Austerity drive hits floristry business
Sales of fresh flowers fell in late 2013 through ongoing government efforts to cut spending, including on decorations for the coming Spring Festival and other major celebrations.
Traders say individual customers have become the biggest buyers of flowers, replacing State- owned companies and government departments, which normally put in big orders for meeting venues and offices.
“Our main customers at the end of the year are individuals who want to send flowers to friends or relatives as gifts or put them in their homes to welcome another new year,” said Xu Wangli, a flower shop owner in Shanghai.
Xu said the store no longer gets large orders from Staterun companies, which used to buy flowers for annual parties.
Many flower stores now anticipate a drop in annual income of up to 100,000 yuan ($16,490) compared with previous years.
“We used to rely on the 20 percent profits coming from the annual parties organized by large companies, with more than 20 orders valued at more than 3,000 yuan each, and many more orders priced around 1,000 yuan,” said Luo Jia, a saleswoman at Shanghai Junqiang Gardening.
The more expensive flowers, such as streliteela and the kaffir lily, are not on individual buyers’ shopping lists this year, she said.
To adapt to the changing market, Luo said the shop has cut back on large floral arrangements and is focusing on medium and small bunches for families and individuals.
“Although orders from government departments have dropped dramatically, personalized orders from individual VIP customers and other private companies still exist,” she added.
Meanwhile, it seems most consumers are buying less expensive flowers these days.
“I prefer buying flowers at reasonable prices, such as lilies and roses, to decorate my apartment. Those luxuries packages are not really suitable for families,” said Wu Pengyuan from Shanghai, who buys flowers regularly to put on his dinner table.
With Spring Festival approaching, festive flowers such as moth orchids, narcissus and sanders dracaena (also known as lucky bamboo) are selling particularly well.
“The moth orchid has been the top seller in the shop for the past week because it’s one of the best flowers for decorating an apartment, with its bright colors and beautiful shape, making it popular with families,” said Zhu Qian, another shop owner in Shanghai.
The coming year is the year of the horse in China, and Zhu says the calla flower will probably be a big seller, as the plant’s name begins with the Chinese character meaning “horse”.
To mark Lunar New Year, many individual shoppers will be looking for flowers symbolizing good luck and wishes for a happy future.
Retired businessman Chen Jin said sending flowers to friends and relatives is a wellestablished tradition in China, a way of sharing happiness and good wishes, as well as welcoming the new year.
“I bought sanders dracaena for my new apartment last year and I plan to buy the rare glossy ganoderma as a gift for my newly married daughter,” Chen said.