Thank You Alice for sharing these with us. 
No idea as this wasn't one of ours, but it is stunning

Alice does have a tumblr account that is free for all to view (you don't have to sign up to anything to be able to have a look) and I would advise you all to have a nose at the other photos she has on there; you will not be disappointed. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Ooh what to do?

Actually I already know what to do but I thought I would share with you a conversation I had yesterday.

Recently we have been taking more and more orders to be delivered to a specific funeral director - actually we send to lots but I do know this particular one is tied in with a florist (a bit like the Co-op who have their own florist shops dotted about the country specifically tailored with their own directors in mind,  but this particular director has a *deal* with an independent shop rather than one he has to be affiliated with)  I find it so sad that shops are now only recommended because an MD somewhere says they have to be, or because of financial deals that have been made and that pass between florist shops and directors. I know whatever happened to people being recommended on the merit of their work?

Anyway; this director obviously realised that the people he is sending to his recommended florist aren't taking any notice of him and are using other shops in the area - ours being one of them, so they decided to contact us yesterday. Now I will admit I get quite annoyed with funeral directors and how they try to harry a customer into things; I personally feel they take advantage at the most vulnerable of times and that in my book is really not one. Sadly having to organise (and help organise) funerals of people close to me I have seen first hand how a lot of the directors operate and to be honest if I hadn't been there with the family members at the time, they could easily have ended up paying out thousands more than they needed to. All of the directors I have dealt with when it comes to organising have tried to talk the relations into getting flowers through themselves; the costs? Well one family member was quoted £450 for something that I made for £175 (and no I don't do mates rates; at the end of the day we keep our costs low enough for all and it would be wrong of me to charge a friend less than I would charge one of our customers). Now I know that some shops have higher overheads than I do (their rent, council tax etc is more expensive) but even so we ALL use the same wholesalers so are paying the same prices, and a £225 difference in both our prices left me absolutely flabberghasted.  However, having taken the call from the Funeral Director yesterday I can fully understand why. 

The director told me that he wasn't happy with the shop he was recommending (now in the real world you would believe this meant he was recommending them on their work merit and that they had let him down on the style/quality) but no; what he meant was that the shop he recommends weren't getting as many orders (I guess because we are getting so many more) and so he wanted to know if I was willing to be his recommended shop. Now who doesn't want that? In these economic times all business is more than welcome; but at what cost? Call me a cynic if you wish but the first thought that run through my head was "how much is this going to cost" because alas I have been in this business long enough and know full well that you don't get anything for nothing. I know from some previous shops that I've worked in that for every order the shop got from the FD they paid him 20% of the total costs. They put their prices up to cover this which I thought was wrong; if the customer went to them and didn't mention the director they get everything 20% cheaper, but when the FD was mentioned they paid more; how is that ever fair? As it turns out that was the *norm* for such arrangements between shops and directors. To me the shop should have absorbed that cost themselves for all the extra work that was put their way, but then that's just my opinion (I'd hate to think I was ripping anyone off at the best of times but even more so when it comes to a funeral; I could NEVER take advantage of people at such a delicate time). 

So how much did the director that contacted me want? 20%? 25%? 30% even at a push? Oh no; they wanted 45% because that's how much the shop they currently recommend is paying them. Now I'm not sure if I am shocked at a shop giving away this much (of course they charge their customers this amount so it no loss to them) or if I feel sorry for them that they are that desperate for business they are willing to pay to get orders. Of course my answer was NO. I don't pay for any advertising as it is but I am certainly not going to pay money to someone just because they have sent a customer to me who has placed an order. In fact the thought of doing so fills me with disgust. I would have said no even if they had only asked for 5%. I am not willing to pay anyone to recommend me (and I certainly wouldn't want customers to be taken advantage of when they already have enough to be dealing with). 

