Dramatic increases in business rates for many London florists are a cause for concern for the traders at the capital's largest flower market.
The New Covent Garden Flower Market started trading in its new (very bright) building opposite the Battersea Power Station yesterday. But traders have been preparing for more than just a change of location this year; rising business rates in London also mean they are changing their business model.
John Hardcastle, owner of Bloomfield Wholesale Florist, said that the "UK in general is tough on rent" and that the changing nature of the UK high street has forced him and others to diversify their business.
Rents have increased markedly for independent florists over the past ten years, which has in turn led to a jump in business rates for many high street stores in London. This means wholesalers are increasingly catering to the weddings market, as well as event organisers, photographers, and corporate clients, instead of high street flower shops. The independent shops are also struggling to compete with supermarkets.
The devaluation of sterling is also putting pressure on the market traders, who buy the bulk of their stock from Holland and South America. Hardcastle operates on margins of around 15 per cent, so sterling's devaluation has been particularly troubling for his business.
And, he can't get cheaper prices from his suppliers in Holland. The suppliers bid for flowers at the Aalsmeer flower auction, and have international clientele buying their product.