Brexit & COVID… What’s the impact on a Florist?

2020 was quite a year and it went out with a bit of a bang. Brexit was one of those things I had been dreading as a Florist as so much of our products come from or through, Europe. There were lots of scares through the industry during the various dates Brexit was due to come into force. December 31st 2020 was the critical date, with a trade deal agreed and a real test for the system – despite the pain of lockdown, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one slightly relieved at not having to negotiate sourcing wedding florals during this period.

Has Brexit/COVID increased flower prices?

Prior to the end of the year, there were lots of rumours flying around. Extra taxes on imports, higher priced flowers, even reduced taxes (we wish!) and delays at the border. As a houseplant seller there were real concerns about price hikes with my wholesaler suggesting a potential 20% rise in plant prices which made me take a very deep breath!

It’s hard to say the real impact because we’re still not in ‘normal’ times. I visited the flower market the second day it was open in the new year and it was eerily quiet. Many wholesalers closed early with very few buckets of flowers behind their shutters. On the search for plants to include in my birthday freebie offer this month, I overheard a stressed conversation between my plant wholesaler and his exporter with a large plant order stuck at the border, held up over paperwork. The challenge with what we do, similarly to fresh food export is that our products are perishable. Certainly with cut flowers, every hour counts and any time held up over paperwork issues is detrimental to the flowers and decreases the amount of usable product we can work with. Having chatted to my colleagues in the industry, plants and flowers have been subject to more checks and paperwork changes than they had previously. Of course this costs time and money for those whose job it is to get to us so I would be lying if I didn’t say there had been price increases along the line. The good news is that this hasn’t reflected as a permanent tax or bans and the hope is that as we all get used to what’s required, transit times, additional costs and effort will start to reduce.

How has COVID affected Florists?

This would have been tough enough without a global pandemic which has thrown the whole industry upside down. For a photo shoot a few months back, I hadn’t pre-ordered the white roses that usually, every seller has a good stock of. For the first time, I was totally unable to find a white rose in the largest flower market in the UK! The sellers told me that they had to change up the stock they were holding and selling due to the fact that so many fewer weddings were taking place. It’s been very challenging for the traders at the Market as they still need a good array of stock for florists many different requirements but also losing a great deal due to the perishable nature of them. They have been fantastic though and managed to source everything I’ve needed, given enough time. Often, with a loose or creative brief, I’d take some ideas along to the Market and see what caught my fancy, often choosing a particularly beautiful flower and choosing the rest around that. I’ve found that’s not the best way for the foreseeable future and I’m needing to order flowers in advance to ensure I can create something beautiful, of course I do still leave room for the gorgeous finds that often appear as I wander round. I look forward to when things improve and I can go back to my designs being inspired by the Market again!

All Florists have been enormously affected by COVID, whether it’s the closure of their shops – temporary or permanent, the postponement (often several times) of weddings we’re longing to create or the loss of almost a years income in corporate designs as offices, hotels and spas lay empty. It’s not all doom and gloom as I’ve seen some incredible shows of togetherness and support in the industry. Some very clever pivoting and online shops popping up overnight so we can still bring flowers, plants and joy to our customers when they need it most.

What can I do to help my local Florist?

So if you’re looking to cheer up a friend, or even yourself (hugely encouraged) don’t head to the local supermarket, they’ve really done pretty well out of this, hit up your local florist – you can order online for delivery or click and collect and they’ll deliver something gorgeous. Not only will you have made the day of the recipient but also the small business who can now breathe a little easier.

What about my Wedding?

If you’re planning a wedding, I know how horrible this is for you. Seeing so many couples, desperate to get married, writing that painful email to ask about future availability, it’s awful. It breaks my heart to hear people say that they’re not enjoying wedding planning anymore and I truly hope you can get that buzz back as we start to get more certainty. My advice is to keep on planning. Develop those mood boards and reach out to us florists! If you’ve got questions, we’re here to answer them and keen to talk weddings again! We’re old hat at this ‘new normal’ now, we know how postponing works, we know we might need to change and adapt as rules change and we know how to get the best flowers for your big day, no matter what challenges are thrown at us. What felt would be impossible for us just a year ago is now our day-to-day so please don’t think your wedding will be anything less than gorgeous because of everything going on in the world, I promise we’re here to make it so.