Archive for the ‘Flowers for small bu$ine$$’ Category


Mrs. Francesca’s life

May 31, 2010

 Till now, we have been travelling over  the  great world of flowers, trying to go beyond the appereances, the well-known sides of such a common thing (as most people could think), still so unveiled. We have seen the general market, the supply, the differences between stallholders and shopkeepers, … , but it seemed interesting  to me to know something more from a “personal” point of view. We are used to read about numbers, statistics, supply, demand, but let’s stop for one moment and think what there is behind them: just… people. Therefore, I decided to make an interview, in order to understand how a common person’s life, involved with flowers,works

I managed to talk to a nice lady in a floral shop, Mrs. Francesca.

Do you own the shop or do you just run it? How long have you been owning (running) it?

The shop is not mine, but I’ve been running this activity for 15 years.

What are the difficulties and/or the advantages of running it?

The main difficulty is being able to find always fresh products, but I’m rewarded by the vantage of living in a world full of colors.


Were the passion or other needs to lead  you to set this activity? How did you manage to do it?

My parents were florists too, but I love my job: I think it’s all about passion. In order to start it up, I had to ask the Municipality the permission after I had found the workroom.

Might you describe your typical day? (referring to your activity of florist, of course)

At 7 am I reach the wholesaler of my area, or twice a week I wait for another grosser who tries to sell me flowers. Not always I buy them from him, because I trust more my own wholesaler: I can be sure that they are really fresh. After choosing the flowers I need, I go to the shop. Then, I start doing some cleanings and preparing posies already ordered for that day: every time I’m always allured by the transformation from the simple flower to the arrangement themselves. Eventually, around lunch time, I provide for the home delivery with own my car.

How do you manage to get your products?

Before arriving to the shop, flowers are in big greenhouses; then the florist  bring them to the floral market. My wholesaler goes to the market at 3.00 am and buy flowers for his customers, so that they are ready at 8.00 am in his storage. Sometimes  he buys flowers from other countries, such as Holland, Ecuador and Colombia, especially if he needs roses or beautiful tropical blossoms. In this case, there are some companies that deal with importing and distributing them to the wholesales.


According to you, does the position of your shop influence the sells?

The position of the shop can surely make the difference for the customers.

What do you think is your vantage point?

Actually, a vantage point doesn’t exist. A philosophy of work does exist. It’s important to focus on just few products and specialize on them. Creating a faith in your customers is fundamental, and you can do it providing the best products, original arrangements, respecting your clients and their money because you should supply a good service if they spend 5€ or 50€. My client is important and unique, and has a special treatment every day, every moment. When they make order by telephone, they cannot see the product, but they need to sure about  it, about the fact that they have done a good choice which will be appreciated. In this way, who has received flowers is one of my potential client, my future client.


The exception proves the rule

May 25, 2010

In Italy, for sure, we are far from sellers of flowers like him:


…still, there is someone who is even further from the common Italian sellers…

A simple stall, without a lot of flowers or particular bunches, no more than others, no more than a…stall. Moreover, while I was wandering I’ve seen bigger, more colored and supplied stalls. Still, you can see the owner so proud of his small stall. The secret? It stands at the corner between via Montenapoleone and via A. Manzoni, two of the most fashionable streets of Milan.



When I asked him the average buy, he answered : “from 10 to 100 to 1000€… and also more!” – “Pardon?!” – I would never, never thought it would be possible! Yet, he is in a place sooooooooooo strategic! Thanks to his position, a lot of people (very, very rich people!) who live around there buy flowers from him, preferring the stall to the shop because of the (relatively) lower prices of a bunch of  blooms. In addition, he works on commission (for these very, very rich people) and prepares wonderful (and expensive!) floral compositions. Who never been said?!



As I have already told you, he told me he is very proud of his job: he wakes up at 5.30 in the morning, in order to reach his stall as on time as the workers and early riser passers-by start their day as well. His work lasts till 10 pm in summer and around 8 pm  when it gets colder (on the average, he works for about 14 hours!). As the other stallholders, he had to get the license for selling on a public area from municipality: it was a long and hard process (“you know, the bureaucracy”), but finally he managed to do it.  He didn’t tell me, but as I saw another foreign man helping him while I was there, I supposed he earns enough money to hire someone: after all, this is just the proof  that people spend lots of money buying flowers from him.


When the “one” wants to grow

March 26, 2010

Someone is looking for glory, others do things for passion, others for necessity, others just to add a symbolical meaning: the purposes can be different, but the common denominator is that a person may do things not only for himself/herself, but also for other people: a small group, a BiG group, the WHOLE world. 

Milam, for this aspect, provided some interesting examples. We’ve already seen the “case” of the sweet lady I met, Ivana, who prefers to focus on her beloved hobby, just for her own pleasure. Another example, instead, would be interesting. It reminded me a designer quoted during a class of Design, ISAMU NOGUCHI: he started doing lamps with paper made by rice (in Japan this kind of paper is widely used!) just for him and his friends; then he made a company and now is really famous all over the world. Surely, the man I’m going to deal with is not so famous, neither had addressed his work to the “all”, being content to supply only the Milanese market. 