Yes about 80% of my customers are recommended to come to me; by everyday people that I've not had to pay a penny to. They come to me because of the service they receive; because of the quality they receive and because I set my prices at levels they can afford. I don't (never have and never will) pay anyone to send customers to me and to be quite honest I think it's a real blot on our industry for any shop to agree to do so. Don't get me wrong; if a director was to keep sending customers my way because my work merited his recommendation then I might buy him a large box of chocs at Christmas as a thank you, but that would be it. 

So next time you are in the sad situation of having to deal with a funeral director please don't let them push you into anything. I know it's easy to let them sort the flowers out for you and it gets included in the cost but for that £400 you spend, they will could be getting £180 just for taking the order off you to pass on to someone that may not even be qualified or completely capable of making the item you require; they could just be the person that offered the highest percentage which won them the right to get your order and your money. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

28th April 2013

was the date; the big one. The wedding of the year. EVERY wedding is important to us and we always give 110% (and often more) to our lovely bride and grooms (bride and brides; groom and grooms too) big day, but when it was one of our own the pressure was really on. 

Many hours were spent discussing the colour scheme for the flowers; I wanted to go down one route so I could tie everything in with the brides gorgeous dress; Emma wanted to go down a different route after a conversation with her photographer about bright colours. Finally we agreed on a compromise - she allowed me to add a rose to the mix that I knew would tie in perfectly, and I allowed her to have the colours she wanted; everything was set. All they had to do was sit back and let me get on with it. All I had to do was try and get some sleep the night before so I was ready to and awake enough to make it all :O)  I have to admit between us I think we got it spot on. 

After the final decision was made the bouquet ended up like....  (see photo below)

As you can see the bright colours worked perfectly against the dress colour, with the amnesia bringing all the different tones and hues together.. 

That's how it works with a bride and her florist. We both have ideas that we bounce around between us, but the end result is always as it should be. A beautiful bride, gorgeous flowers and a great day for all involved.  There are times we have to warn our brides about certain flowers - hydrangeas being one of the most warned about; they are a beautiful flower but they like to be in water. So often a bride will want them in her bouquet, which I (and I am sure all other florists) are willing to do; however, because they like so much water sometimes in less than an hour being out of a water a hydrangea will begin to wilt and curl in on itself resulting in a bride walking down the aisle with a screwed up tied bunch of nothing. Other times they may behave perfectly and last long enough to get the bride to the reception. Annoyingly bridal magazines will use them so often in their shoots making them appear a perfect flower for the big day; what they don't tell you is how the flowers are kept in water until just before the photographs are taken, so they will always be looking their best. I advise all brides of this and several have decided to take the risk; only 1 of 9 that I know of actually had their hydrangeas last long enough for decent photos'. The other 8 came back and told me they wish they had taken my advice on board.

Anyway; back to our Clive and Emma's big day. As it turned out using the brighter colours worked perfectly in the wedding room where they were married, and had their evening meal. As with most weddings the arrangement that was placed on the registrars table, was then transfered to the head table for the meal. This really only works if you are marrying in the same place as the reception, although we have been known to remove flowers from churches and wedding venues before taking them on to the place of reception to help keep costs down, but also to stop flowers going to waste. 

Performing it's duty as a registrar table arrangement.

Performing duty 2 of the day to become the main table decoration.
The room they got married in is beautiful and had several window sills in it. We discussed many different options for these. Being beautiful windows in themselves they could have been left as is; another option was candles with ivy trailing. We ended up with arrangements that had ivy trails and they put candles either side of them. I hadn't seen the room and had no idea what sizes to make the arrangements in but pulling on experience and other window sills I've made in the past I went in between a small and large and when I saw the photographs of the place the next day it appears my judgement wasn't too bad at all. 

One of the wider window sills

 The hotel they were married in also organise a couple of pedestal arrangements which is included in the wedding package, so Emma passed on to them the flowers and colours I was using for everything so they could use the same colours/flowers in the ones they provide. They didn't get it quite right, but they did a fairly good job and as a  backdrop to their register signing photographs they worked really well. 

