Tuesday, 9 August 2016

At 10am on Tuesday morning, 26th July (yes, 2 whole weeks ago)  having got myself organised in the shop as well as having all the deliveries ready to go out, I started to write a blog entry. Now 14 days later and I think I may finally have 5 minutes to myself to get it finished.

I feel all I do whenever I start a new blog entry is apologise for being so tardy in keeping it up together; in my defence the shop is so busy it’s a wonder I find the time to write quite as often as I do. Of being busy I am most definitely not complaining.

We are currently still in full refurb mode – with the day to day shop being so busy it’s not that easy finding the time to finish the decorating, etc. However in the past fortnight we have had some new lights fitted in the window which should come into their own once the sun sets at night. They will also give us more options for themed displays - we already have a list that we would like to do. On the subject of the window, the 2 main glass panels are being priced up right now so that we can replace the darkened glass with clear glass enabling people to be able to see the window display along with everything in the shop without having to strain their eyes. It’s all moving forwards wonderfully.

I had a bit of a bolt out of the blue a fortnight ago when Becky came in to work. After 6 years she informed me that she is going to be leaving us. Because she is now level 3 qualified she now feels that she should be receiving pay for the work she does; youngsters these days certainly come out with some crazy ideas. :) It just shows how times have changed though since I entered this business all of those years ago. My starting salary (allowing for inflation) would now be £146.07 for a 48 hour, 6 day week. That doesn’t even meet the living wage; no wonder small shops are struggling. Well done Becky though, you passed with a distinction – now that you have a paper qualification, just like passing your driving test, it’s time to learn all you can from as many different avenues about how to become an all-round florist. Unfortunately as busy as Moonstones is, I just cannot justify a full-time, 6 day a week trainee, apart from which it is really now time for you to see how other florists operate so a parting of the ways can only be beneficial to you.  Since writing this bit 2 weeks ago, Becky has now moved on to pastures new - she started her full-time job yesterday, and I wish her every success and happiness as she progresses through her floristry career. 

I was asked the other day why I am not a member of a very common florist’s association? Apparently if I join as an individual it would enable me to add letters after my name but I can do that anyway if I choose – Sarah Bradbury WOAM (woman on a mission) - that just shows how useful letters can be to anybody who doesn’t know what they mean anyway. The only real advantage would be that I could get discount from wholesalers I would never use, or cheap subscriptions for magazines I will never have the time or interest to read, ooh and I could clutter my shop window with stickers so that customers know that I belong to something, but not necessarily what. Years ago it was regarded as a prestigious community to be part of, but now, as long as one has completed some kind of floristry exam, whether they passed or not, for the relevant fee one can become a full member. It seems to negate the whole idea behind it. Yes, it’s a great way for shops to network with each other and some of the competitions they run are great for younger florists aiming to make their mark in the world, but to me it’s actually just another kick in the teeth to those genuine florists who have worked hard for their skills, experience and qualifications, when individuals without any formal training or skill are also able to join effectively just by 'coughing up the dosh'.

To carry the above theme on there is a ‘florist’s directory’ that is supposed to ensure that any florist you may choose to use is ‘up to the mark’ To me the very wording of the directory suggests all the florists in there have been vetted and deemed to be of an exceptional standard, yet I know of one shop listed who purchase all their flowers from a well-known supermarket because “they are cheaper than the wholesalers”. I can’t even begin to tell you how much disgust I have for them in doing such a thing; it genuinely infuriates me. I, along with many of my florist friends, work tirelessly to remove ourselves from the cheap bunched flowers you can buy in a supermarket. I took (and passed with flying colours) numerous floristry exams to get to the position I am in today, using only fresh quality flowers. I had to prove myself worthy to potential employers and members of the floristry world as being capable of providing quality floristry alongside the very best quality flowers. I’ve been blessed to work for, and with, some of the best florists in our business who put me through my paces, to ensure one day I would be in the position to open my own shop, to be able to compete with them on the same level. One of my bosses would send me out for 2 or 3 weeks at a time to work for her friends so I learned as much about the trade and different styles of floristry there were – believe me when I say the standards they set were exceptional, and not all of them were the nicest people in the world to work for/with. It was done though, to ensure I knew not just how to make floral orders, but also how to look after the flowers I was working with. Quality control was one of the very first things I was taught in college, and via my first job as a trainee, all those moons ago. The staff of the shop mentioned earlier have completed a part-time evening class at a local college in flower arranging, opened a shop and managed to get in a guide that is meant to sort the good from the bad. Sending in a few selected photographs along with a nice fat cheque is not how I go about my business. It’s reminiscent of the old “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality. If someone wishes to put my name on a list of recommended shops that is brilliant but it will be because I have earned the right to be there, not because I have paid them handsomely to put me in it. Until such times as they actually go out to visit the shops that they are promoting, test them on a number of different floral items and physically check the quality of the flowers they are providing, then I will never put myself forward to be found in such a thing.

