How to open a florist shop business: A comprehensive guide

Whether it’s wooing that special someone with a sultry red rose, or expressing sympathy with delicate white lilies, a bouquet of flowers can express our deepest feelings in a way that words alone just can’t. But surprisingly, it’s actually not the gift industry where demand for flowers is at its strongest — research shows that almost half of all money spent on flowers is for decorating our own homes, with services like Freddie’s Flowers boasting a monthly subscription base of over 135,000 customers as of February 2021.

The market for cut flowers and ornamental plants has blossomed in recent years, and the latest estimate valued the industry at £2.2bn. Now, as the market continues to be lucrative, it’s the perfect time for aspiring florists to start sowing the seeds of their business success. To help you do just that, we’ve put together a host of tips to show you how you can nurture your own florist shop from seed to plant, and cultivate a flourishing business:

  1. Creating a business plan
  2. Location
  3. Business Licensing and registration
  4. Obtaining the right insurance
  5. Equipment
  6. Employees
  7. Marketing your business

Create a business plan: What type of florist shop are you looking to open?

So, now that your mind is set and you know you want to open a florist shop, you need to start thinking about what kind. Are you content with overseeing a small business serving a loyal, local customer base? Or do you have bigger goals of expanding your network and providing freshly cut flowers to customers across the nation?

Start by considering the size of the orders you’re looking to fulfil. Local floristry, while smaller-scale, still has the potential to become big business. Weddings and funerals are the cornerstone of the floristry industry and, for these big events, a lot of people still feel more comfortable buying from their local florist. Being able to actually see the flowers and visualise the arrangements is a big deal when it comes to event planning and as such, having a physical shop could be a big advantage if event floristry is your goal.

Online Florist Shop

For those with loftier ambitions, the answer may be online. With the retail world continually becoming more about convenience over personal service, online floristry has blossomed into a very profitable option. It’s not too much of a concern if you’re not a tech wizard — there are a host of website building tools out there which can make the process quick and simple. You’ll also have the option of online advertising available, but more on that later.

By operating as an online delivery service, you cut down on the costs associated with a physical shop. You also don’t have to worry about running a shop floor, leaving you to focus more on organising, marketing, and selling your product directly. However, the lack of physical premises means that you’re sacrificing the spontaneous sales which can come from passing customers. There are also the logistics of shipping your products to consider, which brings the need to either hire and organise your own drivers, or partner with an existing delivery service.

This is where joining a relay organisation could be to your advantage. Currently, of the 6,700 florist businesses operating in the UK, around 80% of the market belong to relay organisations like InterFlora, Teleflower and Flowergram. They provide support to smaller businesses in marketing and branding, while giving access to international links with other florists, so even small businesses can compete with the industry big dogs.

These organisations create an international link between independent florist shops. For example, if a customer placed an order at your shop to be delivered to someone on the other side of the country, the order is sent on to the relay scheme’s head office, who would then contact another shop more local to the recipient to fulfil and deliver the order. This gives you all the advantages of a wide-ranging delivery service, but without the hassle of actually shipping your product.

However, it’s important to understand the potential financial implications of partnering with a relay organisation. Both florists get payment from the arrangement, but at varying levels depending on the job. Typically, the sending florist (in this example, you) will retain around 20% of the payment, and the rest will be sent on to the relay organisation with the florist local to the recipient receiving 80%. There are also usually membership fees and exclusivity agreements to consider.

What do I need to include in my business plan?

Once you’ve decided on the type of florist you’re looking to open, it’s time to get cracking on the most important part — your business plan. As a general guide, you’ll want to include:

  • What type of business you want to run
  • Whether you want to partner with a relay organisation
  • Which products you’ll stock
  • Your budget
  • The funding you have
  • What your pricing will be
  • Which premises you’ll run your business from
  • Your branding
  • Any marketing and advertising
  • Any staffing costs

Carefully consider the demand

The floristry industry is ever growing, with new customers sprouting up every day. Every customer is different, though, and exactly what they want to buy can vary wildly.

Firstly, get a feel for the general area you might want to locate your premises in. You don’t need to have a clear cut plan for the exact location, but understanding the demographics of the area can help you identify your target market and analyse their tastes. For instance, some areas may have more of a demand for local specialty plants, whereas in more multicultural hubs, there may be an appetite for imported strains not typically found in the country. Take a look at what other florists in the area are offering and tailor yours around what’s popular, or what’s missing, to have the best chance of getting that footfall through the door.

It might be worth considering what other items you could stock beyond the reams of vibrant petals and glistening leaves. Could you offer gardening products, such as seeds, tools, or flower arranging equipment to widen your potential earnings? Or, if you want to focus on providing large floral arrangements for events, how about stocking the associated decorations to complement them?

Research what events are a staple of the local community. That annual summer fête could be the perfect place to display your colourful blossoms. Or maybe a partnership with a local wedding venue or funeral home could be the perfect business partnership just waiting to bloom.

For those urban florists, especially those close to travel hubs, it’s worth thinking about the commuter market who will be passing by each day. Rather than focusing on large outdoor plants or heavy gardening products, could you perhaps invest in more portable bouquets of flowers? Or maybe even make a move on the growing “plant parent” market with a variety of potted house plants? Think carefully about exactly what may appeal to your target audience.

consider your location

Wading through the jungle of commercial premises can be unnerving, but finding the right one for your business is essential.

Start by considering the landmarks in your aspired area. For urban florists, locations close to travel links like train stations, or common visitor locations, like hospitals, can provide a consistent stream of customers. By contrast, for those in a sleepy village, picking a location near the high street, on a main road, or close to a community hub can increase the chances of enticing customers through your doors.

