‘Corona hit us like a comet’

Looking back to my previous blog, it seems like I wrote it in a different century. Six weeks ago, we were in the middle of the carnival celebrations and I mentioned the excellent prospects for 2020. Not a worry in the world. Apart from some problems in China perhaps, but that seemed so far away.

Well, that very problem hit us like a comet. The coronavirus spread rapidly during the carnival. The strict measures that were subsequently introduced here in Brazil resulted in similar scenes to those we’d seen at the auctions in Aalsmeer and Naaldwijk. We were instantly reminded of the vulnerability of our sector.

In Brazil, all non-essential retail, including florists and garden centres, had to close their doors. And that hurt! We soon realised the only places left to go shopping were the  supermarkets, but consumers were only interested in fruit, vegetables and cleaning products. Plants and flowers quickly became non-essential products.

During the first week of the crisis, we decided to stop our auctioning activities. Sales still continued via auction presale (without auctioning), our Veiling Online web shop and daily intermediary services. Our turnover declined dramatically during the first couple of days, but slowly but surely, customers started to buy again. We scaled up our marketing activities via social media and special offers in the stores.

We formed a crisis team, with the aim of bringing our situation under the attention of the government, partly via the various media channels. Ibraflor took the lead in this. They are the umbrella organisation for flower and pot-plant producers in Brazil. We got a good response from the politicians, who subsequently took appropriate measures.

We don’t know yet when florists and garden centres will be allowed to open again. What we do know, is that this situation can’t continue for too long and that more and more companies are finding creative and innovative solutions via e-commerce and delivery services.

We’ve made a plan for starting up our auctioning activities again. But we need the approval of our local council. We won’t be starting with remote buying yet and we’ll have to limit the number of people in the gallery.

All our campaigns for Mother’s Day will also start soon. A very important day for our members. All efforts are made to make these sales go ahead as much as possible. The current situation is bizarre and dramatic. But we’re not alone. We’re closely following the news from other countries too.

I wish everyone lots of strength at this difficult time and most importantly, hope you’ll all stay safe and healthy!

André van Kruijssen

CEO of Veiling Holambra

Click here to read more blogs from André.

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