Q&A: Saying it with flowers

With Valentine’s Day almost upon us, this week’s Q&A is with Melbourne florist Vivien Hollingsworth, owner of Flos Botanical, on what peak trading days mean for small-business owners.

ISB: What does your Valentine’s Day typically look like?

VH: This year Valentine’s Day is on a Wednesday, so it really starts on Tuesday for all the florists, as that’s when we have to go to market. The market opens about 3am, so I’ll be up at 2am to make sure I get there early and can get as much as I need while it’s fresh.

Then all day Tuesday I’ll be making up preordered bouquets – with my extra staff in tow – and locking in delivery times. We won’t stop wrapping until the store is full and all of our preorders are done, so it’s a long day. On Valentine’s Day morning, it’s another early start to wrap all the bouquets we’ve made up and get them out.

ISB: Is Valentine’s Day your busiest trading day, and what are you most focused on now?

VH: Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are both huge trading days. But when you know you’re going to have to cater for 10 times more than your usual trade on just one day, you have to preplan to help things run more smoothly.

I’ve had my extra staff members locked in for months, we’re pushing preorders and advertising special Valentine’s bouquets on our website, as well as prebooking our couriers for when we’ll be busiest. I’ve even got a couple of extra Square readers on hand for queue-busting during the peak purchasing times.

ISB: What are the peak hour purchase times on Valentine’s Day?

VH: When Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday, our delivery orders are almost double than what they are when it falls on a weekend. We do get a consistent stream of phone and online orders from people at work during the day, but the peak times are definitely the early pick-ups from people on their way to work, the lunch-time drop-ins and then the mad dash after work (which is by far the busiest) before people meet up to celebrate.

ISB: And are roses still the most popular purchase on Valentine’s Day?

VH: Well, the red rose is iconic. But I’m finding that more and more people want mixed floral arrangements and something a bit different. Customers will usually ask for colour palettes like pink or red, so I will include some roses but also populate the bouquet with lots of natural native blooms.

The natives have definitely risen in popularity over recent years, not only do they have a lower price point and last longer, but a plethora of great florists have popped up and put really cool arrangements together, which has helped show them in a new light.

Orchids and plants of all kinds are also becoming more popular, especially as more people see Valentine’s Day as a day to share some love among all their friends, rather than just to celebrate partners. Again, people love that for a similar price they’re a bigger bouquet that’s going to live longer.

ISB: What can people expect to pay?

VH: I think the average spend is probably about $50. Some people spend a lot more, with higher-end bouquets pushing over $100, but you can also pick up some smaller blooms starting around $10. Anything that has to be imported, like some roses, is also going to cost a bit more. Flowers that have just come into season, like tulips, are also dearer so you won’t see as many of them around this year.

ISB: What’s your top advice for people looking to purchase some great blooms this year?

VH: Preorder, preorder, preorder! Preorder a couple of days in advance if you can, especially if you want a delivery. Couriers can’t guarantee same-day delivery for late purchases on Valentine’s Day – it’s just too manic. And if you forget to preorder, make sure you get to the florist as early as you can. A lot of bouquets will be shipped out before noon, so if you leave it to the last minute you’ll only have the leftovers to choose from — if any.

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