Monday, 14 December 2015

Websites and Charities

Well it's finally happened; 2 years in the making, but yesterday our new website finally went live. If you've not already discovered this via our social media pages (if not, why not?) then you feel free to click on this link and have a nosy round. We are aware there have been a few issues with Apples Safari browser (I use a mac at home so know occasionally it will put the images slightly out of sync - not all the time though for some reason) and we are working on getting it sorted sooner, rather than later. However, judging by the amount of orders we've had through the website this morning, I think we can safely say that you are liking the changes. I even had a call from someone at one of the large florist relay HQ's today who placed an order with me because he said he "liked that I can see what you are capable of". When I asked what he meant, he said so many shops (including the ones he should be using that cover our area, and who are members of his relay service) use generic photos so customers really have no idea if the shop they are using are actually capable of making the items; he knew when he saw ours exactly what we can do.  To who used us rather than one of his own members means so much more than you could imagine. 

As always, don't forget to share your feedback with us; whether good or bad we always like to know, so we can make changes if we must, or keep doing what we're doing. Also, please let me know if you spot any spelling mistakes, or missing words; those of you that read this regularly will notice I often forget to add a word, or get the letters of others the wrong way round, where my brain works at a different speed to my typing fingers :) 

The eagle eyed among you may also have noticed that we also now have a charity bouquet on the website. This is something we have talked about for ages, but never really been able to work out the logistics before but it was something we really wanted to make sure we added when we changed things. As you can see we have started with The Rowans Hospice; if you don't know about the amazing work these wonderful people do, have a read up on them. I've dealt with them personally over the years several times, and they are truly deserving of all the help they can get, and any funds that can be raised for them. Originally we were going to make up a different bouquet each month and nominate a different charity each time also, but because we want to try and raise as many funds as we possibly can, we've decided to make it a quarterly bouquet instead (we're actually doing to follow the seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn) so the one for The Rowans Hospice will be on the site until the end of February 2016, at which point we will then donate any money raised to them. Ideally we would like to help as many local charities as is possible, but there will be some national ones added from time to time, if for no other reason that to try and raise awareness of specific illnesses. I may even run a poll each time with a list of different charities and allow you to choose which one you would prefer we help next.

If I don't get here before Christmas (and let's face it, the fact I've made today with this entry is a slight miracle as it's been so busy I've not had time to think) then I/we would like to wish you all a wonderful, happy and healthy Christmas and New Year, and also to thank you, for yet again supporting us. This has been our best year yet; roll on 2016 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Not as it seems

As I'm sure you are aware, sometimes things are not always as they appear to be in life; that works in the world of flowers too. 

On the 29th October we were privileged to supply table decorations and presentation bouquets for the local radio station Wave 105 who were having their Cash for Kids awards ceremony. Weeks previously we had discussed the options with their event coordinator (we also made a lovely handtied bouquet that was presented to her for all her hard work) who we sent away with a vase of lilies that she took to the venue to see how well they would work - thankfully they worked well and we got the order. Now, the week before the event another lady came on board and asked if we could add some flowers to the vases, and take away one of the 2 lilies we had planned on using - the wave logo and colour theme is purple and green, so she wanted us to get flowers in those colours which we all thought a great idea. The orchids she requested were quite pricey and wouldn't really have worked in the vases, and she wasn't keen on purple lisi, so they ended up having mollucella (a flowery foliage that I love) with green shamrock chrysant blooms, 1 lily (4 of which in the wrap of 10 opened beautifully, the other 6 went into warm water, central heated rooms, in the shop window as it caught full sunlight, and they were still only just starting to show colour, but by the evening they had thankfully opened enough to give a bit of a show - it's a shame nobody has yet grown a purple or green lily). We also supplied a single green carnation for every guest. We were unable to take photographs ourselves of the flowers on the tables, but the official photographs are on Waves website and can be found here. I have spoken to several people involved on the night and know that the evening was a massive success, which is always lovely to hear. If you would like to know more about their Cash for Kids charity, please click HERE