 So Emma and Clive; from all of us massive Congratulations and wishing you both a lifetime of happiness. 

Oh and if you are reading this.. Where's my piece of cake??

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Why are you taking photographs

of all those orders"? enquired the little voice from inside the shop. The voice belonged to a young girl having a browse at some soft toys, while I was taking photographs of all the orders I had made up ready for the drivers to grab and head off out to deliver. 

To some, this girl would have been dismissed as one of those "inquisitive children" (I hear Mums and Dads say to their own kids so often to "stop asking questions and let the lady (that's me) get on with her work". I find this sad because if kids don't ask the questions then they will always wonder (and never learn) so first off let me say that I am more than happy for them to ask, and if I am able to answer then I will do; and answer this little girl I could. 

I photograph absolutely everything that is going out to be delivered.  It started a long time ago when we sent some flowers to a funeral; there was a lot of trouble among the family and as it turned out the item we had sent was (bigger) better than most of the other tributes there (these others hadn't been made by us). A particular family member took exception to her having paid more for her tribute which ended up smaller than the one we made, and when nobody was looking she swapped the card from her tribute, with the one on the tribute we had made. Now, aside from the tributes being different sizes, they were also different colours, so when our customer got to the funeral and found a small orange tribute with her card on, and a large pinky shaded tribute (which is what she had ordered) with the other family members name on, she was not happy (and nor would I have been if I had been her). I knew that I had made what the customer had asked me for, but I had no proof at the time. I did ask her to go back to where the flowers were so I could phone her once she was there as I could remember the flowers I'd used in the tribute and wanted to talk her through them while she was stood looking at them, but she was so upset and angry she demanded her money back and vowed never to use us again. 

This to me was so upsetting; I hate the thought that a customer believed I had let her down for a start, but also as a small business in these economic times we couldn't afford to go around making up tributes which we then ended up paying for ourselves. After that day I made sure I make a point of writing down every single flower that goes into any order (whether it be for a funeral, birthday or a *just because*) and then I photograph the flowers too. This way if anyone was to try it on (and sadly there are many, many, many people that will try it on, and tell me we delivered the wrong flowers/colours or that the flowers were dead when they arrived) I am able to show them the photograph (backed up by the list of flowers I have) as proof that I have made what they have asked for; and that the flowers were very much alive too when delivered. Yes I know it's a very sad world we live in when we have to do things like this, but sadly there are (as always) the few that ruin things for the many. 

I hope I answered the little girls question well?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Another newbie

for us to give a go is pinterest (thanks to Becky at Roses Florist for pointing us in the pinterest direction - as if I don't have enough bits to keep up with :O) ).  A chance conversation between us (one that made sense at least - we chat most days but none of the other conversations are worth sharing) lead me off on an internet search one evening, to find out what it is all about and how it works. To be totally honest I had heard about it previously and knew of several friends that use it, but never for a moment thought that it was either for me personally, and definitely not for the shop. I have now changed my mind on both counts and the shop now has it's own account (still a work in progress right now, but hopefully by the end of the year it will be sorted).  Not only is it a great place for us to showcase our work (which at the end of the day is exactly what we are all about) it's also a great way for other people to share our work too, which can never be a bad thing. It also means all our lovely customers (yes that's you guys) are able to see what we've been up to as I will be trying my hardest to update it with the most recent photos. I know I already do this with the picasa albums, but unless people are on G+ these days, does anyone actually view those? At least with pinterest there is more chance of people finding us and being able to keep up to date with things. 

