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Flowers for Valentines Day

February 15th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

Personally I have always felt a bit ripped off knowing how the price of flowers seems to shoot up on Valentines day, in the same way that restaurants charge a lot more for meals on that day. In the last year I have learned a bit about the florist business at third-hand and feel a bit better about it. I also think I understand a bit more about the restaurants today, having read an interesting article in the Times.The restaurant thing opened my eyes a bit. It makes sense that there will be a huge demand for tables for two and so you reconfigure the whole room and end up only being able to hold half as many diners as usual, and they tend to linger a lot longer so you can’t turnover the tables so much. Combine that with a willingness of diners to pay whatever it takes to avoid a year of accusatorial reminders that “you didn’t even take me out for dinner on Valentine’s day” and you can see ahy they will charge what they need to and then top it up to what they can get away with.

Its a similar story with florists. For a start the wholesale price of flowers is going to go up because of demand anyway and so you need to up the price just to keep your margins and that alone is going to make a difference, and there is nothing the florists can do about that.

Last year Jayne started doing deliveries for a local florist, just one or two days a week, but it has given her a real insight to the business, which she has passed on to me. There are a couple of days a year when there is huge peak of demand for flowers. Mothers day is one, but by far the biggest is Valentines day. The shop has a van for deliveries, and this year hired another 4 vans and had a couple of people using their cars, plus another couple doing foot deliveries within the town centre. I make that 9 people doing deliveries instead of the usual one. With wages, petrol and van hire that is quite a leap in expenses.

Apart from that, there is the time to put all the bunches and bouquets together. Although the peak is Feb 14th there is a lot extra on the 13th and also on the 15th – which I suspect are the really vital ones for many in-trouble, forgetful customers. I understand that the florists themselves were in the shop until 2am the night before the 13th making up flowers, and again until midnight the next day, and then getting in early to open up and fill the vans. The deliveries were starting earlier too. Jayne was in at 7:30 today instead of the usual 9:00 start, and finished a lot later than usual.

The internet doesn’t help either. Apparently is is not unusual to come in on the 14th and find that 70 orders have come in via the web overnight, many of them through Interflora. It had never occurred to me that ordering flowers overnight at the last minute could cause so much chaos.

At the end of the day all florists are small independent businesses. Interflora might be a big company but it delivers through shops that get affiliated and when you order through them the actual shop pays a cut to them and ends up with a lot less profit than if they had been ordered directly. Now I know that, I will always try to order flowers through a shop’s own website instead of Interflora – except when trying to get flowers delivered to another town where I don’t know the local shops. Maybe its my left-of-centre background, but it seems to me that the local shop does all the work and carries all the risk  of holding stocks of chocolates, bubbly, balloons and vases while the big company has little risk, and makes a lot more by just being a facilitator.

Thinking about it I wondered why Amazon hadn’t got into this as well. It sounds like their business model with Amazon marketplace. Then I looked on their website and saw that you can get next day delivery flowers from Amazon. I wonder if they go through a network of local shops or a central place? I think I would need reassurance that the flowers wouldn’t get delivered by Hermes or DPD and get lobbed over the garden fence, and also that they wouldn’t do the normal Amazon thing of putting them in a box 5 times too big and stuffed with filler. They might end up crowding everybody else out of the market as they have with other products and then we will have no choice, but until then I am going to stick with the local florists.

What it boils down to is that the florists are not rubbing their hands on Feb 14th and ordering another Bentley at our expense. While they might be charging more for the flowers they are probably getting very little for it after all the extra expenses are accounted for and certainly not a lot of compensation for the extra stress involved. Fortunately Jayne enjoys being busy more than being underemployed and loves the buzz and excitement of it all, and I think the rest of them do as well, even if they are equally glad when it is all over.

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