How To Set Up A Florist
It’s a dark and damp Wednesday evening, and trudging to work felt particularly depressing. As always my mind wandered to business ideas, so that I can finally escape the incessant rat race. If only I could get away from the endless quarter closes that always feel like life, and death moments for my mortgage. Sure, sometimes they are awesome, and I walk shoulders back, chin high, and 6ft 6 along the high road (which is a spectacular achievement as I’m barely 5ft tall). But, this feeling is becoming less, and less common as I get older and as my sales targets are increased exponentially.
As I stood getting soaked waiting for a bus, I was wondering what it was like to be a florist.
Do people buy more flowers on rainy days to cheer their loved ones up, or does the weather keep people away?
Does having your place of work full to the brim of fresh smells, and vibrant colours offset having to get up at stupid o’clock to pick up new stock?
Does knowing your business is saving relationships, and probably a tiny bit responsible for population increases between some lucky couples. Off set creating heart wrenching messages on wreathes for the funerals of loved ones?
So At FindMeAStartUp.com we decided to look at the pros, the cons, and what is required to run a successful Florist business. To do this we interviewed successful Florist entrepreneurs, and researched as much as we could to give our readers a substantial summary.
Benefits that will make you jump for joy:
- Artistic expression, with reliable financial remuneration (without having to be dead to make a living)
- No professional qualifications required
- Ever changing office, depending on the season
- Growing market, with countless ways to find your niche, and diversify
- Rewarding – you will be a huge part of your customer’s lives, during their biggest moments (Births, weddings, anniversaries, promotions, family celebrations, first prom etc.)
- Florists can achieve profitability of 60-70%, versus the rest of retail which normally achieves around 50% for a successful business
- Leftover stock to brighten your home
- A billion pound industry
Negatives that will make you want to punch yourself in the face
- Work most weekends, and special occasions
- Early starts, and long days, not uncommon to be expecting deliveries at 4am
- Supermarkets sell flowers for £10
- Recessions can hit Florists hard
- Cold working environment due to the refrigeration equipment
Can I run a florists from home?
Yes. As most of your business will be taken over the phone, and online. The only blocker from setting up as a Florist is the type of home you have. I.e. if you are in an apartment block, it is not going to be convenient for deliveries. You will also want to keep your stock away from places like the kitchen, with the temperature changes. Once set up, let your neighbours know that you have set up, always good for some recurring revenue. Then focus on marketing to the local community.
What you will need to set up?
- Business plan – mandatory for any successful business. This helps you focus on your niche, attain goals, and look for finance if and when it is required.
- Join a relay organisation such as InterFlora, Teleflower or Flowergram. This will give you the ability to compete with multi national chains, and add a limited support network to your business. The “sending” Florist on average keeps 20%, whilst the “delivering” Florist keeps the rest (minus the commission to the relay organisation). To join a relay organisation you also will need to pay a membership fee, and probably sign an exclusivity agreement. Some also provide websites for your business to use, they then take a higher percentage. When starting up you will have lots of things to focus on, and if you are new to the industry this can be a good way to start until you find your feet.
- Floral Arranging Course/s – Although no qualifications are needed, FindMeAStartup strongly recommends you attend a recommended floral arranging course/s in your area (check local colleges, they often run night classes, and Google). Bespoke arrangements are going to be key to you competing with the established chains and supermarkets. Common sense says a bit of training would come in handy. Plus once you are experienced, running courses from your shop can drive footfall, create awareness, plus provide an extra revenue stream.
- Premises – Are you going to start from home, or do you want to have a shop on the high street? Costs vary significantly depending on your answer. So the first thing you need to decide is what is your niche, and who are your customers. I.e. if your focus relies on footfall, it is unlikely your home is going to be ideal. Whereas selling to businesses is all about building relationships, letting businesses know you exist, marketing your work and your specialisation. This should make up the majority of your business plan. So that you can work out how much you need to sell to cover your fixed costs.
- Market Research – To help you find your niche, and make sure your idea is a goer we strongly recommend you do your share of market research. You will probably only have one shot at being successful in this industry, better to go in pre armed. So you want to be the local exotic orchids emporium, and your niche is summer funerals. I am being a little facetious, but you get my point. How much do people normally spend on funerals, how much will it cost for you to deliver, how available is your stock in the summer, and how much will you need to sell to achieve your goals (and pay the bills).
