But as we celebrate the last Valentine’s Day before Brexit, there are grounds for optimism in the UK floral industry about its long-term business future. Will the UK market still be smelling of roses after the planned March 29 date for leaving the EU?
Or will Cupid’s dart puncture the growth of a green-fingered industry which, for the past few years, has very much been on the up in this country?
It’s a sad fact that the number of independent High Street florists has dwindled, as with many sectors, with insolvency and administration often being the only option for those facing financial pressures. Their role, however, has been taken over by large supermarkets chains and online shops to satisfy our floral passion. And whether you live in Leeds or Leyburn, Harrogate or Halifax, Bradford or Barnsley, Darlington or Doncaster, figures show that romance is not dead.
Analysts predict that over than £1 billion will be spent on loved ones this Valentine’s Day – on flowers, gifts, candlelit meals, and cards. Historically, the Netherlands was the main source of flowers, with nine in every ten bouquets imported from their auction houses That trend has reversed in recent years as the number of UK growers – including here in Yorkshire and the North East – have seen green shoots rise again in their profit forecasts.
It’s expected that this momentum among UK growers will continue to bloom as a result of mounting Brexit uncertainty over future imports. And it’s certainly a business sector with potential for growth. According to latest figures from trade body, the Flowers and Plants Association, the UK fresh cut flower and indoor plant market is worth £2.2 billion at retail level. To put this in context, the UK music industry is valued around £2 billion. And this represents an average spend per person per year of £36 (£28 on flowers and £8 on plants) – nearly five times higher than 1984 levels.
The trick now for the UK flowers and plants market is to build on this, and increase our average spend to European levels – around £100 a year. Having faced insolvency pressures for too long, there is no doubt that there is now a window of opportunity. As little as five years ago, business research showed that most people in the UK only bought flowers for special occasions like weddings and anniversaries – and of course Valentine’s Day. Now there is a growing culture change which has seen us buying fresh flowers and plants for our homes, workplaces and public places.
If this shift to all-year-round buying can be maintained, then hopefully our floral industry can look forward to a more rosy future.