Ordering flowers is no more a luxury but a necessity for most occasions be it religious, corporate or family functions. Catering to the huge demand in the state and with a vast variety of flowers now available nearly throughout the year, it is common to find a small florist store in every corner of the street.
“We now get local supply for anthurium, gerbera, heliconia, alpinia and orchids from Goan floriculturists that helps in prolonging the vase life of the flowers and cuts on the logistics cost charged by us to out stationed suppliers,” says Lynette Alphonso, owner, Garden Glory, Panjim. “However despite the local supply, we have to rely on out stationed supplies for bulk orders,” she reveals.
Sales of flowers are seasonal and according to local florists, with Lent there is a sharp drop for bulk orders especially wedding decorations. “From April onwards until May end the sales go on reducing as the number of festivals celebrated duration these months are less. So we do not get bulk orders but have to rely on multiple smaller orders to cover-up the expenses,” says Vishwajeet Manma, flower vendor at the Panaji market.
Same is the case with florist stores that have a few pre-orders in hand this season. “South based florists see an almost 50 percent drop in sales during Lent because most of our orders are for Catholic weddings and the possibility to get decoration orders for big events is less.” says Kalpana Divkar, proprietor, Lily & Lilac, Margao.
To cover-up for the drop in walk-in customers and over the counter orders, florist stores are now exploring the potential of online orders by partnering with gifting portals to open up their services to clientele overseas and across the country. Alphonso who delivers floral hampers across Goa reveals that, online gifting services are picking up as tourists visit the state to celebrate their birthday, honeymoon and anniversaries. “Tourists look out for local customized gifting options during their stay,” adds Alphonso.
“We had started taking orders online through emails earlier to boost the business but now we take up through whatsapp, calls and provide floral services for online portals as well” she explains. Working on the similar lines of online floral services, Lily & Lilac started its own portal to cater to various occasions and display a photo of the flower arrangement along with the pricing on the website.
Florists tie up with confectionary stores and maintain a stock of teddy bears, cards and chocolates to provide a complete package under one service. “We have our network for deliveries where we usually employ motorbike owners from the locality on call basis where the order is to be delivered and provide them with a slip that is to be signed by the customer once received’
The flower market in Goa thrives on the hotels, events, online portals and personal gifting in the state. From March to May the occupancy rates are high in hotels which increases the demand for fresh flower arrangements in the lobbies and rooms. “We cater mainly to hotels and corporate events so our business is not affected much during the off-season.” says Lalit Kumar Agarwal, owner, Florance Flora, Panaji.
One of the major challenges for florist based in Goa is the increasing competition from chain florists from outside the state. Another problem they face is of scarcity of local labour. Store owners point out that, training locals to handle flowers while unpacking the stock and keeping it ready for sale is difficult. It is also difficult to get employees who have artistic skills necessary for preparing bouquets.
The only option for local florists is to improve their own creativity and be hand’s on in the business. “If we don’t take up the skills needed in this business ourselves it is natural that we will be replaced by florists who have settled from other state,” says Alphonso. During the slack season starting from April till the monsoons Alfonso reduces the workforce at the store. “We can manage smaller orders easily and workers get some time off to go to their home town during this period,” she reveals.
Most of the florist stores are handled by workers hired from Bengal, Karnataka and other state. Sourcing the workforce remains a major issue. Divkar believes in giving a tough fight to the outside competition. Her store has been in the business for over 24 years and she says that, providing a prompt delivery service through a well established network and working round the clock to provide quality service can level up the floral business.
Prices for flowers have remain steady for the past year however florists also face competition from artificial flowers that are cheaper and can be used multiple times. Some of the imported, artificial flowers look real and are used as props at events. However despite the threats, florists are still confident of generating sales. “You cannot provide variety in artificial flowers it tends to look repetitive after a point of time. So we are sure it will not replace us,” says Divkar. Buyers also have a lot of religious attachment while purchasing flowers to decorate worship places like the temple or altar for weddings. “It is common to find plastic flower decorations for venues but religious places are still adorned with fresh flowers as a sign of devotion despite the cost involved,” says Alphonso.
Flower cultivation has picked up in the state but the supply is not consistent and florists have to depend on supplies from Pune, Banglore,Kolahpur and Belgaum. Truckloads of flowers arrive every day on regular basis. “About 60 per cent of the supplies are from outside the state while the remaining 30 per cent comes from Goa itself,” says Agarwal.
He points out that the supply from local flower farms is decent but the humid weather means that the state is not suitable for all varieties and hence requires backup from other states as well. “We supply to hotels and work on a contract system so if we default in our supplies because of a shortage in stock in the state it will affect our business,” reveals Agarwal.