Selling flowers to the high end of the market is a complex endeavour

AALSMEER – Portret van Jan de Boer van Barendsen Florists en assortiment. © 2017 Foto: Nils van Houts

In major cities on every continent you find top florists. They are alike because they work with flowers and plants. But they differ because they use their own individual styles  which are often influenced by their locale.

“Many top florists are constrained by location and availability,” says Jan de Boer from Barendsen Aalsmeer, a top-level floral supplier. “But many rich expats live in global cities nowadays. They want what’s not available locally, flowers that need to be procured elsewhere. This is often a fleeting demand. The following month the same expat may have moved elsewhere. We also see top florists having a relationship with multinational organisations such as the UN or large banks or the Formula 1 organization, getting requests for large floral decorations with very specific requirements.”

A fragile demand

“These designs require an exceptional level of sourcing,” De Boer continues. “It’s a fragile demand, sometimes influenced by the value of the Russian rouble. Normally these florists source flowers   locally when possible. But for these custom orders many of them source from a Dutch wholesaler. Why? Because the Dutch offer a complete assortment in large quantities of any desired quality on a daily basis. We have clients that normally buy roses from Ecuador and summer flowers from Israel. But when they plan  a millionaire’s wedding they contact  us.

This line of work is full of surprises. A Chinese wedding requires different flowers than a Russian, Indian or Italian wedding. The only certainty is that next week’s demand will be totally different. It’s even uncertain whether you will have a similar demand next week, because there are weeks without weddings, funerals and seminar arrangements. And rich brides and grooms compare prices too, so your offer might be rejected because they think you’re too expensive. Or, in the end, a bride and groom decide not to marry. Therefore, I have excellent contacts with top growers worldwide who know that this week’s demand may be irrelevant  next week.”


Roughly 5 to 10% of the Barendsen turnover involves these projects. De Boer: “Being able to help clients this way is our USP (unique selling proposition). We know where to find specific flowers on short notice, even  in large quantities. We know how to avoid mistakes. We know that no flowers equals no party. When I send 20,000 Hydrangeas to Jakarta, I must be certain  that the varieties I send will last until after the party.

Another uncertainty is that you have to ship flowers to various faraway locations. When there is a millionaire’s wedding party on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, you’re told the location of the delivery as late as possible for security concerns. By noon tomorrow they might need 600 stems of green orchids. Fulfilling this order requires adept coordination with growers and logistics suppliers.

The key here is a wide assortment, which is a Dutch USP. About ten Dutch companies are specialized in these special jobs. And believe me, it’s a very special endeavor.”

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