Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Oops

"I see you managed to fudge up, big time" were the words uttered to me from a fellow florist (actually, that's not quite true; the word "fudge" was something else but I had to change it as this blog is visible to younglings who should not be reading such words!!).

Their comment was in regards to Mothers Day (or Mothering Sunday as I was very sternly informed by one of my regular customers) and my having to turn away orders on the Friday before due to a lack of flowers - on that day I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get any more, either. I understood where they were coming from, and what they meant when they said it to me, however, I'm not entirely sure it was a justified comment. Did I really get it wrong?

I've always taken pride in the fact that I do everything I can to ensure any flowers we have for sale in the shop, or send out on deliveries, are as fresh as they can possibly be. I am lucky (as all of us along the south coast are - and quite a few further inland too) to be able to buy every-single-day. There are a multitude of wholesalers for us to choose from, all of whom will deliver to us Mon-Sat (on Sundays during peak periods). Several we have to place our orders with by 12 noon for next day delivery (this can be a bit of a pain if we have a customer in at 4 who needs a certain flower for the next day - of course, the ideal situation would be for our customers to give us a bit more notice :) ) and another (who I use more than the others because they are the only ones of them all to never let me down) who I can order right up until midnight with; those flowers are usually in my shop by 8 am the following morning. However, the reason I can order until midnight with them is because they won't guarantee any flowers for me next day. I can check to see if they have them coming in though, so it's a situation which works well, and I am able to tell my customer there-and-then, whether I can definitely get the flowers they are wanting. 

Now, this is where I differ from a lot of my florist friends, for even at busy/peak times, I still buy in the same way, whereas they (I can only speak for friends of mine in the business, and not other shops/businesses in the area) will buy their flowers at the beginning of the week. Some had theirs in on the Monday, most had theirs Tuesday/Wednesday. If that's what works for them then that's what works, I just couldn't do that. Aside from the fact I don't have room to store so much stock (I struggle with space buying day-to-day) I could not send out flowers to someone on Sunday that I know came in on the Monday before. I am not knocking anyone who has done (for they're the ones who didn't lose business this week and will most likely be getting paid) it's just not the way I operate. That's how I found myself in a blind panic towards the of last week. 

Brexit never happened (thank goodness; I can only imagine what chaos would have been abundant if it had done this weekend) but that didn't stop the customs officers on the continent from causing no end of issues. They are over there, doing what they're doing and it's none of my business why, however, I wish they'd not been doing it, for I found myself in the situation where the flowers I ordered, which should have been sitting in my shop, were still sitting the other side of the English Channel. I knew that I would receive everything I had pre-ordered (they'd arrive extremely late, but would arrive). What I didn't know I was whether I would be able to get any extras to stock the shop for all those who had left it late to order. This is where my fellow florist was basically telling me I had failed, for on Thursday and Friday I was having to turn away customers. Some (thankfully) understood and were lovely about it; some waited until Saturday to see if I had any extras, which by that time I did, so still placed an order with me. Some took the numbers of other shops I gave them and I guess called those shops and got themselves sorted (yes, I sent customers to other local businesses - this is something I have always done; if I haven't got what someone wants I still believe I have an obligation to help them source what it is they require and will direct them towards other's I know who may be able to help). Of course there were some who were not happy. One lady who came in late on Friday was so incensed she slammed the door behind her as she left so hard it bounced back open again - that's a pretty impressive feat with our door. I also had a couple of customers who I ask every time I see them to give me notice if they want someone specific both of whom came in late on Friday and who were then very "iffy" with me because I had to turn them away; it's not a nice feeling when someone treats me that way because I do all I can to ensure my customers are always treated with respect and will go out-of-my-way for them, but it-is-what-it-is. I have no control over someone else's attitude. I went home feeling thoroughly deflated on Friday night, because whilst it was an inconvenience to those people I had to turn away, it was so much more than that to me. 

2 days of not being able to trade means I don't get paid for all the hours I worked in March (not just the extra, but the everyday ones too). 2 days of not being able to trade meant I sent customers to others; those people will never come back. 2 days of not being able to trade meant I had to constantly keep apologising for something which was totally out of my control. Mother's Day (Mothering Sunday) is our busiest trading time of the year; to not be able to trade for 2 of those days has had a major impact on the business. However, having dealt with the additional stress, working for nothing, putting up with people being rude to me, I would not change a thing. You see, I would rather lose those customers before the event because I didn't have (couldn't get) what they required, than lose them, the person we were delivering to (and anyone else they may diss us too) after the event, when the flowers which have been received haven't lasted as they should because they weren't fresh in the first place. I have never (and will never) compromise on quality for the sake of a few extra pounds in my till, and a wage slip in my hand at the end of the month. That is not my business ethos. 


