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Editor's Blog 

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Why florist shops will die ... and does anyone care?

A request on Facebook for any spare copies of the out of date Interflora Sympathy booklet was, on the face of it fairly innocent. However, it came from someone working from home – and not only caused enough of a stir to be taken down but was, I understand, reported to Interflora.

But it served to show just how much pressure bricks and mortar (B&M) florist shops are under and how devious some homeworkers will be. To have the gall to ask for – and I assume get their mitts on - branded design guides that B&M shops are paying for is staggering and goes totally against florists who have committed long term to rent, rates, staff costs, insurance, vehicles, hold stock every day, carry a range of sundries and accessories and who are probably registered for VAT, pays NI, tax etc etc etc.

What makes it even more galling is that many homeworkers started life in a florist shop. Either as owners who sold (taking all the lucrative wedding/funeral work which I always think stinks) or employees who learned what they needed and set up on their own. Either way, they aren't just taking business away from trading florist shops, but this growing number of non-shop based florists actually have the power to decimate and kill our industry far more than anything the supermarket could or have done.

Now before you punch the screen I know everyone has to start somewhere and I know there are many who have had to make life changes but still want to be in floristry. Nor am I anti the idea of working from home as a start-up to get a foot on the ladder. I know many who started that way and now have shops because they had established a customer base and I am certainly not having a go at people who have proper, purpose built and officially recognised studios at home and who do it properly.  It's people who have no desire to have a shop or even run a 'proper' business that worry me.

Because they are taking away the very core of the flower business; the bespoke work that makes it possible for many a florist to survive, employ and train staff, buy flowers from wholesalers every day of the working week and buy sundries in large quantities rather than dribs and drabs and join relays and associations.  

But even though so much of our industry relies so much on florist shops it seems no one, but no one, gives a toss about them or is prepared to do anything to support and defend them from unfair and uncontrolled competition.

In fact, rather than helping our bricks and mortar shops it strikes me far too many suppliers are hell bent on actually assisting their demise by serving - or working with - anyone and everyone in the pursuit of sales and, one assumes, profit. Indeed, one person told me that they had to help these small, micro operators because they needed it and wasn't it better to upgrade the bad than not.

Pish posh. Complete bunkum. Noooooooooooooooo! The florists who need and deserve support and help are the circa 6,300 shops and legit studio florists who are doing it properly, costing it right so they can afford to pay the price grower needs, paying their taxes, promoting best practice, operating good websites and who offer the supply side the most reliable source of revenue.

Does it really matter.  In my opinion big time.  

You see if too many florist shops close wholesalers will find it tough, relay companies will struggle to get orders out, trainees will have an even harder time finding a job and growers with new varieties will struggle to make it to market because the supermarkets can't and won't want to take the risk.

Lose florist shops and you lose the face and personality of floristry as a designer product, be it fabulous window displays that show off the creativity and skill in a way that no person working from home can or by showcasing design skills that are often far superior and mean the customer gets better value and quality.

Lose florist shops and you don't just lose the heart and soul of the industry but, given flower sales would then be totally reliant on supermarkets and boxed operators, you runs the risk of commoditising the product down to base level where price will be the only decider and which will directly impact on growers, importers and wholesalers assuming there are any of them left either. 

Which is why I would say;
Suppliers: Whatever you are selling – be it flowers, plants, sundries or services - please nurture your B&M shops and if you feel you have to sell to/work with anyone else then make the price differential bigger; if they aren't paying rent/rates etc they can afford to pay more for their flowers/sundries/services.
Relay companies: Please monitor who is accessing your marketing material. Your members pay a lot to be members, they and your brands should be protected.
Florists. Be very careful who you are helping when you answer requests for help. You have probably spent a lot of time and effort getting where you are – don't give it away without being very sure of who you are helping. And if you think anyone (and I mean anyone) isn't paying their taxes etc report them to the Inland Revenue*. It's totally secret and it's the right thing to do for you and your fellow business owner.

Ten years ago I said I would happily see 2000 crud shops fall by the way side. Most of them have gone and overall the standard of shop and floristry is so much better in 2016. Let's not allow those crud shops to be replaced by another type of crud.

** If you suspect someone is trading illegally you can report them to the Tax Evasion service run by HRMC.  You can email them using this link or phone 0800 788 887 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday