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Looking After the Pennies: a Florist's Guide

"Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves"

An old proverb but oh, how true it is! It means If you concentrate on saving small amounts of money, you’ll soon amass a large amount.

When I first went into business, I bought a florist shop, a dream I had had since leaving school and discovering the joy of working with flowers. I was lucky, I did my apprenticeship in a very busy florist over seven years and then I went on to manage another very busy florist shop.

With the experience and lessons I learnt over the nine years, when it came to actually owning my own retail florist, I took the best elements from each past employer (in my opinion) and opened my business very confidently, thinking I would make lots of money within a few years.

Being a creative soul, it did not come naturally for me to think about profit, although I learnt pretty quickly that all that you take in revenue, in the shop, by telephone and on-line, does not mean that it’s all yours for spending!

In other words, and this is what I teach to my clients and students, everything you purchase for your business, from pens, to scissors, from fresh flowers, to loo rolls ALL are a cost to your business. I call it housekeeping. Keep a record of what you purchase and indeed what your buyer/manager purchases. This can be broken down into categories of the type of product/service you are paying for.

Everything you purchase for your business, are a cost to your business

This can be done on a weekly or monthly basis, either way it will give you a clear indication of where your money is going and in terms of utilities, salaries, fuel/van etc. of what you have to pay for regularly to keep your business trading.

This spend will change from month-to-month dependent on the time of year, the type of florist business you are and of course peaks will have a significant impact on spend. Over a period of time, you will recognise a pattern and this will help you to recognise where you could save money against your revenue (income) and ultimately your nett profit.

I come back to the proverb, the little savings will help you make a big difference over a period of time to your profit.

My little wins to save the pennies:

  • Never throw anything away if at all possible – you never know when you might be able to sell it. You can check out Alison Rudd's tips for minimising waste in a busy flower shop for more advice

  • Train your staff/team to watch what they throw away. So many times, I have seen reams of raffia/ribbon and packaging strips on the floor, ready to be swept up, and then put into the bin. Imagine if your team could see £1 coins on the floor… would they still sweep them up?

  • Never throw broken heads of flowers away – you can always make a ‘pick up and go’ gift with broken stems and broken heads can be utilised in many ways.

  • Have a process in place, that each team member is aware of costs and the retail price and how you get to the retail price. If they don’t know how you calculate the retail price, you may find you are literally giving money away.

  • Ensure you charge a skill/time/labour charge on each piece of work. Your team cost YOU money!

  • Ensure you charge for your packaging at retail NOT what it has cost you!

  • Using a good stock rotation process, will mean you should have less waste of perishable goods and overall a good turnover of stock.

  • Ensure you have a stock rotation process, so that you and your staff/team know what needs to be used first. This doesn’t just apply to perishable materials, it also refers to non-perishable goods. Customers do not want to see the same vases, gifts etc on the shelves, they like to see newness.

  • Negotiate with suppliers, on costs and loyalty.

  • Where possible, do not order stems by variety (unless you are buying for a specific event or occasion). Ordering by variety will almost certainly increase the stem price.

  • If you don’t need long stemmed roses, look to order shorter stems, but keep the head size where possible. You don’t want to be paying a premium for the stem length if you are going to be cutting it down.

  • Have a delivery vehicle that is economical to run.

  • Ensure your delivery driver plans the delivery runs as efficiently as possible to make sure you know how much your deliveries are really costing you.

  • Look at fuel card companies that can offer good rates.

  • Always keep an eye on business bank charges and if necessary, change banks.

  • Negotiate with credit card suppliers on their interest rates.

  • If you can gain free advertising, make the most of it – editorials are generally free of charge unlike adverts. Whenever you have a ‘story’ – use it to gain coverage of your business. Check out my article all about why PR is so important and how I benefited from a free feature in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

REMEMBER, it’s your money, it’s your business AND IT’S YOUR PROFIT!


With over 35 years’ experience, Karen Barnes is one of the UK’s leading consultants to the floral industry and an expert in product development, future trends & colours, and floral photography design & planning. She’s an interior floral designer, high profile wedding and event floral planner, and prominent international competition judge. ​In a distinguished career, Karen has been awarded gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, selected to judge two Floral Design World Cups and been voted one of the top ten florists in the UK by The Independent on Sunday Newspaper. ​Her style and influences come from new and popular flower varieties, fashion, art, travel and emerging trends on a global scale. Karen Barnes NDSF, IoPF, AIFD, CFD, CAFA, UKFJG


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