In a few weeks time it’ll be the one day of the year we’re all expected to be romantic. To push the boat out, splash out on dinner and a glass or two of bubbly, and shower our best-beloved with thoughtful gifts… That’s right, Valentine’s day.
I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s day. When I was still at school, before I had a boyfriend, the day was a source of anxiety, embarrassment and teasing… if you received a card, or even if you didn’t, there was always teasing. And the suggestion of sending a card? Forget that, far too much stress to navigate!
And now, with 12 Valentine’s days under my belt as a florist, I dislike it for a whole world of other reasons. The crazy hours, the spiteful rose thorns, making hundreds of identical bouquets, and worst of all – the quite often miserable customers who don’t order in advance, think we’re expensive because the supermarkets are cheaper (don’t get me started on this…!), want a special price (despite us never having served them before), think we’re making a packet (we’re not), and are only buying the flowers to either get them out of trouble or to keep them out of trouble…
My apologies. I’m miserable aren’t I? I suppose I just ask you to spare a thought for your lovely, local florist. Valentine’s week is hard work. Really hard work.
The preparation for February 14th starts a good few weeks before, with the making of hundreds of bows and cutting of gift wrap. It pays to be prepared, and you’ll thank yourself at 3am that the bouquet-making process is quicker. As orders come in, cards are written and a tally of items made, which will help when it comes to formulating the flower order.
Now that really is a head-scratcher, the flower order. Will last years order figures be met, surpassed, or wildly missed? Should we be safe and order the bulk of our flowers in advance, or be brave and wait to see if market prices drop nearer the time? At this time of year, when the whole world is celebrating love on the same day, our wholesale prices for roses (and all flowers) dramatically increase, generally by at least double. We’re often unable to increase our retail prices as much as necessary (would you pay £6 for a single large headed red rose?), so we actually take a significant cut in our profit margin. It’s a scary job, working out the order!
With the increase in demand, we require extra staff hours in the shop to make all the orders, and stock the shop for walk-ins, and additional drivers and vehicles to get the flowers out to you all, which obviously get booked into the diary well before the day itself. Our event promotion and marketing is conducted, and the unmistakable Valentine’s window of red, red, red is put in.
Once we get to the week itself, the foliage and flowers start arriving. Everything fresh that comes into the shop is conditioned. This means that the foliage from the bottom half of the stem is removed (by hand), all the thorns are removed from the rose stems, and the stem ends are cut, before being put in fresh water. Doesn’t sound a complex task, but it is a job that is so important to get right – if you don’t look after the product from the word go, there’ll be nothing but trouble later on.
And then it’s all go, go, go! The making up of orders, organising the delivery rounds to be as efficient as possible, answering the ‘phone, printing new orders, and serving the walk-in customers of course… oh, and dealing with other occasions other than Valentine’s day, like the birthdays, anniversaries, and memorials. All hectic, good fun!
And then, come 6pm on the 14th, we look to see what needs doing for the following day, when life returns back to normal…
So please, remember your local florist. Order your flowers early, and with a smile… and if you really want to be top of the class, why not come in with a coffee and hot pasty for us?! You’ll get the best service ever!