2020 - WOW! Where do I begin? In December 2019 the Chinese government ordered a regional lockdown throughout the city of Wuhan, due to a virus then referred to in the media as "Wuhan-flu". The virus rapidly spread and was given an official name #Covid19 and #Coronavirus. By January 2020, Italy was the first European country to experience the virus and their government also ordered a regional lockdown throughout Northern cities such as Milan. The British government ignored warning signs until March 2020.
By early March other European countries were closing their borders to contain the virus, which made us very nervous and concerned because we rely heavily on EU counties to provide the UK with fresh produce.
Mothering Sunday / Mother's Day is usually considered to be our busiest weekend of the year for providing bouquets for delivery and collection. Sadly this year on Sunday 22nd March 2020 was our worst ever recorded turnover for the biggest annual date with over 50% of stock unsold. Two weeks prior to Mother's Day, the UK government had suggested vigilance for safety by keeping distant from people. They didn't know how the virus spread proper, but knew it was potentially lethal for certain people with compromised health issues and the elderly. Customers reluctantly and quite understandably were concerned and chose not to put their parents at risk by not sending flowers. However, we did take several precautions such as using hand santiser for every stop and delivered flowers to the door, rang the door bell and walked away. We also requested that customers inform the recipient that they will be receiving flowers. For most people this was acceptable and appropriate under the circumstances.
By the Friday leading up to Mother's Day, the government announced that hotels, pubs and other venues alike be ordered to close. This lead to a deluge of phone calls from our brides and grooms who wanted to discuss postponing their weddings dates. This was exhausting to say the least; Negotiating new dates, some wanted two dates and some wanted to cancel. Weddings account for 50% of Blue Geranium Florist's annual revenue, which is a huge dent in our income.
After Mothering Sunday, the country was ordered to Stay Home and only venture out for essentials such as groceries. As I ventured out for essential groceries, walking about town was terribly sad and eerie with barely a soul on the streets. A few shops remained open to sell their essential groceries, but took on a new form by ordering customers to wait outside and only permit one or two people inside at a time. On a plus side the air was clean for a brief moment in time and the sound of chattering birds could be heard from what felt like miles away. Don and I isolated for two weeks just in case we had been exposed to the virus, but this was forced due to no fresh flowers being available from The Netherlands, after their government also ordered a national lockdown. As a precaution we closed the online shop to prevent disappointing customers who might place orders for delivery. After the initial ten days of national lockdown the government announced a gentle easing for businesses to accept phone and online orders for delivery only. This opportunity encouraged me to improve the online shop; A new price structure and limited days were introduced. Deliveries were for Wednesday to Friday only. By the end of the initial two weeks and the beginning of April, we started receiving phone calls for delivery of flowers from people who wanted to send flowers "Thinking of you", "Sorry we can't be with you" and "Missing you so much". It's all in the timing because Dutch suppliers were by now able to provide one delivery per week. We were inundated with requests and online orders surged by 600% in the first two weeks of April compared to previous patterns of selling flowers online. We initially struggled with demand, but somehow managed regardless and clocked up an average 65 miles per day and approx. 45 bouquets per week for the first month of lockdown.
I won't deny it, but we've actually improved our quality of life throughout this strange period. With more leisure time now that we don't work Saturday, Sunday or Monday,
we've both lost weight and feeling so much healthier. Some might say it's bliss and a dream to work with flowers; it is a wonderful career and a privilege, but it's also extremely time consuming and exhausting. We're using this opportunity that Mother Nature has cast upon the planet to pause and reflect, which means time to recover after years of hard work and almost seven days per week of thinking and working with flowers. We'll be healthier and fitter for the new year 2021.