On another note I was blessed with being able to work with some fabulous flowers (when I had them!!) and there were 2 in particular that really stood out to me. The colours in the one above - so vibrant, so different and I've already had a wonderful "Thank you" for them; the other hasn't photographed quite-so-well as I had hoped, but in the flesh it looked fab.


Considering all the drama, this Mothers Day ended up as our best yet. Fudged up? I really do not think so. 




Friday, 8 March 2019

Mothers Day v Brexit

As if giving us the weekend of the clocks going forward (when we really could do with more hours, not less) this year we also have the added benefit of that 'B' word; that's right, "Brexit" happens on the Friday of Mothers Day weekend - aren't we being spoiled?

I was brought up to never discuss religion or politics - wise words that I still adhere too now; mostly (we all have (and are entitled) to our own opinions and beliefs) and whether you believe in something, or don't, whether you voted in, out or to shake-it-all-about, is absolutely nothing to do with me, just as my beliefs and which way (or if) I voted are nothing to do with anyone else. I've seen friends and families torn apart because they were unable to accept what a loved one believed in or how they voted during election at some-point-in-time (the irony of a live-and-let-live person cutting out a family member because they voted a different way to their parent has not been lost on me). However, I'm not here to talk about other people's issues; I'm here to talk about how Brexit is going to affect my little business tucked away in the outer rims of Fareham.

Exactly how will it affect my business?

The honest answer to that is:- "I haven't got a clue". At this precise moment-in-time, I really don't think anybody has. 

What I can tell you is that my wholesalers have done (are still doing) everything they possibly can to ensure we are still able to purchase flowers. They have customs officers in place, have filled in ream-after-ream of paperwork and have ensured us (the florists) that how we order will not be affected at all. However, they have absolutely no control over our borders - or those on the continent - and as such we have no idea when we will be able to get flowers after the 29th March this year. This week there has been some kind of strike action in France which has affected flowers coming through the ports; if we leave with a "no deal" in place (which is looking more-and-more likely) then what might happen is anybody's guess. Yes, we will be able to get flowers in the future and I am sure in exactly the same way we do now, but in regards to Mothers Day flowers, and orders for a couple of weeks after it's going to be a free-for-all. There is every possibility we (and you) won't notice any difference whatsoever; there is also every possibility everything is going to be thrown into complete-and-utter confusion.

I think even if we are able to finally hammer out a deal, things will still be extremely chaotic for a few weeks, and so I have to prepare the shop (and all my lovely customers) for the worst. 

As a result, I will not be able to guarantee any flowers, or orders for Mothers Day after Wednesday 27th March (and even then I think I'm leaving it a bit later than I should), so if you were/are planning on placing an order for Mothers Day, please do so ASAP. I also need to make you aware that while every-other-year (and on a daily basis) I order my flowers to come in the same day they are going out for delivery, this year I will have to do something I've never done before and I will have to get the flowers in the Thursday before, just so I know I have what I need and won't be letting anybody down (I know a huge proportion of shops will get all their stock on the Monday before; I'd never risk that early) the supermarkets have already got most of theirs in and are keeping them in chillers until the week of Mothers Day to ensure they have enough - no, I will not be doing that. Having to order them for the Thursday is hard enough for me.

After Mothers Day (if we make it to the other side ok) then I will most likely still have to put some restrictions in place; please, do not hold this against me (or any other florist - shop, or business). This is an unprecedented never-before occurrence, that only our (and overseas) governments have control over. The last thing any of us want to do is to let anybody down, and I know we will all do everything we can to avoid that from happening, but after some of the vile abuse I was subjected to the day before Valentines Day (and on the day itself) because some members of the human race had left it too late for me to order exactly the flower they wanted, I need to prepare you all (and myself) and arm you with the knowledge things may be a little "iffy" for a few weeks.

Here's hoping a deal can be reached and this whole blog entry can be filed in  the "Completely Moot and Irrelevant box" far away in the depths of cyber space.


Tuesday, 29 January 2019

A (typical) day in the life of

a Florist :) 

I know I've mentioned (complained; yes, I know I've complained :) ) before about how the general population have a pre-conceived idea about what we (florists - at least myself as s florist; other's may well vary) do all day. This very morning (Monday evening as I start this - it could well be Friday evening before I finish it) someone has asked me "So, what exactly do you do all day?" to which I replied "as little as possible, obviously" smiling. 