The following morning we sent Clive over to collect the vases from the venue, and when he arrived back at the shop late that afternoon I was surprised to find the flowers had been left behind also (usually when we arrange the vases for weddings the brides will remove the flowers and give them to someone else). I have to admit when they came back they were looking a little worse for ware; they'd drunk all the water in their vases, and to get everything in his car Clive had to take them out of what little there was left, and they were kept in his car for almost 6 hours without any kind of moisture on a quite warm day. 
One of the mollucella that came back - ALL of them were like this - or worse.
He popped the box up on the workbench and uttered the words "I'll chuck those in the compost for you". Now those flowers had come into us on the morning of Wednesday 28th where they'd gone straight into water; the 29th they spent in vases drinking all they could get, and the 30th was the day they were back with me. I knew the wholesaler only supplies us with the best quality, and I know they had been conditioned well before they were sent out, so told him to leave them and I would sort them out - I had a feeling they really just needed a drink. They would never be sold in the shop - aside from the fact they were second hand, they had already passed the 48 limit we have on flowers being for sale, so I took them home. Yesterday morning  (the 8th November) some 10 days after they came back to the shop looking sad and wilting, I took another photo of them.  As you can see they picked up are still going strong :) 

And that just goes to show that things aren't always as they seem, especially with flowers. Sometimes they just need their ends trimmed, and some fresh water.

Friday, 30 October 2015

We're getting there

Those of you that follow the shop on our many social media outlets will know that we've been trying to keep them up to date more often - it's not that easy when our lovely customers keep popping in (sometimes just for a chat) but recently we've been working on ways to better organise our time and so far it seems to be working, which means I should also hopefully be able to keep this blog up to date a little bit more than I have been (sometimes I'll be honest it's not because I don't have the time, it's also because I'm not sure what to waffle to you about, so if any of you have ideas on what you like to know about the world of floristry, then please drop me an email - the link can be found on our WEBSITE). For those of you that don't (or up until now haven't been) following our social media sites, all I can ask is "Why not?" :) We have Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and of course Google (we also have snapchat but I'm not entirely sure how that works yet - I often like to add a frame to an image but from what I can tell on there, that's not possible, but I shall give it a try and see if it works for us).

Once again October has been an exceptional month for us (each and every month is better than the previous). It never fails to amaze and humble me, with the amount of customers who are willing to put their faith in us when it comes to the flowers they require for all occasions. Just this week alone I have booked in 3 weddings for next year, and 1 for 2017, plus I have a bride booked for a consultation tomorrow afternoon. The new website Clive has been promising for the past 3 years, looks like it might finally be ready to go live by the end of November at the latest (don't quote me on that though as he's told me before it's nearly good to go, then changed his mind when he's not been happy about something, or with the security of the online ordering systems that are out there. Every day though he is running a new page by me that is complete, so this time I feel confident he is finally happy with it. Once it live our customers will be able to order their sympathy flowers online as well, which is not an option we have been able to offer before. 

The Halloween window this year has generated the most responses we've had it the 10 year's I've been allowed to play with all things spooky - all of them have been positive which is wonderful to hear; it's also great to have so many people stop me as I am leaving in the evenings, or while bringing the planters from the front in, to discuss it with me. I've met so many lovely people and had some great conversations. 

Sunday the Halloween window will be replaced by the Remembrance Window. Have to admit I am slightly disappointed in the Royal British Legion who have again this year left out our little row of shops and so we have no poppies to sell or collection tins to try and raise money for them. They ignored us last year also, which is a shame as the £45 we alone raised the last time we  had a tin is not to be scoffed at and I am sure the chip shop, barbers and hairdressers would also be able to raise some much needed funds, but I never let that stop me from giving over the window for 2 weeks. There are times when it's not all about us and raising our profile; Remembrance Sunday being one of those times. 