Ahh keeping up to date; something I try so hard to do but often fail at (not because I am useless but purely because things are getting so busy in the shop these days, I just don't seem to be able to find the time to keep on top of it all some days - that is something I am never going to complain about). I did however, manage to finally change the window and took the Mothers Day bits and pieces out (that I will be honest were adapted from the Valentines window previously). I wanted to try some totally different colours this time; colours that people wouldn't always think of. For this I drew inspiration from my own colour choices at home (my bedroom is decorated in the exact same colours) but also because the wholesaler had some vases in the exact colours I wanted on special offer; how could I not buy them? This then led to more purchases though as I then needed flowers that matched (or at least complemented) the vases and so a whole range was purchased at the same time. Sadly due to our smoked glass windows (to stop the sun from fading everything we put in there) it can't really be seen until night-time (this is normal though for our displays) but I have had many, many comments on the choice of colours used (only one person has said they don't like it) so that can only be a good thing.   

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Mothers Day

has been and gone for yet another year and I am still trying to decide if ours in the shop was a triumph; or disaster. Not a disaster in the sense of things going wrong, but because it was by far busier than I had planned for and by Saturday afternoon we had completely SOLD OUT of flowers. Now while this is amazing in one way, it wasn't in another. I literally had to turn customers away (and send them to my competition which is never a good thing). How did this happen? Was it down to bad management? I guess in a way it was down to bad management, but not because I am bad at what I do, but because I never in a million years expected us to be as busy as we were. 

When working out what flowers I needed I first look at the orders I have; from there I make sure I buy in enough to cover every order before I work out what I need to buy for the shop.  I got out the last 3 years worth of orders and saw that on average we increased our customer base by roughly 35% year on year, so going on this information I increased my order by an extra 35% (on top of the extras I had already ordered). This increase and the phenomenal amount of flowers we had come in should have seen us right the way until tea time on Sunday; for us to have run out so early on a Saturday is just mind blowing. Thank you to you all for your continued support, and massive apologies to those of you that we had to let down because we just didn't have enough in stock to be able to supply you with the flowers you wanted (just a point to note on this though - try not to leave it so late next year then we went have to let you down).

So a big YES to it being a triumph, but a big YES to it being a disaster (not really the right words when there are real genuine disasters going on in the world  but the only word I can think of for now to explain my failure - that's more like it) on us not having enough flowers. 

Thinking being out of flowers for Sunday was bad it got worse come Monday (and Tuesday) morning. Flowers were so scarce on Monday (one of our wholesalers ran out completely and couldn't get more until Tuesday) that we had to just buy what we could (luckily we didn't have any specific orders for a particular flower) but then came Tuesday and with it the snow. Due to the ineptitude of this country to function when we get a few flakes of the gorgeous white stuff, the South East ground to a halt, the result of which left all the dutch lorries the other side of the Chunnel; they weren't able to come through until the back log of traffic on our road networks was cleared, so instead of getting the flowers I ordered at the usual time of 5am, I finally got them at 5pm. Thankfully as always our customers were great and understood what was happening, but there was a mad dash for them to collect and us to deliver after 5 yesterday evening. 

This lack of flowers and not being able to make up orders left me with nothing to do for the day, so I decided to have a clear out, tidy and change in the shop (I hope the lorries never get stuck again). I knew halfway through I'd made a mistake but kept going and I have to say I'm very pleased with the result. Even the shelving unit that I find so hard to look full without being messy turned out ok, so in the end all is good.

Monday, 25 February 2013

You're charging me

for delivery to Shedfield? I was asked this morning. "Yes" I replied. I then got asked why I was charging the customer spending £20 on flowers,  £3.50 to deliver out to Shedfield.  This was the same customer that had just told me he'd been and bought himself a new 50 something inched TV for just under £1000. He couldn't fit the TV in his car but was happy to pay the company another £19.99 to deliver it for him, but he wasn't happy to pay me just £3.50 to deliver a £20 order for him. Explained to him that it would take my driver roughly 30 minutes (traffic depending) to get out to the address and back. I have to pay my driver to deliver the flowers the minimum wage of £6.19 per hour so already for him to go out there it would have cost me £3.09. Then we need to add on fuel. Let's face it petrol is an astronomical price these days, and to get from the shop to the address in question would have cost roughly £3.50 (give or take a few pence - ooh the cost of the delivery charge itself without anything else). I then had to explain about Car Tax, Car Insurance, Regular servicing of the vehicle, general wear and tear, among other  motoring costs. These all factored into why I had to charge him a minimal amount of money to get the flowers delivered for him. He still didn't seem to understand, but reluctantly paid me for it. 

This then got me on a mission to see what other shops would have charged, and I was genuinely shocked at the results I ended up with.  I contacted 10 other shops in the area that had Shedfield as a delivery area (9 were a lot closer than I am - 1 was half a mile further away than I am).  I also looked into Interflora, eflorist and Flowers Direct to see what their prices would come out at.  From the local shops NOT one of them was willing to deliver a handtied in water for only £20 (this is what my customer wanted flower wise). 8 offered to make the flowers for £25; the other 2 wouldn't make a tied bouquet in water for less than £35.  So already my customer had saved himself £1.50 by using me (that's without the delivery charges the shops quoted). The minimum delivery price I was quoted was £4.95. Most averaged at the £6.00 mark but one shop wanted me to pay £8.50 (and they were far closer than I am to Shedfield).

The cheapest Interflora order that could be delivered was £24.99 (this however was a plant and not a handtied in water). They did offer flowers in a cheap glass vase from £26.99. This then had a delivery charge of £7.99 to be added on top. More than double the charge I made.
Eflorist did offer some pretty hideous bunches of mixed alstromeria for only £14.95 (including delivery - NOT same day) and these did NOT come in water either. Their cheapest in water was £26.50 plus a charge of £7.95 for delivery.

Flowers Direct's cheapest bouquet was £28 (this was NOT in water and they very sneakily check the box for the £38 size when you click through so if you were to order from them make sure you check how much you are being charged). Their delivery was £5.99.

So as you can see; yes I do have to make a delivery charge when outside of our free area (which is only free when you spend £20 or more). I don't make this charge to make extra money though as I am sure you can all now see and understand. I really should be charging more to cover my costs/overheads but at the same time I still pride myself on being value for money; charging extra to deliver would negate this.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

All systems go

I asked Clive yesterday for any ideas he may have when it comes to keeping this blog up together for you all; the plan was for him to come up with things I could talk about with you all, and share with you. Do you know what his answer was? "Something interesting". Ok; now is it just me or is that not helpful? I then pushed the issue and explained sometimes I run out of things to say and explained I'd like to try and write on here a couple of times a week. To this he told me "That's all well and good as long as you don't bore everyone". Hmmmm; needless to say he is now banished from the shop :) - and no he still hasn't come up with any ideas so if you any of you have any please feel free to share. 

Now on the subject of sharing I have a little video clip to share with you all. Don't got getting all excited; it's not me pouring a vase of dirty flower water over Clives head (now why didn't I video that when I did it :) ) but it is the sneak preview I promised you all for one of our new selection guides. That's right lovely people; you will be seeing it here (first).  It's not even gone to the printers yet. 

I have to say when it came to setting it up and laying it all out it really wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Had it been for me personally it would be full of odd bits and pieces, and really jazzed up. I started that way, then remembered that it's not about me; it's about the shop. It's about promoting an image, while at the same time being helpful and practical to all our customers that will be using it; not an easy task, but after chatting with several other people and getting their input, I came up with something that I hope once printed on some lush paper and bound in nice book form should work well for us. 

While I have no doubt there will be many of you that could have done much better (and those that only think they could :) ) I'm quite pleased with how it's turned out. It does exactly what we need it to do. The great thing is that all the pages are removable, so if one gets damaged, or we want to add some extras in, we will be able to do so without too much hassle. The wonders of modern technology. 

Next on the list? The general occasions guide of course.. watch this space......

Monday, 7 January 2013

Anyone for a cuppa?