- Product – Once you have decided the above you then need to think about the type of products you are going to stock. Dried, artificial, fresh flowers? Exotic flowers, or intricate arrangements? Add ons, such as cards, chocolates, teddy bears, balloons, house plants etc. This will come down to your target market, if you are focusing on funerals chocolates may not be ideal. Or if you are targeting weddings, spending capital on Get Well Soon cards may not be advisable. You will only have limited funds initially for stock, so spend wisely.
- Insurance – As soon as you start dealing with the public insurance is always recommended. As much as people are unlikely to lose an eye falling on a tulip petal. Customers may have allergies and decide this was your fault for not knowing little Johnny would break out in a rash as soon as he smelled your carefully prepared bouquet of chrysanthemums. Insurance starting off will not be that expensive, so better to be prepared.
- Website – This is your window to the outside world. You have 2 options, develop your own or use one supplied by a relay organisation. This will depend on funding, technological know how, and time. To be a huge player, and branch out you will 100% need your own website to build your brand, and follow your niche. That said starting off, it can be easier to use the relay sites. You can then focus on marketing your brand locally. As you get up and running and you are seeing a return on your investment, you can build your perfect online shop front on the side. Then when it is perfect, focus on search engine optimisation, to get your site up the rankings.
How competitive is the market?
Florist numbers in the UK have remained pretty constant for the last 20 years. That said as many new florists open each year, as go out of business.
- Supermarkets – 80% of flowers imported from Dutch suppliers go to supermarkets. Customers can pick up a bouquet for a tenner. As an independent Florist you will need to sell a hell of a lot of flowers in this bracket to turn a profit. So you will need to find your high end niche to maximise your returns.
- Relay Organisations – If you are not a member these guys will win a lot of the online delivery business in your area. Be a member, problem solved.
- Local florists – The key to competing against the established players in your market is understanding their business as much as possible. A little bit of espionage comes into play here, as it is unlikely they will give you all their secrets if they think you are opening up next door. Become a regular customer of your future biggest competitor (even if you are only buying small things just as an excuse to go in and have a chat. Start with small talk, whilst looking at their set up, how they have it laid out, are they busy when you come in (visit at different times). Do they have someone constantly at the pc taking orders, is the phone ringing off the hook? Try and only ask one or two questions related to the business per visit, if they think it is a survey they will close up. Ask open ended questions, e.g. I love coming into your store it makes me feel so relaxed, although I bet it can be stressful to run. What is the most stressful thing about running a florists in “insert local area name here”? When they answer, never interrupt, you want them to keep talking as long as possible. Interruptions distract them from doing that. Then delve further into their answers; E.g.
Florist – “We do a lot of work with local hotels, and they can be so demanding, looking for discounts if one flower is out of place.”
You – “Wow that is interesting, I thought they would be more lenient as you are a local business. Although there are a lot of hotels round here, so I suppose if you lost one or two as customers you would be happier? (In case it doesn’t land as a question) Would you?
Florist – No, I have lost 3 this year already, and I need the others to keep me afloat.
Yes, I am thinking about that, our wedding business is going through the roof and we need to focus on other areas. It is just hard to let things go.
Couple of questions and you have already garnered vital knowledge about the market. Although you still do not know enough to know the reasons behind the answers. A few more visits and follow up questions, plus visits with the other florists in the area to sanity check the information should put you in good stead.
What do I need to be successful?
- A love for flowers
- Creative and design flair
- Capital – Stock, Equipment (Large refridgeration, containers, display pedestals etc.), delivery driver, rent, insurance
- People person – You are dealing with people at special moments in their life, they will be fussy, and always right
- Time management – lots of orders to be ready at different times
- Part time delivery driver – you cannot be 2 places at once
- Morning person – 4am starts for deliveries, are you literally up for it?
- Go getter – You need to be able to think of fresh ideas on how to increase your market, try new ideas, and be enthusiastic this will make the difference to you running a failed home florist, and a successful nationwide chain putting your competitors to shame.
Start up costs – (approximate)
- Premises – £0 (Home) – £20,000 (Rent)
- Website – £0 (Relay, Own skills) – £4,000 (Designed)
- Stock – £10,000 (Ongoing variable cost
- Equipment – £5,000
- Marketing – £5,000
- Staff – £12,000 (Part time driver, 2 hours a day, 6 days a week)
- Insurance – £650
- Approximate Total Start Up Cost – £50,000