‘Positive atmosphere at Flowers Expo in Moscow’

Danny van Uffelen of Zentoo was at Flowers Expo in Moscow last week. Since last year, Russia has become the most important distribution country for the chrysanthemum growers’ organisation. According to Van Uffelen, the trade fair was characterised by a positive atmosphere and his tour along wholesalers confirmed that the Russian market is developing. The Russians are knowledgeable, their shelves are looking better, and florists are improving.

How was the fair?

“Flower sales to Russia have been increasing and you could sense this at the trade show. There was a positive atmosphere. The Expo is a good moment to review the Russian market. Women’s Day in March and the first day of school in September come up in the conversation. Those two days were very profitable, especially Women’s Day. We have good hopes for next year’s Women’s Day too. The first couple of days of the fair, there were some rumours about the rouble getting weaker, due to potential American sanctions. But later that week, the exchange rate of the rouble went back up. It was something that kept especially the traders busy.”

How important is Russia for Zentoo?

“Since last year, it has become our most important export country. Early 2017, we started to get the impression that the economy in Russia was improving. That’s when we began to focus more on the country. We adjusted our assortment for the Russian market and increased the number of specifications that we include. It’s a real price maker when it comes to new introductions. If a new chrysanthemum is widely accepted by the Russians, you can count on a successful launch.”

Do they still love novelties?

“Russians are always on the lookout for something new. Digital platforms and remote buying help them stay well informed. We were exhibiting some novelties at the fair, and the Russians visitors who came to our booth were able to name them all. It wasn’t like that a few years ago. The information flows are really working now.”

Are Russians still willing to pay high prices for flowers?

“A little less than before, is what we noticed during the big flower days in particular. They no longer demand superior quality for those days. An average, good quality is fine now. They still pay a good price for reliable flowers, though. A chrysanthemum perhaps no longer needs to weigh at least 100-110 grams, but they do want consistency. What you’re supplying today needs to be the same as what you supply tomorrow and a month later. They also rely heavily on growers’ names printed on the packaging. If it says ‘Zentoo’ or a grower’s name, they know that the product was packaged by the grower, which gives them the feeling that it’s reliable.”

What did you take away from the study tour?

“We visit a few renowned wholesalers every year. It used to be that all the flowers would first go on the wholesalers’ shelves, but nowadays, 80% is sold in advance. The only thing left on the shelves was what wasn’t sold in advance. We also learned that the complexity of orders is increasing. Russian end customers want several smaller quantities these days, instead of one large batch. They now order three times 5,000 stems instead of 2 times 7,500 for example. This makes a difference on the shelves. The smaller volumes and higher turnover rate make it easier to keep them neat and organised.”

What about e-commerce?

“E-commerce is gaining popularity in Russia. They order through web shops more and more. Flowers are purchased and shipped from the Netherlands. However, 80% of the produce is already sold before it’s unloaded. One of the wholesalers that we visited had a shop-in-shop. The wholesale store was on the ground floor, and there was an office for online florists upstairs. When the florists received an order, they walked over to the wholesale store to process it. We also noticed that wholesalers were organising more and more flower shows. Led by an art director, a real artist, who knows how to inspire the customers. Florists can learn a lot from these events. I thought that was very positive, as in the past, Russia was known as a place were flowers were sold mainly from market stalls. Nowadays, florists in the middle and higher segment are really developing.”

Did Zentoo win any of the awards?

“Yes, we came first in the competition for quality with our Kennedy spray chrysanthemum, and we also won the gold medal in the competition for novelties with our santini Trixie. I should add that there’s a first prize for every single variety. Nonetheless, the extra attention for our flowers is always welcome. When a novelty does well in the competition, we know it’s a good indication of what the Russians like.”

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