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Retail Flowers & Plants

NL: "We like to focus on the things we can influence, in those areas we do all we can"

Today, many cut chrysanthemums come from Colombia, five years ago this was unthinkable. Over the years, Ronald Arkesteijn (Zyon) and Niels Slottje (Summaflor) have witnessed many changes. Since November 2022, Zyon and Summaflor are part of Retail Flowers & Plants.

Ronald Arkesteijn of Zyon

The first weeks
Ronald: "Our season started in week 3 and steadily continued until week 20. In mid-June, we will compare this year's season to that of last year. We notice that weather conditions are affecting the trade. Normally, the season runs from the end of January to the beginning of June. Due to the heavy rainfall in recent weeks, there is fewer demand, it's somewhat stalled. The weather conditions are not only extreme in the Netherlands, but also in Switzerland, where I was last week. The supermarket shelves were still quite full," Niels adds: "The same goes for cut flowers. At the beginning of the year, tulips are dominant. Whereas the first 2 weeks of January were a bit slower, this wasn't the case from week 4 to the end of the tulip season. Partly due to the weather conditions, there were fewer bulbs available, which made that demand tended to exceed supply. This led to a tense market where tulips at auction sometimes were sold at prices that are almost twice as high as the usual amount."

In most countries, there is a steady growth in sales. However, sometimes there are setbacks, as Ronald experienced. This year, store-sales for Mother's Day did not meet expectations. "Mother's Day and Ascension Day were in the same week, causing many people to take a long weekend holiday. This is reflected in the sales figures: less was sold in the stores. Fortunately, we can still be very satisfied with the first 20 weeks of the year," he says.

Niels (Summaflor) finds that holidays are becoming increasingly prominent:" Retailers increasingly capitalize on occasions. Today, even Black Friday and Halloween are promotion moments that are used to generate sales on top of the well-known holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Women's Day." Niels points out that the weather conditions in Switzerland had an impact on Mother's Day sales. The temperatures were high, resulting in lower sales. "It probably will affect next year's trade, they will be a bit more cautious with purchases. But still, the volume will be about 4 to 5 times more than what we normally send," Niels says.

More than a plant
"The consolidation continues and it's a bit quieter in the export consolidation area," says Ronald. "Now, various initiatives are emerging through which growers can meet each other and find ways to meet customer demands. It's about more than just selling a plant or flower, we also deal with sustainability and share a joint responsibility for the assortment. At both sides there's a lot of energy. We now have to deal with European legislation on sustainability and by 2025 everything must be FSI."

Niels adds: "Regulations come both from Europe and our own country. There are many types of flowers, it's a colorful whole. Due to law and regulation, specific products are often not good because they do not meet the requirements and certification growers want to adhere to." Steadiness is also important for trade abroad, Niels continues: "Retailers abroad have certain expectations of the flowers and plants they receive. Therefore, we keep a narrower assortment for some customers, so we can remain steady. Moreover, we see that retailers have a social function and are an example for the consumer. Consumer surveys show that consumers don't want to pay extra for sustainable flowers and plants, but they do expect everything to be arranged. Not only flowers and plants but also the packaging should be sustainable, and the CO2 emissions of transport are important too. Everything that has to do with a flower or plant has to meet requirements, and we should be able to justify it. It's a theme we've been working on for years, but now we're really accelerating."

Aside from themes like sustainability, the sector also deals with rising costs. Ronald: "Minimum wages are increasing, and this is reflected throughout the chain. Transporters and packaging suppliers are also facing rising costs. To remain active in the Netherlands, it's necessary to organize everything more efficiently, think of more automation and mechanization. We sometimes hear that other companies intend to move abroad due to the costs."

Niels agrees with Ronald: "For us, the discussion about labor migration in the Dutch cabinet plays an important role. Sometimes it's difficult to look at certain issues as a company rather than an individual. The minimum standards have increased so much, it has a lot of impact on many of our colleagues. Fortunately, the Netherlands is still the main location for gathering flowers, however production increasingly takes place abroad. Nowadays, even bouquets are made abroad, here products are delivered ready-made. Fortunately, in the long term, we are doing well and maintaining our competitive position well enough. We all know that the sun shines more in Africa. We can't influence that, but we like to focus on the things we can influence, in those areas we do all we can."

"We shouldn't ignore the fact that, despite all the circumstances we face, we have favorable prices and a stable quality throughout the year," says Ronald. He and Niels conclude: "We still enjoy our work every day. During the spring we long for rest, but if it's quiet for half a day then we miss the hustle and bustle again. This work made us somewhat addicted to the pressure and dynamics. The most important thing is that we're always working with products that make other people happy."

For more information:
Retail Flowers & Plants B.V.
[email protected]

Zyon Group B.V.
[email protected]

Summaflor B.V.
[email protected]

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