Do we need more trade bodies?

Looking back through old magazines reminded me that there was a time, not so long ago, when we had 9+*1 groups working with and on behalf of the Industry.  

Given I and the magazine worked with everyone I’m not going to pretend it was always plain sailing; there were tricky moments and some ‘interesting’ behind the scenes tirradaddles - but overall everyone boddled along and worked together.

Now we only have BFA and I’m personally not sure that’s enough.  Because whilst they may try to be everything to everyone the fact is they aren’t.  Not just because of the negatives I hear and the fact they seem to be alienating people left right and centre**2 but because no one can be everything to everyone.

By definition there will always be differing views and needs plus there actually has to be choice and competition; be it a trade association or a magazine, a shop selling underwear or a hotel.  Not just to make sure everyone’s needs are served but to keep everyone on their toes both in terms of actions and prices and, in the case of a trade association as a check and control in the event of a crisis or a situation which may cause harm.

Having been around the industry for so long I know full well how hard it is to garner support and funding.  However that shouldn’t be an excuse to not even think about it and see if there is a need for more cross industry representation – especially at government level given the whole Brexit scenario never mind the somewhat gloomy economic predictions.  Our industry is made  up of very different people and businesses so one size doesn’t fit all. We don’t need nine associations again but a couple wouldn’t go amiss and would make sure we have the right systems, balance and authorities in place. 

Ed’s Notes #1 The Society of Floristry was the first  back in '51 then The British Florist Association (originally the BFIA when launched in '78) and the Flower Publicity Council which was reborn as the Flowers & Plants Association.  There was The Teachers Association, Interflora (before it was privatised it was an Association) the Flower Wholesale Trade Association (FWTA) and the Flower Import Trade Association (FITA) as well as Spring Florist Event - which in one weekend brought together thousands of people from the industry together including all of the above!  - and groups like the London Florist Club and the 9&3 Club which, although not formal associations, again brought industry together and created discussion/action.

Ed’s Notes #2 I totally get BFA needs money but having seemingly morphed into a marketing body rather than an association and, in the words of many who have contacted me, ‘sold out’ to the highest bidder in terms of sponsorship, it all seems a little at odds with the aim of an independent and impartial body.  No doubt I will get stroppy emails again but I am not surprised it has caused irritation and lost them support in the corporate world. Competitors are understandably frustrated that it is now costing a small fortune to even enter Chelsea never mind do it. Given the coverage their designs achieve for the Association it seems a little unfair to keep upping the fees never mind the fact it puts barriers up to new talent rather than encouraging it.  Meanwhile retail florists with shops are wondering what BFA does for them when their public facing site is full of home workers and many from all sectors have commented that everything BFA does seems to cost so much.  No one denies events and activities have to be funded but in a sector that is not particularly buoyant at the moment it's even more important that a balance is found.  Not only does an Association need to be respected and trusted but must be accessible to all; be it retail, corporate or student member.