One of the great things about the work we do, is some of the other wonderful people (yes I am indirectly calling us wonderful too :) ) we come across in relation to all manner of different occasions. We've been blessed to have worked alongside some great companies; cake decorators, balloon artists, and photographers among them. All talented in their own right, but when we all get together the results of our hard work can be truly inspiring. 

That's why today we were happy to give over half our window area to a new local company that specialise in the hiring of Vintage China for all manner of different occasions. I know I have mentioned them once before when they were first getting started (and I'm happy to report that their business is going from strength to strength) so it was so nice to finally have some space available for them to display some of their wares. With everything from cakes stands, to cups and saucers they have a lovely selection of china they are happy for you to hire.  Looking at the small selection of their stock we have in the window is making me think of a summer wedding. Sunny days (so I obviously mean summer in a country other than ours) with tea, cakes and sandwiches out on the terrace; inside a marquee decorated with bunting (and lots of flowers of course).  Then my mind is taken to a social hall with a gathering of friends for a party, or new year celebration. Aunty Ethels home made chocolate sponge on one of the cake stands; egg and cress sandwiches on one of the lovely plates, with proper tea leaves brewing in one of the lovely tea pots. They truly do have a combination for any occasion.

From coffee mornings with friends, to a full on party with all your family, friends and *others* I believe Yesterday Vintage China have something to offer everyone (they're also a very friendly family run business and understand how the personal touches can make all the difference). 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Happy New Year

2013 already; where does the time go?
We hope you all had a wonderful, happy and healthy Christmas and that 2013 brings you much joy and all you could wish for.

Now the New Year for many is a time to make changes (out with the old; in with the new) but we have decided to pretty much leave things as they are. As they say “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”. This seems to work as far as we are concerned. Last year was the best year we have had since we first began trading back in 2006; to us this is amazing with the economy being what it is, so the last thing we would to do would be to change what appears to be a winning formula. That doesn’t mean we will be sitting back and resting on our laurels though. Oh no. We do have many new ideas that we feel will only aid and add to the service we are already supplying, and take pride in.  We are also planning on a special one off item later in the year, but I will wait until nearer the time to share that with you all.
For the past year (I can officially say that now as I put the wheels in motion in 2012) I have been working on new selection guides for the shop (for all occasions – there will be General Floral Gifts, Weddings and Sympathy).  Normally these have to be bought from either the relay service you belong to (a bit difficult when we don’t belong to one) or from specialist florist wholesalers (that will sell to anyone). While these have done us proud and been more than useful for the past few years, they are generic for every florist in the country. None of the photos in the guides are of our work (and some of them are pretty hideous – I’ve no idea how anyone would allow them in a guide) so I have been working on guides that are purely of our work; there will be nothing in them that hasn’t been made by one of us in the shop. Not only will this be more personal for us when we are going through ideas with you, it will also show you what we are capable of. So many times I’ve had people in the shop that have been elsewhere and ordered an item from the guide they’ve been shown, only to receive something that looks nothing like they have ordered. This is because anyone can buy the guides they are using; but just because they can show you the pictures, doesn’t mean they are capable of making the items.  By personalising ours you will know that we can make anything in the guides, as we have already had to make them to photograph them in the first place.  It’s a sad fact of life that ANYONE can buy the guides, open a shop and take your money from you, without them having the first clue what they are doing. Just as you get cowboy builders that haven’t a clue, sadly you also get cowboy florists.
Those of you that have visited the website will know already that there is nothing on the site that hasn’t been made by one of us; the guides we will be using in the shop will be exactly the same.
The website will be getting a bit of an overhaul too (although Clive doesn’t know this yet). The set up will stay the same but I’d like to try and make it a bit more interactive if that’s possible.  If any of you have any ideas of bits you’d like to see on there, then don’t hesitate in letting us know.  As I’ve said many times before (and will no doubt say many times again) without we would have nothing, so your input is always greatly appreciated.
For now can I thank you again for your continued support and wish you all a very Happy 2013.