Also this month (just yesterday in fact) we were asked to provide some simple table centres, presentation bouquets, and single flower place settings for the local radio station Wave 105, who were hosting an awards evening in relation to their Cash for Kids charity. Of all the florists that cover their area, to be their chosen business for such a prestigious and important event made us all very proud; very proud indeed. Hearty congratulations to all their well deserved winners. 

At the time of writing this entry they've not shared any photo's of the presentation bouquets being handed over, but earlier in the week we had to provide a couple for people that were unable to attend, and a video of one being presented can be found here :) 

As you can see we continue to keep busy and we have our lovely customers to thank for that, but hopefully we should now be able to keep the social side of the business up together a bit better too. We have quite a few different ideas to put into practice as well in the not-too-distant future that should hopefully get us all interacting a bit more with each other. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

I had that usual comment

the one that goes "I would so love to do your job; it must be so relaxing, lovely and stress free". 

Now, the lady that said that came in just 5 minutes after a phone call I had received, that I relayed to her, and I shall share with you.  It went like this... 

Ring ring, ring ring (it rang 4 times before I answered as I was in the kitchen scrubbing a vase, but I didn't think you would need me to do the 4 :) )

I answer "Good morning, Moonstones"

Mans voice (I would love to call him a Gentleman but as you will see, he was far from one). "Yes, hello, I took flowers in last week for a woman that lives at (obviously I'm not going to share the address) and she's away, so they're sat on my table opening now, and I can't give her flowers that are open upon her return, whenever that may be"

Me; "Right, ok. Not a problem, if (he then interrupted and shouted) "Well it IS a problem for me as I have them in my house" I replied "if you had just let me finish Sir, I was going to say, I'll look the order up, so I can contact the customer who placed the order so we can get it sorted for you. What day were the flowers delivered?"

Man; "A woman knocked on my door and I took them in on Friday" Now this to me sounded a bit odd as my drivers are both males but I opened up the book and trawled through the 4 pages of orders I had for Friday, and couldn't find an order for the address the man had given me; I also didn't remember seeing it on the guys delivery sheets, but I checked them as well.

"I'm so sorry" I went back to him with, "but I don't appear to have an order for that address on Friday"
Man "It was Thursday then"

I had no order for that address on Thursday, or any other day next week (I thought I would check them all).
"Again I'm so sorry but I don't have a delivery for that address on any day" I said, "maybe the flowers weren't from my shop" I said this as I am not the only shop in the area.

Now, my use of capital bold letters is required here as he really did shout at me "OF COURSE THEY ARE FROM YOU, YOU STUPID GIRL, THEY HAVE YOUR NUMBER ON THEM"

At this point had someone else spoken to me in such a way, I probably would have been exceptionally rude back, but I run a business and am always as professional as I can be when dealing with people. In fact I have only once in 29 years been rude to a customer (that's a story for another day).

Wracking my brains at how we could have delivered flowers that I could find no trace of, it suddenly struck me that maybe someone had come into the shop, had me make up flowers for them, and the customer herself had delivered them - this would also explain why they were delivered by a woman.

Replying I said "The only other thing I can think, is someone collected them from the shop and took them over herself. Now I have many collection orders in the book for Thursday or Friday so can't help you on who may have ordered them right now" again he interrupted me "so it's not your problem then? It's for me to deal with?" "Not at all Sir, I will see what I can sort out for you my end" At this point I was thinking I would send one of my guys out to collect the flowers from him, get them to pop a note through the door of the person they were for, and would then drop some over to her when she gets back.

"Well you've already said you can't do anything you don't know who they're from so it's not your problem, it's mine"
"It does make it awkward" I said "with them not being delivered and because someone has come into the shop and collected them themselves" Before I could finish with "but I am more than happy to collect them from you and sort things out my end so you don't have to worry or be put to any trouble, he again shouted "YOU'VE ALREADY SAID THAT ONCE"  and then he promptly hung up.

