One year ago today, I locked the door of my Old Strathcona shop for the last time. Since then, time has passed in a blur and my world has changed in ways I could never have imagined or predicted. Not all the change has been good however and, once again, I try to remember that life is a balance of good and bad, happy and not-so-happy. Who could have foreseen the economic “downturn” that Alberta was about to enter? No – really – I want to know who was supposed to be predicting these things!!! Maybe “they” could have enlightened me to the repercussions of yet another recession… Times are tough for the fine people of Alberta and, sadly, I fear things are going to get worse before they get better.
My business supplies the fluff and prettiness to other businesses, or at least it did, until our oil prices dropped to below 30 dollars a barrel. Before the layoffs start, businesses “cut the fat” in discretionary spending – namely flowers. And so starts the trickle down effect of a recession. Budgets and jobs are cut, businesses close, and no one is sending flowers to apologize. The little guys are the first to feel the stinging slap of reality. We just don’t have the flexibility to withstand another backsliding economy.
Adding to the Alberta Oil Crisis, the cost of our loonie against American currency on the world market has affected prices of imported product (ahem… all the flowers I buy are imported as we can’t really grow very much in the winter months in Canada!). Weakened Budgets + Increased Cost of Doing Business = Loss of Profitability. Well, isn’t that sweet? Now it costs me more to lose money! Fantastic! Much like the $10 Cauliflower, no matter how pretty the rose most people are not willing (or able) to pay inflated prices for an item that isn’t crucial to sustaining life. I’ll have carrots instead. As a matter of fact, many flower growers in California have pulled their crops (flowers as well as food) in response to the ongoing drought. Low Availability + High Demand = Higher Prices.
So, what does this mean for the small, independent florist like me? It means cutting costs, increasing prices, trying to work more efficiently, working harder to find long-term customers and working even harder to keep the clients I already have happy. It means that I’m really happy that I don’t have the big shop with all the gift ware and trappings of traditional retail sales. It means relying on technology and it’s fickleness to find my place in the on-line retail world. It means I work alone and work late (later), and try to roll through this recession without getting mowed down.
There are a few things I miss about my old shop but, mostly, they are people and not things. I miss the random visits with the neighbourhood regulars; the deep conversations about the economy, politics, relationships, or the not-so-deep conversations about cats! I miss meeting someone new every day. I miss the way the late afternoon sun shone through the window onto my hot pink walls and made my heart swell with joy.
I miss you!