Rent or mortgage on an appropriate venue can range anywhere from £1000 – £5000 per month on average, making it the most expensive aspect of launching your business. Ensuring you budget correctly and stick to it, therefore, is absolutely essential to keeping costs as low as possible.

The main thing that will impact on cost is space. How much you need will depend on the type of florist shop you are looking to run, but that’s not all you need to bear in mind. Think carefully about what furniture or equipment is needed, and how the space will be used and presented to the customer. Will any renovation or redecoration be needed? If so, how much will it all cost?

Part of purchasing or renting a commercial premises involves conveyancing, or for a solicitor to oversee the leasing process, which will typically range from around £400 – £1500, depending on the length and scale of the work needed. All of this will affect the cost of the premises, and those costs can multiply rapidly. Make sure that this has all been carefully weighed up against your budget.

Licenses and registration

Every business needs to be registered with HMRC and Companies House (whether that’s as a sole trader, limited company, or partnership) and operating premises need to be filed under the correct use class. For a retail establishment like a florist shop, this would be class A1. If yours needs to be changed, that can be done by contacting the Local Planning Authority.

Everything will need to be registered at least 28 days before opening to customers, so make sure that you get your affairs in order early.

Costs involved in starting a florist

No business can open for free and a florist shop is no different. But strict, shrewd budgeting can prevent these costs from overgrowing. The biggest start-up cost you’ll face will probably be the licensing fees for your commercial premises, followed by the upfront costs of any equipment you need.

There will also be your regular outgoings on a monthly or annual basis, such as:

  • Rent for commercial premises
  • Utilities
  • Employees
  • Stock
  • Insurance
  • Marketing
  • Licensing fees

One final thing: make sure to consider things like whether you’ll be playing music inside the shop, as this will require a licence. Otherwise, you’ll be risking a hefty fine.

Get the right insurance

Having the correct licensing in place is essential, but equally as important is insurance. A good florist insurance policy will be tailored to fit your specific business, with all the covers in place to protect you financially from any claims made against yourself or your business. The most important insurance covers you’ll want included within your policy are:

  • Public liability insurance: The backbone of any business insurance policy, this cover will protect you if a claim is made against yourself or your business by a third party who has suffered injury or illness as a result of your business’ operations
  • Employers liability insurance: A legal obligation if you employ any staff, this specific cover provides protection in case a member of your staff suffers injury or illness as a result of their work for your business
  • Business interruption insurance: Sometimes, having to close your business for a period of time is inevitable. Having this particular insurance cover in place will ensure you can make a claim for any lost revenue during this time period, however brief it is
  • Business contents insurance: This will protect any equipment, stock, or other items kept within your business premises from loss, damage, or theft, and covers any repairs or replacements

Not all business insurance policies are created equal, so your best bet is to take out a specialist florist or shop insurance policy. These policies are bespoke, containing all the insurance covers that you should need to operate your business and keep yourself protected:

  • Florist Insurance: Designed specifically to cater to the insurance needs of florists, a specialised florist insurance policy will provide all the necessary cover for your day-to-day operations
  • Shop Insurance: An insurance policy unique to retail premises such as shops, a shop insurance policy will provide the correct insurance covers to ensure you have the right protection for your specific type of business

Buying equipment

You won’t be able to run a florist from an empty room, so of course you’ll need to think about what equipment you need. This will likely be among the biggest upfront costs you’ll face, so make sure that you’ve thought about exactly what you’ll need to fully operate your florist shop. Some equipment you should consider include:

  • Cash register
  • Card reader
  • Telephone
  • Pots and vases
  • Baskets
  • Stands
  • Shelves
  • Coolers
  • Floral foam
  • Floral wire
  • Floral tape
  • Preservatives and soil
  • Branding and signage

Remember, floristry is a visual business, so displaying your plants in a way that accentuates their beauty, as well as keeping them fresh, is paramount. You’ll also be running a shop, so ensuring that you have all the amenities necessary is just as important. It bears repeating again here: make sure that everything fits within your budget.

Hiring your workforce

Unless you’re planning for this to be a solo project, you’ll need a capable workforce alongside you to help your florist shop flourish.

First things first, how many employees will you need? What are you expecting demand to be like? If you’re facing an overwhelming daily rush of customers that leaves your mind as scrambled as a spider plant, you may need more staff than you would in a small, calm village.

Or maybe you’ve opted for an online delivery florist and don’t need shop staff at all. In that case, how many employees do you need to process, pack and deliver orders? How about growing and maintaining the plants? Is that something that you can cover alone, or is help needed?

Consider whether your staff will need any training. Do they know how to care for plants? Do they have any experience in flower arranging to help you in making your shop look it’s best? These are things that you may be able to teach yourself, but there are a bunch of paid courses out there which could be worth looking into as well.

Marketing

From vibrant red roses and soft white lilies, to the earthy green tones of the philodendron, flowers are an advertiser’s dream as far as colourful and creative marketing campaigns go. Marketing is all about being eye-catching and attractive and, luckily for you, you’ve chosen one of the most aesthetically pleasing products around.

But how and where are you going to tell people what you have on offer? That all depends on the kind of florist shop that you’re running and who your target audience is.

You could consider a local poster and leaflet-based campaign, or look further afield and venture into the online and social media space. If you already have an online presence, Google paid ads are a great option which lets you bid to place ads on the first page of Google.

There are a wealth of options out there, so if you’re finding it hard to see the wood for the trees, you could think about contacting a marketing agency who will handle it all for you.

Obviously, with so many different approaches, costs can vary and can quickly stack up. However, this investment could lead to a whole crop of new customers sprouting up before your eyes, so it’s definitely worth putting the time into researching the correct approach for your business.

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