The lady that had originally come into the shop and uttered those immortal words looked absolutely gobsmacked, and asked me how I hadn't closed the shop, driven round to where the man lives and put him in his place? Had to explain no matter how rude someone is to us we could never be rude back. (and believe me typing our conversation can never convey just how abrupt and rude his tone with me was).  Sadly rudeness is something we encounter on a daily basis - from the customer you're talking to in the shop as you take an order, who will answer their phone the second it rings and have a conversation while you stand there like a lemon waiting to get on with things, to the ones that will shout because you don't have a specific flower in stock when they want it. That's just human behavior these days unfortunately, but the lady who had said about doing the job, said she never realised just what we have to deal with on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong, 90% of the people through the door and on the phone are lovely and we are blessed with some really great customers. 50% of our day is lovely, we do get to work with some wonderful products (the other 50% is composting and stressing because the time moves quicker each second and we are constantly against the clock - just last week, I had 2 big funerals on Thursday and Friday, as well as a wedding Friday, 3 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday - no matter how hard we plan, how quick we work, or how organised we are, it can only take 1 customer to throw a spanner in our works and put us all behind on things, and when it comes to funerals and weddings we cannot afford to be even just a second later, so things can get very stressed at times)/ On the whole though it is a great job, but not for everyone. I know the lady that asked me the question went away grateful for her own job, and not wanting to be a florist any more :) 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Whilst browsing

in the shop at the array of flowers we had in stock, the gentleman looked at the handtied we had ready made to take away, and uttered the words "I can get double that amount of flowers for the same price in the supermarkets; what deal are you going to do me on that?". He was talking about handtied. 

"No deal Sir" I replied "the price is what it is"

"Yeah, but you shops have your flowers kicking around for days; that's probably been here since the weekend"

Now I am well aware some shops do only receive their flower deliveries once a week, but we are in the lucky position of being able to get flowers on a daily basis (well, when things in the Chunnel and Ferries are running ok; this week has been slightly strained because of the problems out there). I explained that nothing is in the shop longer than 48 hours, but that in fact the bouquet he was looking at had been made only an hour before, from flowers that had arrived in the shop at 5 this morning. 

Again, he came back at me with "well you must do me a deal; I've already told you I can get more for the same price in the supermarket".

I've given up trying to explain to people the difference between a florist and a supermarket, so politely told the gentleman "Then my only other suggestion, is you pop down to one of the supermarkets".

His reaction and response was priceless.  "Aside from the fact I don't have time to go to the supermarkets, I can't be bothered to find a parking space and wander round picking up bunches. Plus they don't wrap them up like you have, or put them in a box of water, they mix all the colours up, and they won't deliver"

And there in lies the reason WHY the handtied he was looking at, is more expensive than the bunches in the local supermarket. 

We try to keep our prices as low as we can, but if you want the personal service in the shop, the gift wrapping, the organza bows, and a delivery person who is only employed to deliver flowers, therefore knowing exactly how they should be cared for, and treated, you go to a florist. If you want a few cheap bunches, slung through a checkout with all your other shopping, with no wrapping other than the cellophane sleeve they've been slung into, then you go to a supermarket. If you want supermarket deliveries, you need to remember they postman or a courier service will be in charge. You flower delivery date cannot be guaranteed, they may end up sliding around a van, upside down and arrive to you bashed, broken and wilting. But hey; at least they'll be cheap.

As the old saying goes "You get what you pay for". 

Monday, 9 March 2015

What do you do?

all day? The words I got asked yesterday as I was sitting down trying to catch up on some paperwork - I was about to type up the past weeks invoices as I was asked the question; my list of that day's jobs written on the piece of paper next to me (for a change it was a small list of one-off bits and pieces)

Because of this question, I thought I would talk you through a typical day.

