Can trading website help UK growers exploit new demand for cut flowers?

Exchange rates are also favourable for British flowers.

FloraBritain: group offers help to independent florists - image: Florismart
FloraBritain: group offers help to independent florists - image: Florismart

Lincolnshire growers' group FloraBritain and online seller Florismart are leading British flower growers' efforts to capitalise on Mothering Sunday and Easter, with exchange rates favouring home growers.

The UK retail cut flower industry is worth £2.2bn annually but British growers provide less than 10%. Florismart, which gives independent florists access to exporters, wholesalers and growers, uses FloraBritain as well as a Dutch supplier base. FloraBritain, Flowers from the Farm and Real Flower Company are likely to go live on Florismart in the second week of April.

Chief executive Steve France said Florismart was expecting record turnover of £1m in the week up to Mothering Sunday, up from £200,000 last year. It will sell to 600 florists and 5% of sales will be British flowers such as daffodils and tulips. He adds that in summer 15-20% of sales will be British flowers, through FloraBritain.

France, who set up Florismart two years ago, says he wants to bring in more growers, particularly with strong demand for vintage wedding flowers from florists. Most buyers are Dutch so the vast majority of the 7,500 UK florists sell Dutch flowers because that is what is available, he adds.

Growers such as Lambs Flowers sell direct to supermarkets but FloraBritain and Florismart can sell to a wider range of retailers that like to sell a wider range of flowers than the bigger retailers, France argues. He says logistics have always been a problem for UK growers so he has 80 vans using hubs in Northampton, Taunton, Hull, Glasgow and Ashford to collect British flowers and deliver to florists overnight. France says a £300m-a-year business includes only 1% British flowers but if it can get to 10-20% it would be great for UK growers. He is keen to incorporate Flowers from the Farm and other artisan grower groups.

Gill Hodgson set up not-for-profit group Flowers from the Farm in 2011 to promote British-grown cut flowers and encourage more production for the home market, so reducing imports while making less familiar varieties available to the public. She says exchange rates are "making florists look again at British flowers because they are paying so much more for imports and are looking to save money. I'm not keen because I want British flowers to be premium products but at least they're looking. They are taking British flowers seriously."

She adds that Florismart is "going to make a big impression this year" because in the past "the trouble with British growers is getting them to the florist". She adds: "Florists should be able to order British flowers as easily as Dutch. Both sides are keen to make this work."

Demand for British flowers

Sue Lamb of Lambs Flowers says: "We're definitely seeing people keener to take British flowers. Tulip demand is very good, predominately with Waitrose, and Asda and direct mail with Moonpig is way up, and also Waitrose Direct and Ocado. There is huge potential with British growers in British florists but it's getting it all to work together and getting the logistics right. Steve France is the engineer and he has the finance and intentions to do it."

France says previously there were no clear logistics in place to link British florists with the professional British growers. He adds that large flower growers in the UK specialise in growing four or five varieties throughout the year and are generally set up to sell larger amounts, therefore the minimum order quantities, and values, have been too high for the majority of florists who would prefer to buy a larger selection in smaller amounts.

He points out that of the large production of British flowers in Lincolnshire and Norfolk only a small amount has been available to florists in local wholesale markets, but these flowers are limited to the majority of florists because these markets are not easily accessible to all. Latest FloraHolland market research shows UK production is 10%, with 62% from Holland, 7% from Africa, 11% from South America and 10% other.


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