Thursday, 4 January 2018

Firstly, I’d like to start by wishing you all a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2018. I hope Christmas brought you much joy, and your hangovers on New Years Day were minimal J

I’d also like to apologise for the shop being closed between Christmas and New Year – several of you told me off for this yesterday (you know who you are J ) and one customer, on Christmas Eve, called me “unprofessional” because I was closing. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that there are no decent flowers at the markets between Christmas and New Year. Most are what is left over is from the week before Christmas, and as you all know, I will not sell something if it’s not fresh. I could have re-opened on Tuesday 2nd January, however, the wholesalers and markets weren’t open again until the Wednesday, so there was no point in doing so. Anyone who had flowers on Tuesday had to buy them before the 30th January and keep them held over – not something I am prepared to do. The 2nd reason is that in the run-up to Christmas I worked 27 out of 28 consecutive days. Most of these were 14-18 hour days, and all of those were done whilst dealing with a very poorly dog back at home (without my Mum to look after her for me during the hours I was working, I would have had to close the shop, for my pets and my family will always come first). She died on the 22nd December, so I then had to work through my busiest 2 days of the year dealing with an immense sadness; how I didn’t end up sobbing on customer’s shoulders is something I still consider to be a bit of a miracle. 

I also worked consistently last year, averaging 12 hour days, 7 days a week, with just 9 days off during 2017. A few of those were when I treated myself to a little jaunt to Wales, the others were on a bank holiday weekend when I went camping with friends, and I had 2 days off for visits to the vets. The shop is open for a minimum of 47 hours over 6 days each week although I can often be found open an hour before the official time and long after I should have closed. That’s just the hours the shop doors are unlocked for customers. That doesn’t include the hours before I open when I am getting the days flowers conditioned, and orders made up ready for when our driver arrives. That doesn’t include the evenings I am locked in the office catching up on paperwork (I hate paperwork; I’m a florist for a reason!) so when the opportunity of being able to close for 8 days arose (thanks to the lack of flowers) I grasped it with both hands and made the most of each and every second I wasn’t here (having said that I still found myself at the shop on 3 of the 8 days). I’m not complaining, I love my job, I love this little shop, I love my customers (well, most of them!!) and in the current climate as things stand, I know I am very lucky to have a business which is running as well as it is, but sometimes, I also need a little bit of “Sarah” time. I need to recharge my batteries, so I can continue to provide each and every one of my customers with the service they have become accustomed to. I’m sorry to anyone who was annoyed at me for not being open, and hope you understand my reasons? J

On the whole, 2017 ended up being an extremely good year for us, however, there were a few moments (weeks) during the early part of summer where Clive and I did sit down and have a chat about whether it was really worth it. Not because the shop was quiet or we weren’t seeing enough custom. It was because suddenly the wholesale cost of flowers rose far higher than they should have done. I went from paying 21p per stem for a certain flower, to 57p. One wholesaler also  changed their free delivery minimum order spend from £50 to £200. There were a lot of growers who had faced a nightmare trying to battle weather conditions to be able to produce enough flowers for everyone to get their share – they had to put their prices up to cover their losses. The cost of fuel went up (when doesn’t it?) so the costs of shipping flowers from around the world to the markets went up, thus affecting the wholesale prices. This meant we were faced with a dilemma. Either the price of everything in the shop had to go up (at which point our customers would have had to spend more than usual) or we absorb the extra costs (which is what we ended up doing). This is fine on a £30/£40 handtied bouquet, however, when it came to some of our summer weddings we actually ended up losing money. Once a bride has paid, I cannot then ask her to hand over more money because the wholesale prices have risen, so a lot of weddings ended up costing me more than I had taken. A lesson learned.

I did lose out on a several large weddings and lot of funeral work in the early part of 2017 where homeworkers were undercutting me by quite some margin. Most pay their fair share of taxes and insurances (which are still a lot lower than those of us who have shop premises) yet there are some who pay none, therefore allowing them the privilege of being able to undercut those of us with shop premises who have to pay umpteen different taxes, insurances, business utilities (which are always higher than personal home utilities) and numerous other bills a normal house doesn’t have to worry about. Oddly, later in the year a lot of brides found their way back to me as they had been let down (almost at the last minute) by the homeworkers (and I believe a couple of different shops also) who had decided “enough was enough” and had closed down their businesses. One homeworker outside of our area who covered a lot of hotels and wedding venues didn’t even give her brides a phone call; she literally emailed them, said she wasn’t “doing it any more” and left them without flowers for their wedding. One of her brides came to me with just 7 days notice (luckily I was able to fit her in). I had a family in for funeral flowers who had been let down, with the funeral being the very next day.  Because the homeworkers weren’t registered businesses, the brides have no way of getting their money back, without the extra expense of taking the people who let them down, to court. Please be careful when ordering your flowers; as with anything in life, if it appears to be “too-good-to-be-true” then chances are, it is.

2018 is only 4 days in (how has it flown by so fast already?) but it’s already shaping up to be a great year.