I get to the shop anywhere between 6.45 - 7.15am (I am not a morning person so getting up and making sure I am here so early is hard for me). The first thing I do is put the kettle on (I can't start the day without my cup of tea) before putting the planters out the front on the forecourt, avoiding dog mess (when I find out who keeps letting their dog foul outside, I really will store some of my own dogs up and push it through their letterbox) the school children (they wander aimlessly along so engrossed in looking at their phones they often wander into me or the planters - that's the one's that aren't being rude, making comments, or shoving each other into the road, and me).  At the moment I also have the builders to avoid as well, who for some reason have decided to open their fencing onto our forecourt to get in and out - meaning they have to dodge the bits I put out the front - rather than open the fence at the front of their property where they have nothing to avoid (the logic of it amazes me).

Once the front is out I check the shop - IF there are any flowers left from the previous day, they are checked to ensure they are ok - as you know what comes in one day has to be sold by close of business the following day; if they're not they get pulled from the shop and don't get sold. Most days though I come in to empty vases and an empty looking set of tables and stands. 

The empty stand waiting for the days flowers
Every Tuesday, and Thursday the vases we use in the shop are bleached and scrubbed (on Saturday every vase has a splash of bleach dropped in, is filled up with water, and left to soak over the weekend where they are then scrubbed and refilled on Monday morning) to ensure no bacteria can get a grip and ruin the potential for the new flowers that will be placed in the vase. We do as much as we can to ensure the flowers we deliver will last as long as possible - of course the way they are treated once they are with our customer is out of our  hands, but we hope they will follow our care instructions - I had a lady in today who told me she still has her Valentines flowers (4 weeks after they were delivered). I have a handtied in the shop that I am using for display purposes only, that is currently 3 weeks old and still looks as fresh as the day I made it. 

Usually while I am in the middle of scrubbing the vases one of the deliveries (we can have up to 3 a day) will arrive, with the driver stacking the boxes in the shop for me. I will then work from the top box down until all the flowers have had their leaves stripped, heads checked and stem bottoms trimmed. These boxes can sometime weigh upwards of 40kg, and so lifting them up-and-down can put a bit of a strain on my shoulders, which are known to ache on a pretty regular basis. Before I can begin to strip the leaves though, I will make up the mornings orders for collection and delivery - it can look a bit of a wee mess when I am trawling though the boxes for the flowers I need (I've been known to scatter lids all over the place :) )

Yes; there are the same amount of boxes waiting to be opened behind the ones in the foreground
Usually by (or around) 9.30am the orders for that day are made, the flowers are sorted and on display in the shop, and the boxes are packed tidily away (we can pack roughly 10 boxes into 1 box to save taking up space - these will be taken back the next day by the wholesaler when they deliver our next order). By 11.30 I also hope to have 4 or 5 bouquets made up ready for sale (I find the majority of my customers don't visit the shop until after 12noon - although I have had customers waiting for me when I get to work on the odd occasion). 

Flowers in water; bouquets made up and ready to sell
As explained above, the orders for delivery and collection in the morning (and those around lunchtime) are made before I get the display sorted - customers are served during this time also - the deliveries and collection orders for the afternoon are started just before 12noon on any typical day. On average I can make a handtied from start to finish (this includes choosing the flowers) in about 14 minutes, so the afternoon orders are normally sorted and ready by 2.30. Once those are completed I will prep for the funeral orders the following day (this can be just soaking oasis and taping it into the tray, to ribbon edging on letters, hearts and cushions, to carving oasis blocks into shapes for specialist tributes (pigs, dogs, crests etc).