His name was Osvaldo Mercandelli, the founder of  “Fioreria Mercandelli” in viale Sabotino, Milan. I learned about him from his son, Francesco Mercandelli, who now run the shop. He told me that his father has been always passionate about flowers and he had a small private garden behind their house. Growing up (a marriage, a wife, children…ordinary things, in short!) he needed a job, and what would have been better to join a passion with work? Therefore, at the beginning of the ‘30s, he decided to take over this shop, that presents himself as a perfect “little jewel” of that time: it was furnished by an architect who took his inspiration by Piacentini, Portaluppi, Breuer. Mirrors, archs, columns, marbles…everything is remained as it was (the shop is also one of the historical buildings, recognized by Comune di Milano), except the times, that obviously have changed: the market  is not limited anymore to the neighborhood, when they knew each other, when an important man came every day to send a flower to his lover (as Mr Francesco told me), but it expanded to everyone who wants a refined and personalized service that this shop can offer. 












What’s your position?

March 24, 2010


buy roses


get annoyed quickly


 react in a bad way

Therefore, who this business is addressed to? To a very resticted area of people, who sometimes buy flowers just not to be annoyed anymore; consequently, the profits are really low.

There is also someone who is fed up with them enough to create a group on facebook:

Yet, others seem to be kinder…

…What’s your position?


Invisible men for careless lovers

March 24, 2010

What: the smallest floral business

Who: street vendors of roses

Where: Milan

When: from 20 pm to late night

Why: to survive

The unauthorized sale of roses in Italian cities is an “ethnic” phenomenon of the latest years. The trade is run by people from Bangladesh, who invented this clever “business of survival”. The sellers are hundreds and no one has properly “a vocation”: they need this job because they haven’t got the residence permit, or they have just arrived in Italy. To sell a rose, they don’t need to know our language or to have any contract. They haven’t got any organization, but their motto seems to be: “To everyone his own money”. The roses, hence, are the perfect “waiting room”, before the documents and a real job.

In Italy, the most part of people from Bangladesh lives in Rome, Vicenza, Venezia and Milan, and each of them comes from a different region of their homeland. Who lives in Milan, comes from the district of  Madaripur; from the capital, Dhaka, they arrive to Vicenza; in Rome, they come from Shariatpur, Dhaka and Comilla. The street vendors of roses are the “invisible” part of this community, (which officially counts 41.631 people regularly residents), and, without any documents, they don’t exist statistically, although they are the most evident part, living  most of their life on the street.

They strive to sell them to absent-minded lovers at restaurants, at corners, while walking or just chatting, often with NO results: NO consideration, NO sales, NO money.

What about the income? The vendors buy the roses during the morning at the general markets of flowers: a bunch of  20 roses could costs from 8 € to 20 €, in periods as the Christmas time. They manage to sell each of them for 2-3 €, but often also for just 1 €. The result: few on Mondays, a little bit better in the week-ends; a maximum of 20 € per night, enough to survive, not to live, neither to reach their family, so far away from Italy. However, it’s not even said that they manage to sell.

But they still have a dream: a stall. At Comune di Milano 277 fiorists are registered: among them, 33 are foreigners and 23, almost the 10% of the total number, come from Bangladesh.  Really slowly, these street vendors take over a kiosk and finally can sell flowers as stallholders. The market price of a kiosk depends on several elements: position within the city, pedestrian crossing, proximity to a lighter. In Milan, kiosks in the suburbs cost around 20-25.000 €, while near cemeteries or in the centre they overpass 100.000 €. Till now, obviously, people from Bangladesh are buying those ones in the suburbs.


Stallholders vs Shopkeepers: Who is bound to win? Round II

March 18, 2010

As I told you, I’ve had the cheek enough to go around and ask some questions both to shopkeepers and stallholders, and these are some results I found.

In the shops, the 90% of people who buy blossom is constituted by women, against the 72% who go to stalls and share the market with the 7% of men (the 21% of stallholders, instead, said that the percentage between women and men is perfectly the same).

A crushing win of the adults in the shops (easily understandable for the incredible prices!), while a 28% of young people buy at the stalls.

Maybe because of the turnover, at the question: “what is the most sold flower?”, they answered differently: the 100% of  shopkeepers said “rose” (and someone also orchids), while the 100% of the stallholders said “now, tulips” , giving a “seasonal explanation”.


SHOPS Roses Women Adults 30-35€
STALLS Tulips Women Adults 15€

Stallholders vs Shopkeepers: Who is bound to win? Round I

March 18, 2010

You can see them standing for hours, under the pouring rain or in the hottest summer days: they are the stallholders, people who, for necessity or for passion, run a stall in the most varied corner of Milan.

One woman told me she would never buy a shop to sell her flowers because they are part of the nature and they need to be sold in the open air. She loves the direct contact to them, without the artificiality of a closed room.

Of course, their life is not so easy: they have to fight against the weather, against a swung market, against the beauty of a shop window. But they strive to survive! The average buy, for whose I asked, is around 15€, while in a shop goes up to 30-35€. Still, the turnover seemed higher in the stalls (when I went closer to them, there was always someone who was buying) because of the lower prices, of  the ladies who buy them for their own houses and their own pleasure, of some guys who stop at them and  buy a rose for their lover (fortunately, there are still some romantic men, as one of the stallholder told me! ) :-)