Covid and floristry: why Blume pivoted to retail

Early March, and I had just finished my first 2020 wedding following the post-Christmas events slump. I decided to treat myself. Maybe get my hair done, take my partner for dancing, who knows. Options were available.

It was at this point, however, that news had started to break about the impact of coronavirus across Europe, and the UK was getting ready for a pandemic. I remember going for dinner with friends and we were laughing about how ridiculous it all seemed; how the virus couldn’t possibly be that bad.

A few days later, I was having conversations with panicking clients, terrified of what was to come.

Who would have thought that 6 months ago, this is where the world would be.

 

The Blume Store With Coming Soon Signs

2020: the year of Blume

This was supposed to be it. We had grafted hard for years, sacrificing financially, and it was about to pay off big. We were fully booked up with some seriously beautiful events, with amazing couples and suppliers.

A week or so after those client conversations the government announced lockdown — the uncertainty, for everyone, was unnerving. Reality hit me hard. All our events and weddings were rescheduled to 2021. The coronavirus, in one fell swoop, brought Blume’s entire 2020 revenue stream tumbling down to zero. We even lost existing weddings where client moved to dates we couldn’t fulfil.

It was soul-destroying to see everything that I had put my heart and soul into disappear overnight. But it wasn’t just Blume, the entire wedding industry crumbled and businesses are still picking up the pieces.

Lockdown, social distancing, and making revenue

At this point, the government had made no announcements on how they were going to support the self-employed. Nothing. It was utterly terrifying.

I had to start to think of ways to earn money to keep a roof over my head. Fast.

At the start, we did it all. From DIY Easter wreath boxes to online mentoring workshops, revenue trickled in. But it wasn’t enough, I had studio rent to pay as well as personal.

I noticed that my local coffee shop was still open on our high street. Somehow, they had managed to pivot themselves into a quirky little deli that still served coffee. The only decent cuppa could you get for miles. We all know how much Londoners love coffee, and the queues were enormous.

Lightbulb moment.

I contacted them to see if they’d let me sell flower bunches. Blume’s wholesaler was still operating so I knew I could still get fresh deliveries (albeit at a much smaller capacity as 80% of the flower auction closed during lockdown). Thankfully, they they were more than happy to support us. There was a real community spirit at that point which was everything.

From that point on, every week on a Thursday, I’d develop a new colour palette, sharing on social media, and sell our ‘Blume Bunches’ at the shop. I was obviously immensely nervous to how they’d be received but people loved them! In spite of everything, that was a really proud moment for us.

Blume in LockdownBlume in Lockdown

 

We started to sell them online to the local community, delivering across South West and East London, and I decided to invest in building a temporary studio in the form of a garden shed to give us a dry space to make the weekly flowers.

The reaction of support was nothing short of incredible. We really felt that, at that point, Blume was starting to find its feet again. We were bouncing back, carving a different, but necessary, path to the one we had envisioned.

 

Blume's Old Studio In WimbledonMr Blume Building our Lockdown StudioLockdown StudioLockdown Studio With Paint

Pivoting Blume: our road to recovery

While lockdown has been devastating in more ways than one, it has also opened up new doors and created opportunities we didn’t know were possible. On a business level, I’ve been fortunate enough to still have a product to sell as I am a floral designer by trade, but I never thought I’d be a retail-based florist.

As the country established a ‘new normal’, people’s daily routines changed drastically. We’re working from home, perhaps indefinitely, and the office environment will certainly never be the same again.

Speaking to my customers and keeping up-to-date with all the coronavirus-related consumer research, we could also see a trend explaining how local high streets will make their long-awaited comeback as a result of the virus and people not wanting to venture into crowded cities as much. Their local high street beckoned.

The support for small independent businesses has been amazing, with so many people now choosing to shop local, even if it means paying a little more.

We were just in the process of launching the Blume Bunches nationwide when I saw a shop for let on my local high street in Earlsfield, Garratt Lane.

After a chat with my partner, we threw caution to the wind and inquired about the letting. It seemed the shop had been vacant for a while, and the landlord, happily, was prepared to be very flexible. With weddings and large events not looking like they’ll be going ahead until 2021 - and even that looks uncertain - we needed to make a commitment to move forward and grow.

Taking our chance in retail floristry

And here we are. We are going to be opening the Blume Store late August! We cannot wait to show you the progress and the work we’ve put into it, as well as what we’re going to sell.

It’s a scary, but huge opportunity for Blume to open a store, and even though we understand there are huge risks involved (impending recession…great…potential second lockdown…fantastic), we feel it’s the right time for the business.

People always say you fight or flight. Well, there’s little option to fly anywhere at the moment, and when is it ever the right time anyway.

The shop will be split into 2 sections: the front being a concept store that sells fresh and dried flowers, homeware, and gifts such as candles, tableware and ceramics. The back of the store will be a practical space to teach classes and workshops, as well as as a practical space for organising weddings and events.

We could not be more excited to be growing and taking on this new adventure, but it is also really nerve-wracking. The whole process throughout the pandemic has been stressful, but so rewarding. It has been amazing to see so many businesses not only survive, but thrive by pivoting during this unprecedented time. 

I hope you will continue to support us and follow Blume on its journey, albeit not the one we had planned. Here’s to the next chapter!

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