It's a good question really, in the grand-scheme-of-things. What do I do all day?

My day begins at 7am when I first check for any online orders which have been placed overnight; I do this just-in-case there are any which need to go out on the first delivery run (Chris (our driver) will organise his routes the day before, however, I know he always checks between 7.30 - 8 each morning for any extras which may need to be added to his routes). Of course, between me checking and arriving at the shop more can be (and often do) placed. 

I arrive at the shop around 7.30am (give-or-take a few minutes depending on traffic). The first thing I do upon arrival is move all the flowers the wholesalers have left that morning, from inside the shop to the workroom. I then unlock the office, fire up the computer, and do the most important thing - I put the kettle on. By then the computer is good-to-go, and I double-check no orders have arrived in the half-an-hour since I last checked, and flag up all those I need to reply to during the day. Then I head into the shop, removing any flowers which have been in stock for 48 hours (this is very rare as I tend to sell-out pretty much by the end of each day; the bonus of being able to buy from my wholesalers every day). 

Once the flowers are removed, I set about making up the orders for the first delivery run, usually finishing just as I need to open the shop at 8.30. This is also when I remember I boiled the kettle over an hour ago, so whizz out to the kitchen, reboil it, add everything to the cup (the milk last, always the milk last) walk through to the shop, pop the cup on the side and put all the planters out the front of the shop so that people know we are open. I then head back in, make up the next round of delivery orders, before conditioning the remainder of the flowers I've had in that day, and adding them to the vases already in the shop. At this point I see my tea on the side, the teabag still in it and no steam rising from it. I pop the teabag in my little compost bag (these all go home with me and into my compost bin) and I drink down cold tea (not nice but usually by this point I am gasping). 

When all a day's morning orders are ready (usually around 10 - 10.30) I then sit down with my breakfast (mini shredded wheat and oat milk being my preferred choice right now). As I eat those I log onto the shops bank account (terrified at what I may not find) and pay any bills which need paying, alongside checking everything that needs to be cleared has done so. Then I add any online orders to the daily diary, checking I've remembered to attach the photo's to each order. I photograph all orders after I have made them, the photos being attached to the correct order in the diary. I do this for 2 reasons. 1) because unfortunately there are some florists out there whose scruples leave a little-to-be-desired, and I have (in the past) had another shop remove the card from a funeral tribute I made and delivered to the funeral directors before them, and place it onto the tribute they have made. Luckily I'd taken a photo of it that day before it left the shop as I was working on a new selection guide, so when my very angry and distraught customer came in to complain about the tribute with her card on, I was able to show her the one I had made; she remembered seeing it at the funeral and I was able to placate her (this (sadly) has happened on more-than-one-occasion); it has happened also with a birthday hand tied bouquet we delivered, although the card wasn't removed, but the recipient had received a few bouquets that day and had thanked my customer for the wrong bouquet, sending her a photograph of flowers which were totally different to those which I had made for her. Having a photograph really has covered my back many times. Number 2, is because I have a lot of customers who have standing orders with us, and I like to make each fortnights (or each months) flowers different to those they have had previously. Being able to check back to see what I sent means I don't repeat the same colours/flowers as before. Once I've checked all of those, I then reply to any emails which need an urgent response (as urgent as I am able). I'm usually back at my workbench by 11 to make up that afternoons orders.

In between making up orders I serve customers (often stopping in the middle of making an order up to make something for them to take away with them - while-they-wait) and field phone calls (way-too-many of which are people trying to sell me stuff I have no need for, or would be interested in). 

The afternoon sees me making up funeral tributes for the following day. I don't like to have to make them the day before, but they'd never be able to be delivered on time the next day if I didn't. Every shop I've ever worked in has also made theirs up the previous day. On average I will make 16 hand tied bouquets, 4/5 traditional bouquets, and a dozen sprays, sheaves or posies for funerals; there is always at least 2 'specialised' tributes to be made as well (pillows, hearts, birds, angels etc). I also prep for any funerals; ie making the ribbon edging that goes around the 'specialised' tributes, soaking the foam needed for the next day, and carving/sculpting any bespoke tributes which I need to have ready. 

