A beautiful bouquet of flowers is guaranteed to lift anyone’s spirits. Over the last year, a fresh bunch of blooms has been a real treat, especially when social contact was limited. While florists up and down the UK have been reporting an increase in business as customers look for contact-free ways to send a special message to loved ones, there have been plenty of challenges too due to supply chain disruption and social distancing measures.
Luckily, Michael Pooley of Twig Flowers is used to adapting to a constantly changing business environment. A long-standing Square Seller, Michael even tests out new products to make sure they’re up to scratch for UK customers.
We got in touch with Michael to find out how he got into the flower business, his experiences over the last year and how he’s using Square to offer a safe but special service for his clients.
Could you tell us a bit about your journey of starting your business?
I grew up around the fresh produce of my family’s wholesale fruit and vegetable business. I didn’t set out to be a florist - I wanted to be an animator and studied graphic design at art school in 1986.
During my time at college, I discovered a love of 3D design, including fashion, and early C coding. Fashion was something that really excited me. My first Saturday job was in Harrods, and after leaving college I was offered a job at Warehouse ladies’ clothing. In 1990, I was headhunted and moved on to work in the iconic fashion company Jones, in Covent Garden and Kings Road.
In 1991 my father asked me to join the family fruit and vegetable business, and after much thought I agreed. This bringing together of design styling and fresh produce was the beginning of Michael Pooley Flowers, and I opened my first store independently in London in 1996. I have adapted my business over the years since to suit ever changing markets.
How were you able to adapt your business model during the COVID19 crisis to offer new ways to serve your customers?
I was able to adapt very quickly. Most of my work is by mail order or telephone, or clients with weekly subscription orders. The stock changes very quickly and every item that leaves the store is unique. I implemented store pick up as soon as it was released - appointments booking too. I’ve had my landline on divert to my mobile since 2001 - so I was the only florist answering their telephone - to sadly take many funeral and sympathy orders in the first lockdown.
Did you receive a positive response from your community and customers?
Yes - even though as the supply chain was very difficult and our minimum order with suppliers was quite high, I chose to implement 3-day fulfilment.
How did you originally come across Square?
I came across Square in 2015, or it might even have been 2014! I was going through the App Store and there was an app called Register. A simple iPad app that could record your sales like a cash register, paper-free. I had heard of Square - and hoped they’d bring their ideas and payment solutions to the UK. I was one of, I think, 9 UK testers back in 2016 - I’ve not looked back since.
What is it about Square that makes running your business smoother?
The integration of a website, product information, sales, inventory and customer database all in one place makes life so much easier. Before, I had to remember everything or write long notes to myself about peaks in sales happening in a year’s time. Having the functionality to look at sales from the past 3 years really helps me forecast buying. This was especially helpful when we saw large growth in 2018 and in 2020 when I had to quickly adapt the business due to covid.
Do your staff find it easy to use?
It’s only me here at the moment, though I have taught several people how to use it for their own businesses. Everyone found it relatively seamless to use.
Has Square been able to offer any features that you have used to pivot your business during lockdowns?
The QR scan code has been especially helpful and the integration of shops for Facebook and Instagram.I can’t wait to use the scheduled pick up properly - as this is something we use all the time. We cater very much to the hospitality market so I’m not fully operational yet - fingers crossed for the full reopening and phase 4.
What’s your most popular product?
The most popular products are our hand-tied bouquets and Seasonal Churn Vases - a no fuss, no contact but really special high-value item. This is quite novel for the UK market - we love flowers in a box or bag - whereas the USA market has offered vase arrangements for as long as I can remember.
Do you have any exciting plans for the business this coming year?
We’ve more planned for the winter season ‘21 when parties are back in full swing. Flowers have nearly doubled in price over the past year - so we’re looking at how the public adapts. There’s a big increase in enquiries for home weddings, parties and receptions, so this is an area we’ll be focusing on. There’s a few corporate things going on too so it’s going to be a busy year.