COVID Diaries 1
Flowers by Nattrass’s journey since March has been one heck of a roller coaster. There’s been some rather steep downward spirals, but also a couple of highs. Here’s our month by month COVID journey so far, as told by Sally:
Thank god we got Mother’s Day squeezed in! It was the strangest one yet – we knew we needed to get all our deliveries out, yet there was a sense that we shouldn’t be out and about, and the roads were weirdly quiet. It wasn’t as busy as usual, but we had predicted this and bought less flower.
We all went home on Mothering Sunday, and unfortunately, some of our members of staff haven’t been back since.
All of our contract work has been cancelled, and the emails are crazy with weddings postponing. That’s over £100,000 worth of turnover gone in a week. Lots of tears, lots of anxiety. Flowers by Nattrass is a family business that has been running since 1959, surely this can’t be the end?!
The government have announced Furlough and business loans, so we’re looking into everything. All the staff are on furlough, and the business is shut.
By mid-April we’re back up and running! After a few weeks of sitting at home we were A. Climbing the walls and B. Realising that the phone was ringing a lot. However, it’s only myself and Mark as we’re one household and can run everything together.
By the beginning of May, we took one member of staff off furlough as we were so busy we couldn’t cope, and are operating from our old Garden Centre premises. It’s safe, we can work outside and there’s tonnes of room. It was our storage area, where we’d spill into during busy periods and the home of Strelitzia Software.
The shop in the centre of town is sitting empty. We’ve got a big sign in the window letting people know we’re taking orders for delivery, and we are soooo busy!!
It’s the end of lockdown, and we need to start seriously thinking about Staff and our shop in town. We’ve run the numbers (thanks Strelitzia!) and there’s no way we can keep everyone on. And so, begins the horrible process of redundancies. We make 4 redundancies, which is going to be expensive for the business. But cheaper and very necessary in the long run. Our staff tend to stay with us a long time, so the full payments are large.
Still no sign of weddings and a lot of angst about the work we currently have. The gift work has dipped slightly.
We make the big decision to keep our town centre shop shut. It doesn’t make sense to open it. It’s a long skinny shop and we can’t envision how we can make it COVID secure. The expense that goes into keeping a retail shop open from 9-5 is a cost that we can’t afford right now.
Things are working at our old garden centre premises. We’ve got a big old sundries house that is our workrooms, and we’re working outside a lot.
But the sundries house gets too cold in the winter, too hot in the sun and leaks when it rains, so it’s not a permanent scenario – there’s only so far you can push a florist!!
Strelitzia moved into the workrooms and converted it into offices 10 years ago, so we are making plans to convert it back. Strelitzia have outgrown the space, and especially in COVID times, more space is vital. We’re going to knockdown the sundries and build a temporary office there for Strelitzia. Now all we need is planning permission…
Things are looking up! Weddings are starting to enquire once again and we did our first wedding post lockdown. The amount of paperwork that’s involved with COVID weddings postponing and adding and taking off and cancelling is EPIC. And all for no extra payment. But hey, at least the majority are just postponing.
Some of our contract work is back as hotels are accepting guests again and with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme restaurants are keen to get some flowers back on their tables.
Only slight issue is the planning still hasn’t gone through for work on the new offices. As we go into Autumn, we’re going to need our workrooms back (sorry Strelitzia).
Life seems to have regained a smidge of normality.
Planning approved! Christmas is starting to rear its ugly head. To organise wreath workshops or not??
Good job we didn’t.
It’s easy to feel like we’re almost back to square one. But the gift work is still going and there’s a lot of people ordering plants and flowers for their own homes.
We have no idea what October will bring, but the only thing we can do is try to stay positive. We know our numbers, and we’ve reduced the team so we can survive. We need a big push with our marketing – thanks to the 100’s of web orders we’ve had in plus all the phone orders, we’ve got lots of new customer details and lots of nice new email addresses. Time to export them out of Strelitzia and update Mailchimp!
So much love to all our fellow florists – we’ll give you another instalment of our COVID diaries at the end of October. If you'd like to share any of your COVID stories, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org