Meet Audrey Finch, a Florists Supply Cut Flowers Customer Service Representatives (CSR) at our Winnipeg branch for 22 years. As a CSR, she provides personalized service to our customers. Audrey is our first interview in a series featuring some of our valued and experienced team members in celebration of our 85th anniversary.
How did you get started in the floral industry, and how long have you been at Florists Supply?
I have been at Florists Supply for 22 years – I actually just had my 22nd anniversary on October 14th. I got started in the florist industry many years ago, in retail, where I worked for several shops in the city while also doing many weddings for family and friends. So, I decided if I can do this as a hobby, I should be able to do this as a job. I also did a lot of self-education because there was not an awful lot of education available in the city at the time.
Over the years, what changes have you seen in the industry?
There has been a tremendous amount of industry changes! When I first started out, it was basically the bricks-and-mortar type of flower shops. With social media, it has changed so much. Florists can now do their own marketing, giving them much more control – whereas before, they relied on wire services to do the marketing for them. Before social media, you would see the same style of arrangements at different florists, as end consumers would send similar arrangements to their friends and family based on pictures they were given. It was not as creative as it is now. It is just a tremendous thing that they have so much control over their own business.
What challenges have happened during Florists Supply’s history that you recall having to persevere through?
Right now, we are going through a big challenge with the global pandemic – all our customers are. The floral industry is still in business, but doing business a little bit differently. In the spring, for the first time in our lifetime, customers weren’t able to interact face-to-face with their clients, so many customers had to adapt and focus on curbside pick-ups and deliveries. I think many customers who didn’t have an online presence on social media really got up to speed with that –there’s always a way of doing it.
Can you explain how Florists Supply has continued to deliver beyond the ordinary year over year?
Florists Supply, even before I started, always gave very personalized service. It has always been very caring and concerned about its employees and customers. There are many examples where Florists Supply has gone way beyond to help a customer or a staff employee in many different cases.
We also offer innovative products and really good pricing in all of our departments as we sell both fresh cut flowers and supplies. I have a new account that came on board, and they are absolutely amazed that they can get everything at one stop.
What do you most enjoy about working at Florists Supply?
The people. When I say people, I mean the customers and staff. I have been here 22 years and still have customers from when I first started in cut flower sales. Over the years, you get to know them very well – their children are working in their shops, so you are talking to the next generation. Florists Supply staff has a really long history of staying here because it is a great place to work. In recent years we have had four people, I believe, that did forty-five years. So, that really attests to that caring environment.
Word around our branch is that you have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to anything cut flowers. Could you explain something that you wish more people knew about flowers?
There are so many things that a person can actually learn in our industry – I’m still learning. I encourage everyone in the industry to continue to learn. There are so many new flowers are coming out because of hybridization.
There are just so many things you can learn about. For example, you can look back at ‘Tulipmania’ as a history thing on how the tulip was developed. I encourage the new flower shops, and even the flower shops that have been in business, to take some time to look at websites. You can really pick up so much information and continue to learn. What that is going to do for you is to give you more confidence, and the more confidence you have, the more professional you will be, and that will equal more success.
Which flower are you and why?
I would probably go with a poppy. The traditional poppy, not the California poppy, but the poppy. Because as a child, my dad gave me the nickname of poppy, and I asked him why. He said, well, a poppy must be very delicate at times and also very strong to stand up to the winds, rain and the sun. He said those are good qualities to have.
As a child, I grew up in the country where we had flowers blooming all over – I was very interested in them. My earliest memory of a flower shop was going to one with my dad. When we got to the shop, the lights were turned down low, so I asked the women who owned the flower shop, why do you have the lights out? And she said, oh, it keeps the flowers alive longer for her customers. I thought it was rather odd to have flowers kept in the dark, and since then, I have learned that this idea was debunked – there is no truth about keeping flowers in the dark. I think that was the reason why I got into the industry.
What are your favourite hobbies outside of flowers?
Well, I don’t have many hobbies outside of flowers, because they are all kind of related. My husband and I grow orchids. We used to have a greenhouse that was running, but due to home renovations, we had a freeze-up last year, and we lost approximately 200 orchids. Now we’re down to about 35 orchids – we also had lots of tropical plants. So, that one thing that we do.
We’re always doing home renovations, the on-going home renovations. I love spending time with family and friends, and we often get together doing a lot of gourmet cooking together. So, that’s the lovely hobbies that we have.
What has been your favourite floral design trend, past or present?
I would say it is always the next one. This industry is always changing, and I’m always looking forward to seeing what is coming up, what’s new. It’s always exciting to see what my customers are doing with the product that I send them. They will often send me pictures, and it just amazing how I would see a flower and then how they take it and change it when they do a particular design. So, I’m always looking for the next one.
What trend(s) do you foresee coming to the industry?
We’re starting a brand-new decade, and I find that’s always exciting. I think we’re going to see an end to the farmhouse design trend and see something a little bit different. I think we’ll see a more paired-down look with a Scandinavian sort of styling, some mid-century modern thrown in there, and a little bit of bling – kind of mix that all together.
Right now, there are colour trends. Pantone is a world industry leader that sets colour trends for, generally, the next two years. They are also working on colour tones for the full decade – most people don’t realize that. But I think we’re going to see a lot more influence with fashion and home décor, which will move into the floral industry. When they pick the colour trends, it usually takes about two years before it gets down to the floral industry. That two-year period is to give the growers time to make sure they are producing the colours that are going to be requested.
Having said that, weddings will be a little bit smaller because people are realizing that they do not need to have huge monster weddings with three to five-hundred people. I think weddings will become a little more intimate, but I think they’re also going to be more opulent because they’re going to have the budget. So, they’re going to go for the exotic flowers – things like lots of ranunculus and peonies when they’re in season, that type of thing.
Stay tuned for more insightful conversations as part of our 85th-anniversary celebration.