Thankfully my customers are happy to share reviews, both good and bad about the shop on Google and Facebook. They’re the reviews I want to see, the promotion that I am interested in. Those of the general public who have spent their money here, who have been happy with the flowers and service that they have received, not someone I have paid to say I’m worth it and knows nothing else about me.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

What a busy web we weave

My goodness it’s been a while since I found the time to sit down and update this – I can only apologise for my tardiness, while at the same time smiling to myself. The reason I’ve not found time is because the shop has been exceptionally busy and that’s one thing I will never apologise for.

Except for Valentine’s Day that is - although it was really busy for that one stand-alone day - it was slightly quieter than I thought and had planned for it to be. That however, does not bother me one jot, it’s all the ‘normal’ days that keep the shop ticking over, that pay the bills and which keeps the shop here from year to year. Don’t get me wrong, Valentine’s wasn’t quiet according to the true definition of the word – in fact I had to order in another 500 roses for the Sunday morning (I’d bought extra on the Saturday too) but by comparison it wasn’t as busy as some previous years. I like to think it’s because people have finally wisened up to the fact that it is now so over-commercialised that the whole fun and meaning of the day has got lost along the way. I think it’s more that people are buying other gifts. It did give me a warm glow though when I went round 3 supermarkets on the Monday to see they had thousands of roses left – to think they make no money on them in the first place (they can sell them cheaper than we can buy them so they can’t be making anything on them) to have so many left means they actually would have made a massive loss. Maybe they’ll go back to selling groceries, but I doubt that very much. Although flowers can be a loss-leader for them, they bank on the fact that once you are in the shop you will then go on to buy other things which they can make money from. Instead of you spending just £10 on the bunch of flowers as planned, you could end up spending £50 on other bits; these supermarkets are a clever bunch.

Sadly we had to let a couple of customers down, they left it too late for us to be able to supply them; luckily for them though there were other shops who had plenty left that they’d not been able to sell - not sure if they had these left because they over-ordered, or because they just didn’t have enough orders to begin with. For whatever reason though, it meant the customers got what they wanted in the end and that is never a bad thing. I would rather send a customer elsewhere than try to offload them with something that they really don’t want – I find in doing so they nearly always come back to us the next time that they want flowers; I think they appreciate us not trying to fob them off.

I found from a bride-to-be the other day that there is another florist, no names no pack drill, that operates within a 10 mile radius of our shop that appear to be “passing off” my work as their own. Unfortunately I was fully booked for her special day but suggested an alternative florist that was local to her and might be able to help, although I had had no dealings in the past with them so could not recommend them as a supplier. This is where the scam begins - apparently the routine is that a bride-to-be will contact them and will be asked the date of the prospective nuptials. The florist will then check with me as if they are the bride. If we are free they will then make an appointment to meet with the bride to arrange the occasion. The next step is to contact me for a price and forward this price with a suitable margin added to the bride. They seem to be incapable of producing anything other than very basic arrangements (having looked at their website, they actually only show pictures of the sort of thing that I would expect from a first term trainee) nor can they supply the extra bits - table vases, mirrors, etc. I operate somewhat differently in that a bride will always leave the interview with a firm, if verbal, price. It may take me a week or so to confirm it in writing, but at least the bride knows what she is letting herself in for.

I am not sure what they do if I cannot fit the wedding in, possibly they have a few florists that they do this to.

The upshot of this is that I create the arrangements, my drivers deliver them and then set up the reception while this other florist takes all the glory. Now, aside from misleading their (our) bride which I personally think is unethical and morally wrong, they are also passing off my work as their own. If they were using my photo’s they could be fined for breach of copyright, but apparently there is nothing that I can do about it, and even if there was a legal remedy I doubt that the shop could afford it. I can’t decide if I am angered, or flattered – this could explain why I found one of our receptions on a random site once before with a tag attached to this other florist. I just assumed it was because someone had seen it, wanted something similar and thought if they tagged them it was an easy way for them to see what the bride wanted; now I’m not quite so sure. Oh what tangled lives we lead, when first we practice to deceive.

One bride whom was definitely genuine (she brought the chocolates in to me as a Thank You) got married last weekend, and again went for something a bit more different. Still a hand-tied bouquet, but she chose to carry peach germini with blue iris; a combination that worked well.