Why I'm Not Going To Justify Why I Charge What I Charge!
Too much of good thing is fabulous! I love weddings, and when it came to my own I didn't scrimp, although I did do these flowers myself. When my husband, Lester and I were married, we wanted to create a beautiful setting in which to celebrate one of the most important days in our lives with the people closest to us. We didn't want a huge wedding, we only had 11 guests, but were prepared to pay for a wonderful celebration. We did get what we paid for.
Without a doubt though the wedding industry is on the receiving end of some very negative press at the moment. According to our detractors, we're all a bunch of rip-off merchants intent on taking our clients for a ride, and ratcheting up our prices at the mention of the word "Wedding". With the announcement that supermarket chain Lidl has teamed up with a high profile London florist to create a "capsule collection" of wedding flowers for £149.00; this may seem like another nail in the coffin for our industry, but I beg to differ. I see this as an opportunity to redress the balance and take charge of a situation that is largely of our own making.
In my 27 years as a florist the business of flowers has changed beyond recognition, but a lot of the people who work in it haven't. Let me explain. When I was studying floristry at college in Plymouth, part of my training included work experience in a local flower shop. Back then customers weren't as discerning, their expectations weren't as high and floristry (thanks to social media) wasn't the aspirational career that it is today. Floristry was seen as something that 16 year old school leavers with poor exam results and house wives whose children had left home did. The very shrewd shop owner summed it up succinctly, when I asked her why we couldn't have more unusual flowers in the shop apart form carnations and chrysanthemums.
"Plymothians are too thick to appreciate anything else".
Looking back on those words which I thought so shocking at the time, I realise that she was right, and now know why she drove around in a Rolls Royce! Her business was successful because she knew exactly who her customers were, what their expectations were and what they were prepared to spend. She had no aspirations to be anything other than a local florist who ran her business strictly and very effectively. I think there are too many florists trying to be all things to all people and please everyone. I know from personal experience that people pleasers get walked on.
Since then of course the way that flowers are sold has changed radically. Buying flowers inexpensively at supermarkets has revolutionised the way we think about how much they cost. When I was training you could buy a bunch of spray carnations for £1.95. Before I started writing this post I checked online to see what they cost now, and Asda are selling them for £2.00! Is it any wonder then that the general public think that independent florists are expensive? To anyone outside the industry we must seem extortionate!
In recent years the rise of discount stores and cheap online deals has firmly embedded the idea that we can get everything on the cheap in our psyches. Don't get me wrong, I love a bargain and discovering a deal, but I'm not mean. As a small business owner I understand and appreciate that other small business owners work very hard to make a profit, and a decent living, not to rip people off.
Part of the problem in my opinion lies within the wedding industry itself, including the bridal press, bloggers and even wedding planners who don't support suppliers in the way they should. I should point out however that my husband is a wedding planner, so between us the conversation in our house revolves around little else. Through him I've learnt how the many arms of our industry interact and treat one other, and frankly it shocks me.
We often rant about the way the bridal magazines and bloggers ignore or praise whoever is or isn't flavour of the month, how they fill their pages with fabulous flower heavy images, and then on the next page tell you how to plan your entire wedding for £5,000. I'm very fortunate to have a fantastic relationship with one bridal publication, but I've also been on the snooty receiving end, having not been considered good enough to even talk to. So what's my beef with planners, considering I'm married to one? The good ones don't send you 27 pages of floral drivel (aka a "Floral Design Brief") and prevent you from meeting the clients - that is all!
I know this last paragraph sounds as though I'm just having a go a certain sectors of the industry, but I and my fellow florists are also guilty of allowing ourselves to be treated shamefully. We aren't always generous to one another, we complain loudly in private about how we're treated, but sit on the fence publicly for fear of rocking the boat, and we definitely don't say NO enough. None of us likes turning down work, but if a potential client sends you an email with the words "and I want the flowers to be as cheap as possible", do you really want that sort of work?
In my grumpy middle age I have decided that I'm not going to be walked all over any more. I won't submit a quote without knowing the budget, and if as one groom said to me "if we don't have the tea lights on the tables, that will save 50p from the overall budget", it's time to find another florist.
Photography: John Nassari