Once everything is prepped, I will then go through the orders for the following day to sort out what flowers I need, before putting my order into the wholesalers for delivery in the morning.  I will then type up any invoices and receipts from the days orders, and reply to emails from customers that haven't needed me to reply immediately earlier in the day. I will also do a final check of the online ordering system to see what there is for the next day, and add the flowers I need for them to the wholesalers list - I do get notified during the day if an order comes through for same day delivery so that none are ever missed. This normally takes me until 4.30, at which point I have a tidy up, and sweep through the building. I will remove the empty vases from the shop that no longer have flowers in them (these will be then have bleach added to them and will be filled with water to soak over-night - I'll just re-fill the next day if it's not a vase scrubbing day) and I will bring the planters in (where I often get caught for a chat  by lovely local people walking by - what is a 10 minute job has been known to take me up to an hour at times :) 

The end of the day - more than usual left but already earmarked for orders the following morning

Once the front is finally in, I will then tally up the till and pdq (I love that we rarely get paid in cash - not just because it means we never have any on the premises which is a great saftey thing, but also because I don't have to sit counting it for an hour). I check the totals match, before adding them to a daily takings sheet (there are so many bits of paper the accountant needs) and a spreadsheet we keep for our own records, that we can use for comparing previous days, weeks, months and years (it gives us a good indication of what to buy for peak periods too).  I also have to input the figures onto our sage accounting package (I HATE sage with a passion) and check each evening all the figures on that tally with my own figures, and with the shop's bank account.

During the day I will also take phone calls from customers and have at least half an hour wasted with cold callers (what I say to them is not repeatable on here). Customers will also come into the shop and although most are here for roughly 5 minutes at a time, there are occasions when they will be here longer; just this week I had a lady in for over an hour because she wasn't sure what she wanted to order for a funeral, and I will not pressure anyone into what they should/shouldn't have - I also won't walk away from a customer, which meant I was then an hour behind on my day, but I was bought up with manners and respect, and could therefore never just walk away and get on with something else. 

At some point during the day I will try to find time to update the social media sites - although this often happens when I'm at home in the evening. With more social media sites adding messaging options to them, I can field anywhere upwards of 40 messages each evening; I do now have an away message set up asking people to call the shop, or email to make life a little easier for me. One morning I got to the shop and logged onto facebook to find 72 messages waiting for me. I also receive a lot of questions through instagram. A lot of these were customers asking questions for which the answers can be found on our website. I reply to each-and-every person though; not always on the day I get the message,  but always before the end of the week. I no longer have whatsapp though so we cannot be contacted through that any more, and I have turned off google chat. I just don't have the time to sit and message back-and-forth with people, no matter how chatty I may be feeling. I know that is the world we live in these days, but my business is run by me, and only me. I cannot afford to employ someone to work the social media side of the business. It never ceases to amaze me how many people will get angry at me for not replying within a matter of minutes. I once had someone message at 2am, expecting me to reply immediately; the expletives they'd resorted to by 4am ensured when I logged on and read them, they got a reply; just not the one they were expecting. I'll treat everyone with respect as that's how businesses are built and continue to survive, but I am also a human being and I will not allow someone to send me the messages that particular person was sending, and respond in the respectful way I would with anyone else. 

Once-a-week I try to swap some photo's around on the website; not only does this help to keep us on the google ranking system (I refuse to pay their extortionate prices to get a top-of-the-page; it does annoy me all those at the top though aren't even florists, and are just big companies with computer systems passing themselves off as florists but that's the way of the internet these day) and also because it's not that interesting for a website to look the same  each time someone visits. This takes time though and the photo's have to be altered slightly to ensure they fit the website parameters Clive has set up. Each of the photo's has to be framed, duplicated and resized (the duplicates being another size) so just one photo can take 15 minutes to complete.

I also separate rubbish throughout the day. All flowers come into the shop in packaging (a lot are wrapped in paper, more in cellophane, although this is something the growers are working on reducing). I have 4 bins on the go at any one time. Hard, woody stems going into one to be put through a woodchipper; softer stems and the leaves removed from all flower stems go into another. General waste in the 3rd and recycling in the 4th. On particular busy days it can take me upwards of an hour to sort through the rubbish I've let accumulate throughout the day. 