As soon as I have everything made I will then sit and reply to the rest of the emails. At some point during the day I do try to log on to our social media pages to post an update in them (often not getting anything posted for days). I begin with Instagram (because that then shares to Tumblr and Twitter directly for me) before moving onto Facebook, G+ (in-a-way I'm glad they are closing that one down). Pinterest gets uploaded if I remember (it's not as quick as the others). I also have our main google business page to keep on top of (they email me if I don't) and LinkedIn. How some shops are able to post on their social media many times each day is beyond me. During this time I also try to check facebook to see if anyone has messaged me on there (I do have an automated response on there saying to email or call the shop if it's urgent as I don't always get time to check FB). 

Invoices and receipts are also typed up and emailed at some point during the afternoon.

At least 1 hour everyday is spent chatting with people; on very rare occasions they will make a purchase, although most are not (and I don't believe have any inclination to be) customers; they just like to 'pop in' for a chat. Having spoken to friends-in-the-trade this seems to be a common theme among florists. Maybe it's the colours, the scents, or the fact we all have friendly faces!!! but we do find ourselves treated as a local 'drop-in' centre.

Friday afternoons are different to the rest-of-the week for we don't have funerals here on a Saturday; we do, however, have weddings and so Fridays are all about preparing weddings. Church, table and reception decorations will be made on a Friday afternoon, as will (occasionally) bridesmaids tied bouquets; because these can be stood in water overnight it makes no difference if they are made the day before, for the flowers unmade would be in water overnight anyway. 

By the time everything is done-and-dusted, it is usually time to go home, so I lock the doors and pootle off. Once I've done what I need to do at home, I then sit down and order the flowers I need for the next morning, check  through to see if anything has come in via the website (I re-check this about 11.30pm too as  I am able to order flowers up to midnight for next day delivery from my wholesalers). 

Saturdays the shop is only open until 12 noon. This is when weddings will be made and completed, as well as that days (everyday) orders. After 12 is spent with appointment customers (brides and families who are unable to get down during the week to organise funeral flowers for their loved ones). I use a Saturday afternoon to type up any quotes I have to email out. I also take all of the shops vases into the kitchen, pop a drop of bleach into them, fill them with water and leave them until Monday to ensure they are clean and any bacteria in them is killed off. 

Sundays are much more relaxed as I can work to my own time scale, however, I still have to come in and makeup any funeral items I have for Monday. 

So, there-you-have it. This is what I do all day. Oh wait; I've only shared with you a "typical" day. I've forgotten about the "not-so-usual" days. Weddings don't just happen on Saturdays any more; oh no, they happen any day of the week (I'm really not keen on early morning Monday ones, if I'm being totally honest). Then there is Valentines Day; that's not "typical" (thank goodness!) and if it falls during a weekday can create all kinds of chaos, as Valentines orders are in addition to our everyday orders and on average we make around 200 orders for Valentines day. This is also one of the very few days each year that I do refuse to book a wedding in for. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday I also complete a full water change for every vase in the shop. That means every single vase gets emptied (I use the water to give all the shops plants a drink so it's not wasted) bleached, scrubbed and refilled. Once-a-month I change the window display; this results in the shop having to be re-organised too as I have to find homes for everything I take out of the window. 

On very rare occasions I will shut the shop for an afternoon - it's so inconsiderate of doctors and dentists not to work on Sundays, however, I then come back to the shop later that evening to makeup all I've not been able to get sorted before I've left early.

I would not swap my job for any other in the world - except to be a tour guide in an old house, or caves - I'd quite like to do that for a living, as long as everyone was cheerful and children behaved!!. I get to work with beautiful flowers every day. I get to let my imagination run free so often; I am challenged (mentally so very often!!) many times each week (who doesn't like a challenge?). Each day (even now after all these years) I still learn something different regarding floristry. I consider myself to be truly blessed.





Monday, 7 January 2019

Beware the wolf

in sheep's clothing.

Before I get into my waffle, I would like to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2019. May it bring forth all you could wish for. 

Yet again, over Christmas (as has happened to use more-times-than-it-should), there were people ordering flowers (mainly online, but some via the telephone) who believed they were calling our shop, when in fact, they were calling others who just happen to use our business name in the keywords on their paid for adverts. Thankfully, I am able to point the customers who have called me to complain, in the right direction, however, what about all those people who haven't bothered to make a complaint, who think they have placed their order with me? How many people out there right now are telling their friends and family not to use my business, when they've not even received their flowers from me? It truly makes my blood boil, especially when more than 95% of the (so-called) florists people believe they are calling, placing an order with, have never even stepped foot into a flower shop. For those who use another shops name to generate more business to yourselves, I say "Shame on you". I also pity those who are genuine florists that have to do it, for their businesses must be struggling if they need to poach from competitors in nearby areas. I would like to shove flower stalks in very delicate places to those who use local businesses names, when they are nothing more than people sitting at a computer desk in a call centre, who have most likely never even stepped foot in a florists. 

