How Brexit has impacted award-winning Ballymena florist

A year on from Brexit, businesses are beginning to understand the full weight of the new regulations. The new legislation has led to increased costs in raw materials, shipping and transport. In addition, some have experienced staffing issues.

William Kerr, owner at Ballymena’s Le Jardin Sauvage, says it has resulted in significantly higher costs, delays and poorer stock quality. ‘A lot of the flower prices have, some of them have nearly doubled… And a lot of the plants that I used to be able to get, I can’t get them anymore,’ says Will.

Will opened the high-end florist in 2020, after working in London for over 15 years. He has extensive industry experience, having had roles in Claridge’s, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. He also managed Moyses Steven’s, which counts members of the Royal Family among its customers.

He says one of the biggest impacts Brexit has had is on the price of roses. Previously, roses would have cost ‘1 euro, now they could be 2 euros. The demand’s more for roses, things that you need for weddings… The prices definitely have increased and this Christmas I’ve noticed the prices increasing… We used to pay in euro in years gone by, now the pound and euro’s nearly the same. You’re not getting as much for your money.’

He says particular flowers have gone up drastically, like ‘a toffee rose – you’re talking £2 a stem costing, which never would have been that price a few years ago’.

There have also been many delays. Many of the flowers that used to come from Holland, now have to come from Ecuador. After that, they have to be shipped to Dublin and taken to the shop by lorry.

Will says ‘there was a delivery which never came on Friday. I don’t know what’s happened there. I usually have a contingency plan… but it just meant on Saturday I couldn’t take any more orders.’

These delays also caused problems for Le Jardin Sauvage at Christmas. He says ‘usually, you’d get flowers up to 2 days before Christmas. This Christmas, all the red berries, all the blue spruce had run out 2 weeks before Christmas. You couldn’t get anything red, so I couldn’t sell any more flowers.’

The problems weren’t limited to flowers, however. Will also had issues with ‘baskets. A lot of the baskets come from China, and my supplier which is IF (Into Flora). They’re a big company I get all my sundries from like cellophane, that sort of thing. They weren’t able to get baskets at all into the middle of December. There was a 3 week wait for them to come in from China. Luckily I had 2 or 3 boxes left from before here. Otherwise, I would have been in trouble.’

He says it’s more difficult ‘ordering plants online – a lot of companies don’t deliver to Northern Ireland anymore. Even catalogues like Baker’s and that sort of thing that used to deliver to Northern Ireland have stopped delivering. But still deliver to London!’

Will says ‘Things like another plant supplier from Holland, and they don’t deliver to Northern Ireland anymore either. And that would have been one of my big suppliers for houseplants.’

This impacts the quality and variety of Will’s stock drastically, he says – ‘the more interesting plants that I used to get, like air plants and unusual plants, none of them will deliver now to Northern Ireland. The plants I can get now have not got the same breadth of different varieties, you know it’s not as interesting. You can order plants and then a week later, they might not arrive.’

This hasn’t had entirely disastrous impacts for the business, however. With fewer companies delivering to Northern Ireland, he says more consumers have been ordering from local florists like Le Jardin Sauvage.

In addition, since Brexit ‘every single plant now has to have its own passport. A lot of the companies, I think, before, might have been sort of old fashioned… and they wouldn’t have the capability to do these passes. A lot of the places have gone bust in Ecuador and places like that, that would have been growing tropical plants.’

He explains that the plant passports have had some positive impact on the business – ‘The only good thing about the passports, I must say, is that is always has the plant name on it. So that’s a positive… any plants I sell now the name is on the pot, so customers know then what plant they’re getting.’

In response to the delays and higher costs, Will has come up with this solution –  ‘I try to do more seasonal flowers to keep the cost down and more local things as well but a lot of people want the roses, they want the different stuff. You know, stuff you can’t grow over here.’

‘I try and keep some of the foliage local.’ Here, Will points to foliage in the window of the shop, ‘That’s from Glenarm. I try to lower costs, and also air miles as well. There’s a guy in Antrim that grows flowers for me in the summer time, so I try and do locally grown flowers to cut that out as well. There’s not as many because of the weather here.’

On the overall impact of Brexit on his fledgling business, Will says, ‘‘Well, I’m more careful in what I buy and I’m more aware of where the flowers come from. In terms of air miles and things as well, instead of getting flowers from Ecuador, can I get locally grown flowers? Also my pricing, I have to be more careful with my pricing. I’m looking at my costed sales more actually, that’s the positive thing but it’s not overall positive.’

You can purchase flowers and plants from Le Jardin Sauvage at https://www.lejardinsauvage.co.uk/. The shop offers home delivery across the UK, Ireland and internationally.