Avid readers of the blog will know that we had the pleasure of creating a floral installation for British Vogue at the Regent Street Cinema last month. Widely regarded as the birthplace of British cinema, the venue was transformed for Vogue’s exclusive presentation of 2018 Autumn and Winter trends. The honour of creating the flowers fell to our spectacular McQueens events team, and the blooms were sourced from Dutch suppliers, Rijnsflowers.
Here at McQueens, we are fortunate to have wonderful relationships with some of the best growers and suppliers in the UK and afar, and it is with thanks to Rijnsflowers and an awe-inspiring selection of blooms that we created the large-scale autumnal installation.
Holland has always been a global player in the floristry business, with the flower market at Aalsmeer currently the largest flower market in the world, and their story is truly a unique tale of one man’s passion and perseverance to make it in the competitive world of flower exports.
It was with pleasure that we caught up with Rijnsflowers, Lianne de Boer, to find out more about the company and the fascinating story behind their thriving, international business.
Lianne, what is the history of the business?
About 40 years ago, our founder Peter Hoek, started a small flower shop in the centre of the little coastal town Katwijk (located about 10 minutes from the Rijnsburg Flower Auction). After five years he decided to sell the shop, bought a truck and started as a ‘Flying Dutchman’ in France. The funny thing is that he didn’t even have an official driver’s licence and barely spoke a word of French, but despite the odds, he quickly managed to build a solid customer base. Every week he took a truck full of flowers towards France (which is an 18-hour drive, one way!) and drove back empty.
Before long, Peter found out that the people in France and Italy produced a great selection of flowers and foliage, and he began importing them and selling them back home in Holland. This soon became Peter’s core business, and he found a location in Holland where he could keep the stock.
More and more florists saw the advantage of having one supplier with all different types of fresh flowers (instead of buying their own stock at the auction) and after a couple of years, Peter and his son Ruben started exporting the flowers from Holland to clients all over the globe. That is, is in a nutshell, how Rijnsflowers grew from a local flower shop to a company with over 250 employees which now supply clients in over 44 countries worldwide.
Who are your clients and where are they based?
Our clients are florists, event planners and wedding designers, based in Europe, the UK, Asia, the Middle East and USA (altogether 44 countries).
What flowers do you offer, and do you have a particular area of expertise?
Every day we offer a range of 4.000 different types of flowers. Our expertise still consists of import products – anemone, ranunculus, eucalyptus etc – from Italy and the Southern France, but also carnations from Colombia. In the summertime, we have one of the widest selection of summer flowers within the Netherlands. We also have 22 product specialists all responsible for their own product. We have a buyer for the Dutch roses, one for the import roses, one for lilies, one for alstroemeria and so on.
We think it is really important that our buyers have a good relationship with the growers they do business with. For us, and also for our customers, it is important to know how the market ‘moves’. Are there new products? Do they expect a flush? How is the quality of the crop? Are there troubles due to the weather? And so on. This is crucial information for our clients, especially in the run-up to an important wedding or event, for example.
How has the flower industry changed over the years?
From our point of view, one of the biggest changes in the industry is the internet (just like in almost every business). About 85% of all the flowers ordered at Rijnsflowers is done online. Just a couple of years ago, our salespeople were only calling our customers. Now almost everyone is shopping online.
Because we use ‘live photos’ on our webshop, it’s possible for clients to see the product they’re buying. Another big change is the delivery time. More and more people are ordering their products online nowadays, and we’re all used to quick delivery times. If I order shoes today, I want to receive them tomorrow. We do exactly the same with flowers. Ordered today in the UK today and they’ll arrive first thing tomorrow. We’re continuously developing our online ordering and delivery processes to keep up with current trends.
Which countries buy the most flowers?
Rijnsflowers started by exporting flowers to the UK and today it is still our main market, but we are noticing a change with increasing demand from other countries, especially the USA and Asia.
The UK is considered to be a top destination for flower lovers to learn more about floristry. Why do you think that is?
We think London plays a big role in this. It is a city that breaths creativity, art and fashion. It’s something you can clearly see in the creations made by UK florists and floral designers. Besides that, London has a lot of famous florists and of course the McQueens Flower School. We really believe that the effort you put in spreading the love of flowers via your school, word of mouth and social media, is also a big reason that the UK is considered to be a top destination to learn more about flowers.
What are the emerging trends in flowers?
We see that vintage and pastel colours are still big this year (especially at weddings). We also notice that our customers are looking for more different types of flowers, a more ‘wild/natural’ look.
Where do you see the future of the industry?
For us, we see a future where fast delivery and a diverse assortment are getting more and more important to our customers. For the industry, we hope that businesses like yours never stop inspiring people, especially younger generations, to love flowers. That is so important. Here in Holland, we see that flowers are not as popular with the young generation as they were back in the day. That is why we try to inspire them together with Flower Council Holland.
The flower industry is a huge global industry. What do you think it is about flowers that make them so special?
We think flowers are so special because they are suitable for every occasion. They are there during a wedding celebration, during a funeral, a moment of apology or a declaration of love. And that is exactly why we love what we do. We know that the flowers we sell will be used for a special moment, whatever that might be.