Before I was a PhD student, I ran a Florists, Sandwich Bar and Bed & Breakfast (pictured) in a village just outside Norwich. I found the cut flower supply chain to be particularly fascinating. With over half of all global flower sales going through Holland, and using an unusual ‘reverse auction’ mechanism to ensure the process is fast (obviously the cut flowers are dying from the moment they are cut), it is amazing how flowers can get from a grower in South America, to someone’s home in 24 hours. The embedded video created by one of the Dutch auction houses explains the first part of the very well (Grower -> auction house – > wholesaler ->Florist/Garden Centre). Understanding this process is essential as it has a massive impact on both quality of materials (cut flowers) as well as costs. This then has an impact on pricing (when UK mothering Sunday fell on the same weekend as European Ladies Day for example, the prices of pink, purple and white flowers drastically increased due to demand, not to mention the regular issues with roses at Valentines Day).
What is perhaps not discussed as much is the supply chain from florist to recipient, which we managed ourselves, unless the products were collected from our shop. The majority of our bouquet orders were for delivery to someone other than the person who bought it. Which meant we had to go to great lengths to ensure that not only the bouquet would be appropriate for the individual receiving it (what colours do they like? do they have allergies? where do you think it might go in the house and what colour is the room?), but also the logistics of getting it to them. Finding the right time of day, correct address, correct department within an organisation was key, because we quickly discovered that the arrival of flowers can be viewed an event in itself and therefore part of the service we provide. This is why on Valentines Day and Mothers’ Day our delivery drivers would wear suits and/or dinner jackets (but that is a story for another time).