René van Egmond is one of the men responsible for purchasing and sales at C Leeuwenbrug. In recent years, sales of Christmas items, in particular, have exploded. "We have been doing that for about 15 years, but it has become a kind of hobby that got out of hand. Every year, it becomes more and more, the volumes have grown, and from the beginning of October until December, we have our hands full."
Depending on the season, the products and customers vary enormously. "In winter, we do a lot of tulips, at Christmas Christmas items, in summer, a lot of summer flowers. It's actually always busy, but of course, that's the intention. Still, it is mainly the Christmas articles for which the company has become increasingly well known in recent years."
When it comes to Christmas items, one should mainly think of dry flowers and side cuttings with, e.g. (pine) apples or grass balls on them. Fresh flowers are also sourced and dyed or glittered according to demand, which is a surprise every year. "I think we have grown so much in this partly because others have stopped doing it. It is trade that you have to be able to pre-finance, and not everyone can do that. A container might contain trade worth 30 or 40 thousand euros. You order them months in advance, and if there are three or four of them, you have a tonne and a half outstanding. Besides, we have now built up such a large assortment that you just have by far the most choice with us."
It is not the kind of trade where typically large margins are achieved, René explains. "There is more or less a limit to it, for instance, we always have to deal with container prices and prices of raw materials, while at the same time, shops usually don't make big margins on these items either. But demand is high, sales are mainly to England and France, but go all over Europe. England is our biggest market; it's amazing how crazy those English are about side-stickers."
C Leeuwenburg's history goes back quite a few years. After some time in business with a partner, Cees Leeuwenburg started his own flower business in 1950. In good time, sons Hans and Wim joined the company and they still run the business. The home port is Rijnsburg; they also have a box at Naaldwijk. Customers in Aalsmeer are also supplied from Rijnsburg.
René has been working at C Leeuwenburg for 30 years. Every day, the alarm goes off at 3 a.m., and once all the work has been done, he returns home around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. No loafing around, then, but he feels right at home. "It's work, of course, but I think people within our company have a lot of freedom. As long as the bottom line is right, and fortunately, it has been doing that for years. Also, people work here for a long time, there is practically no turnover. To my knowledge, no one has even left unless they retired."