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Australia South Australian florists say COVID-19 measures have been both good and bad for business

00:06  24 november  2020
00:06  24 november  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a woman sitting in front of a lake: Wedding florist Emmy Kiely says she tapped into Facebook community groups to sell her products before they perished. (ABC Rural: Bridget Herrmann) © Provided by ABC Health Wedding florist Emmy Kiely says she tapped into Facebook community groups to sell her products before they perished. (ABC Rural: Bridget Herrmann)

Just hours before South Australia went into a hard lockdown last week, Adelaide Hills wedding florist Emmy Kiely was busy finding homes for more than $1,000 worth of flowers.

With weddings cancelled, the Dream Blooms florist and many others across the state turned to social media community groups to find last-minute buyers for the perishable products.

"I was just so overwhelmed by the response, I received so many comments and messages and people that were more than willing to buy some of the bunches I had made," Ms Kiely said.

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"I was able to make about half of the cost of the flowers.

"I just feel so bad for my couples and it's so heartbreaking for their wedding day to get taken away from them … I just wanted to do anything possible."

Ms Kiely said wedding preparations in the multi-tiered floral industry took several days.

"Because the flowers are perishable, once the flowers are in my hands, they need to be paid for," she said.

"It's just a bit too late notice once the flowers are in our hands, and the lockdown was just so sudden."

Pandemic disruptions cost thousands

Ms Kiely estimated that throughout 2020, pandemic disruptions had cost her business thousands of dollars.

While at the start of the year she had to refund a lot of wedding cancellations, she is now dealing with repercussions from the latest lockdown, despite it ending early.

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"It is still creating turmoil for the future," she said.

"Couples in these uncertain times are hesitant to keep their wedding dates."

Heartbreaking flower waste

Meadows flower producer, wholesaler and florist Geoff Page was also stuck with flowers destined for a wedding when the recent state lockdown was imposed.

"[We had] an awful lot of the flowers prepared … [they] will end up being mulched and put back into the ground," Mr Page said.

"Most of the flowers will go to waste because they won't hold until the following weekend."

The Gooseberry Hill Farm co-owner said there were not always alternative markets available for nuptial blooms.

"Some of those flowers [are not] able to go to the farmers' market because they're not ones the farmers' market clients want, they're really ones specifically that wedding florists like," Mr Page said.

Mr Page estimated he had lost around $3,000 from this lockdown.

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Local buyers 'cushion the blow'

But one of the directors of Flower Industry Australia, Flowers Victoria chairman Michael van der Zwet, said the pandemic had caused both positive and negative effects for the Australian flower market.

Australia's floristry sector is estimated to be worth $1.6 billion and employs more than 7,000 people.

With international flower imports tumbling and prices "going through the roof due to freight cost", demand for Australian cut flowers has seen a 40–50 per cent increase, according to Mr van der Zwet.

"For local growers it's been good because it made up for some of the losses that we incurred because there have been no events," he said.

"It helped cushion the blow."

While the industry has no official figures yet, the coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns have undoubtedly had a negative impact on the flower industry.

"Florists and event organisers were too scared to buy a lot of flowers for events because they didn't know if the event would be cancelled," he said.

Consumer awareness fuels demand

Simultaneously, the industry has recorded increased consumer demand and interest in buying locally grown flowers.

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"There has been a very big increase in confidence of the local growers, and they have actually been buying a lot of stock to replant and increase the flowers they are producing," Mr van der Zwet said.

Mr Page believed customers had become more aware of the source of their flowers this year.

"They've been surprised how good local flowers last," he said.

"I think people are better understanding that they should be buying local flowers as the norm rather than buying imported flowers."

Mr Page believed farmers' markets also helped to maintain demand throughout the year.

"Because we do the farmers' markets, we've been able to sell a lot more flowers through there," he said.

Riverland florist Rachel Schulz was hit by the recent lockdown in South Australia but said demand for flowers had increased throughout the year.

"Especially with people not being able to come across the borders or see their loved ones and see their family," she said.

"We sent a lot of gifts and fresh flowers just to say, 'we are thinking of you', 'we are still here'."

Throughout the first lockdown period in March and April Ms Schulz recorded a tremendous demand and inflow of orders from locals and interstate and believed moving towards Christmas demand would ramp up again.

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This is interesting!