Have you ever wondered what happens to the flowers before they get to our flower shop? What journey they undergo before they get from growers to retailers?
Distribution of flowers to the whole world runs on flower auction in The Netherlands. If you plan a trip there sometime, combine it with a visit to the Dutch Keukenhof Gardens. Keukenhof Gardens are open to visitors every spring, which is the peak time for the beautifully blooming bulbs, especially tulips. This year, it opens to visitors from March 21 to May 21 and many travel agencies offer to visit these gardens along with other thematic programs.
But let´s go back to the flower auction. It is located in the town of Aalsmeer, about 15km from Amsterdam. An area of 518,000 square meters would cover about five football fields, and is therefore the largest flower auction in the world. Every day there are normally sold about 20 million flowers, and not only Dutch, but also from other countries in Europe, Africa and America. Countries like Ecuador, Kenya, Colombia and Ethiopia are among the largest suppliers of cut flowers. Exceptional days are then Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, when sales will increase by about 15%. And prices reach their top high as well.
On the stock market, it looks like in the school auditorium, buyers or their agents are sitting behind the desks, in front of them a computer, but instead of blackboard hanging on the front there are two large clocks that show the product information (type, colour, supplier, quality, price). Shopping is done electronically, quietly, so agents don’t shout at each other as on Wall Street. The Dutch system of the auction means that the starting price is not the lowest, as other auctions, where buyers are bidding and price increases. Exactly the opposite. The price is exaggerated and then falling down. Shoppers then have only a few seconds to decide whether the goods are bought and at what price, because then they may find that someone else buys goods and you are left with nothing. It is clear to everyone that it is best to buy quality goods at a reasonable price, and not to pay more than necessary. This auction isn’t open to the public, but visitors can take a peek through a glass wall.
All the flowers intended for sale on the stock market are imported from growers the evening before they are delivered to the auction next morning. There are treated and stored overnight. Since morning they are moved in containers along the hall as required. Staff moves across the hall on electric pallet trucks here and there, you are watching this seeming chaos with speechless amazement, but it is a precise logistic operation, because they move just purchased flowers to individual customer stations. The moment the customer finalises his purchase, all goods are prepared for transportation (sorted out, packaged and shipped) either via ground transport (air-conditioned vehicles) within Europe or via aircraft. Auction, with its convenient location near Schiphol Airport, guarantees that all flowers get very quickly into aircraft heading to customers. These customers are typically wholesalers in individual cities, which then supply flowers to the shops like us.
So, dear friends, this is how your favourite flowers get to our shop. It's nothing really challenging, isn´t it? It is like virtually everything well mastered.