So there you go; that's what I do all day - on a normal day. Obviously wedding days, peak periods (mothers day, valentines and christmas) add to the "norm" and I have to plan the day slightly differently or I'd never get through and get everything done. 

If only I got to "play with flowers" as everyone seems to think I do all day :)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Another Valentines Day

has been and gone (my 29th since I started in the business) and the one just past was the best we've had for many years, which I find quite surprising because of it falling on a weekend (normally most people don't bother with flowers when it falls on a weekend, as they tend to go out and about with their love interest so aren't home for deliveries). It was even more pleasantly surprising for us, as our phone system broke on the Friday (yes it was Friday 13th but I don't believe in the superstition of the day; it was just down to BT and their engineers swapping wires about). Taking out the phone line also took out the PDQ machine, so we had to resort to the old fashioned contraption - I felt so old when one lad told me he'd never seen one before, and another asked if I'd had to visit a museum to find a working one. This meant that all calls had to be forewarded to my mobile; by 10pm on Saturday evening when I was getting drunk calls from lads in pubs that had just remembered they'd forgotten to buy anything, I switched my phone off (as much as I love what I do I also have a point where I say enough is enough). 

As with previous years I bought Red Naomi roses - these have proved to me many times over the years that they are worth the expense, as the buds alone are bigger heads than most normal roses when fully open; they last exceptionally well too if they are looked after as they should be.  A couple of people questioned me over the price (as they do every year) but when I was able to show them a rose from one of the leading supermarkets (who were using the same variety as most of the big stores/card companies, who have massive adverising budgets, that have decided to sell flowers) they soon realised that the saying "you get what you pay for" is true, and chose our roses over those selling cheaper (I can only imagine what the ones were like from a well known supermarket that were selling 18 for only £10). As you can see from the picture below, there is a big difference in quality and size; the one on the left was from a £25 for a dozen bunch (it wasn't even made into a bouquet; the roses were just shoved - literally shoved - into a cellophane sleeve) the one on the right is from our £45 for a dozen, handtied bouquet that was delivered in water - see the 2nd picture.

As you can see from the photo the roses are huge (these are in bud).

Another massive advantage we have over the supermarkets, department stores, online card retailers and anyone else offering them, is that our deliveries are made by one of us (they are not shoved into boxes where they could fall over, and where the flowers can get damaged as they are removed from the boxes - from us they arrive to you exactly as they leave the shop) and the flowers are made (again by us, in the shop) on the morning of the delivery. For personal delivery we charge just £3.50. The other retailers were charging anywhere from £9.99 to £19.99 to deliver their roses; in order for those to arrive on the day they would have been sent out to the couriers/mail companies on the Tuesday or Wednesday before, using roses that had most likely arrived at the warehouses they use to make them up on the Saturday (possibly even the Thursday or Friday before). This means by the time the flowers arrive with the recipient (I can only imagine the state some of them must have been in when they arrived, having spent days in a box at a dispatch centre) they could already have been anywhere between 10 - 15 days old. Our roses came in the morning we needed them; our wholesalers had them flown in direct from the growers the evening before we recieved them. They literally were as fresh as we could possibly get them. 

So you can imagine my dismay and anger when watching Casualty on Saturday evening and one of the charactors stated that "Valentines Day was just an excuse for Restaurants and Florists to hike up their prices to rip people off". As someone forced to pay my TV license I think the BBC need to look at who is ripping off who, but that's a matter for me (and all other florists) to take up with them. The reason I mentioned is to let you see the prejudice we have to deal with for a day that most of don't even agree with.

Did I rip anyone off? Absolutely not; in fact I try to talk my customers out of having roses, because I lose money on every rose order that's sent out. If I was to try and make any kind of profit on them I'd have to charge about £75 for a dozen and there is no way I could do that, so (as a business) we absorb the costs to ensure our customers are getting what they require at a price that is as reasonable as we can possibly make them.

Monday, 19 January 2015


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.