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Published on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 13:12 Written by Jackie McCarrick
Where are they now?
Shaheen Khan, owner of Floral Haven, Glasgow
She’s working harder and smarter, putting in longer hours and keeping tighter control of her buying – and that’s why Shaheen believes her business is still thriving whilst others in the area have fallen by the wayside.
In fact, some highly respected and old-established florists have vanished from the Glasgow scene in recent years as the economy has toughened.
Theoretically, that means more business for the ones that remain – but it certainly doesn’t come through the door without effort.
“Nobody is safe,” says Shaheen. “You have to keep your eye on the ball constantly, and once you’ve made that important first sale, work extra hard at making that person a customer for life”.
This is particularly true for weddings, where brides now expect much more personal contact and consultation in advance – often for a lower budget than previously.
“It’s about building a rapport with them and offering high standards of personal service, trust and reliability”
For Shaheen, that even means now offering a full design and costing brief after every consultation. It all means extra work, but shows a high level of professionalism so most brides come back and book on the strength of it.
Whilst there’s always the risk that a few will choose to take all that prep work to a rival florist and haggle for a lower price, it’s one that Shaheen reckons she has to take.
Average wedding budgets have fallen to the £500-600 mark, and she offers to help bridal budgets by suggesting families bring their own vases for table centres which can be used for handtied posies.
She has taken to exhibit at more local venues as brides dates are closer rather than two or sometimes three years away!
When it comes to her own cost-cutting to maintain profit margins, she has focused her attention on staffing and suppliers.
Shaheen has opted to work longer hours herself and employ one part-time florist and one full time florist.
Her delivery driver’s paid hours have been stretched further by combining the driving role with cutting and conditioning flowers.
This is in addition to now doing all the stock buying herself. It’s a fine balance between ensuring variety and keeping a tighter control on spending, without compromising on the quality of fresh flowers and plants.
Shaheen also takes twice yearly trips to Holland to source seasonal sundries which complement her flowers and plants. She found that the local sundries suppliers were not strictly “trade only”, so travelling overseas ensures she offers something different.
Her regular Dutchman is happy to deliver the sundries for her, so this is an exercise she is keen to continue, with her next trip planned ahead of Mothers Day.
Keeping the shop looking fresh and inspiring is another of Shaheen’s priorities. Since our last visit, she has changed the livery from the old Harrods-type dark green to a much lighter and more contemporary-looking shade.
She says: “Our main display windows change fortnightly, inviting lots of compliments whilst showing off our creative flair.”
But she’s also acutely aware that many of her customers never visit the shop in person – which is why she is so pleased with a new Google feature she has incorporated into her interactive website. It allows viewers to remotely “walk around” the shop, and see that it’s a real working florist’s as opposed to a warehouse on an industrial estate.
She has had an online ordering facility on her bespoke website for years, where her own work is showcased, with a wedding gallery of actual weddings. She has recently worked with a local photographer to take professional images. She comments “these weren’t too expensive, previously we tried to do them ourselves.”
Updating the website is important and although this accounts for a relative small percentage of orders, she reckons it’s vital to offer the service.
It’s for the same reason that she offers a relay service with direct2florist. She does not rely on orders through the system though, as her core business is from her own customer base. Working with a relay company makes it a one stop shop for sending flowers.
“We have to concentrate more and more on the service side of the business, on building relationships with customers” she says, “because if you offer that, then I believe you have a sustainable business, with scope to grow.”