I know a lot of people choose to order online because it is quick, easy and convenient; I've been known to use the internet myself, but please, please, please, check that you are using a local shop, someone who actually knows the difference between Eustoma and Estonia!! It may take you 10 minutes longer to scout around, but not only will it be worth it for the person you are sending flowers to when they are hand delivered by a driver trained in how to handle flowers (ours often sings to our recipients too - although I'm not sure that's really such a good thing); those flowers the driver is handing over, will have been created in the shop, on that day, from flowers which arrived direct from the markets on that morning, but you can also rest assured that the money you spend will go on the flowers you have ordered. Nobody sitting in a call centre is going to skim 30% from the total yo have paid for their "admin fees". Local florists, independent florists, do the admin work themselves and don't need to charge you extra for doing so. Using a local florist means your flowers won't have been sitting in a warehouse elsewhere in the country for a few days, before being placed in a box and sent out with a courier, who has umpteen other deliveries in his van, and not a single clue about how to handle flowers so they arrive in perfect condition. It may take you an extra half-an-hour but a little research can be the difference between your loved one receiving flowers that have made-their-day, to ones which will have you reaching for the phone to call in a complaint.


Of course, there are some out there who claim to be florists having completed a 6 week evening course at a local college; not everyone is genuine, but that's where the internet can be a wonderful thing. Never use a shop who has generic images on their website; choose one who has their own work on there, that way you get to see what they are capable of making. Anyone, including those of you reading this who haven't the first clue about flowers, can start up a website, find generic copyright free images on the web and take orders. There are so many companies out there these days who claim to be florists but are nothing more than people sitting in offices taking calls over the phone. 

I did a google search for florists in Fareham. The top 3 in the list are not, that's not independent florists, and not one of those 3 is in Fareham. Number 1 is somewhere in London; Number 2 is eflorist who are a call centre in Hampshire (they do have some shops on their books who they will sometimes send orders to - none of these are in Fareham - however, most of their stuff (like Interflora) is sent from a central warehouse elsewhere, via a courier service). The 3rd is also a call centre with no link to floristry whatsoever (in eflorist defence 30 years ago they did know a little about flowers). The reason those businesses have come out on top of the list, is because they are paying to advertise on google; they are doing their best to dupe the general public into handing over their hard-earned money to them. They are not in any way, shape or form, independent florists, and they most definitely are not in Fareham or any of the surrounding areas. Make sure if you wish to use a local shop, someone who knows the area, who employs a driver to personally hand-deliver the flowers to your loved one for you, that you are in fact using a local shop. Check out their address - all local shops will have their premises address on their website; check out their phone number. If it has the local dial code you are more likely to be calling a local shop (although as you will see in the paragraph below this is (sadly) not always the case). More than 50% of the "Florists" in the google list below are not florists. Only ourselves and Rawsons are. 


I did the same for Portsmouth; not one of these shops is local. Flowers Same Day have Interflora images on their website, and although they have a local number and a list of roads your flowers will be delivered from, there is no actual address for any shop in that list. Clicking on the link about staff (who by-the-way are telesales staff - not florists) will take you back to their main page. Clicking on the link saying "Local Florists - Just like ours" does nothing.  However, dig a little deeper and you will see the reason they have no address for you to visit them at any of their so-called shops in Portsmouth, is because they are based in Carlisle; in rooms above a tanning salon and nail bar (I love google maps :) ).

Of the other 2, Bloom and Wild are based in London, and Lilian Rose (who again, have a Portsmouth number) are based in Cheshire; these companies are nothing more than "Order Gatherers" which means they are all call centre. You will call a Portsmouth number which will be forwarded to their call centre in Cheshire. It's so wrong this is allowed to happen, yet sadly it is not illegal. 


I was so hoping to get through this year (and at least this month) without having to moan about something, or someone, but alas, call centres masquerading as florists, taking people's hard earned money under false pretences is something which requires my complaining :) More importantly it is something which potential customers - wherever they may be wanting to order flowers anywhere in the world - need to be warned that not-everything-is-as-it-seems. If my moaning here saves one person being duped into handing over their money to someone who is not whom they believe, then it will have been worth it.