With a 7% growth up until February, it looks like France is going to take the United Kingdom’s place as second export destination for plants and flowers from the Netherlands this year. The total export turnover has already reached € 1 billion, a 9% increase compared with last year.
These figures are derived from Floridata’s statistics. It’s the first time ever that exports exceed € 1 billion so early on in the year. Things are changing on the French market because of the rise of plant and flower sales through retailers and the internet.
The increase in export is mostly due to flower sales, which went up by 11%, reaching a total of € 702 million. Plant sales only went up by 4%, reaching a total of € 319 million. The French market seems to be in a state of flux. Until February, the export value increased by 7%, bringing it to a total of € 129 million, which is marginally higher than the value for the UK. Exports to the UK went down by 12% during the first two months of this year.
The French market follows the trend for the market as a whole, in the sense that flower sales are increasing more rapidly (+9%) than plant sales (+2%). “The higher value for flowers is mostly due to higher purchasing prices”, explains Flying Dutchman Wim Aanhane. Niels Kruger of Van der Plas France, for 100% owned by Floral Trade Group, confirms this. “January was a tough month for florists, but sales went back up in February”, he says, which is in line with another thing that Aanhane said.
Retail and internet
Wholesalers contribute an important part of the increased export turnover to the large retailers. A spokesperson of Qualifor, subsidiary of Dutch Flower Group and supplier to French supermarkets, doesn’t recognise this though. She feels that there’s been an organic growth of exports to France within her current customer base.
Van der Plas France has been focusing heavily on internet sales and French florists have responded surprisingly positive according to Kruger. “It’s been going much better than expected.” Aanhane has also launched a web shop.
Exporters have also noticed an increase in plant and flower sales through KOA (remote buying), which means that French florist are getting involved in auction clock biddings. Having to deal with the financial and logistic side of these sales, has changed the role of exporters.
According to Servaas van der Ven of Royal FloraHolland, the number of KOA customers has gone up by 10% during the past three months, reaching a total of more than 3,000. “We don’t know if this includes a high number of French customers. But it’s a steep increase”, he says.
Apart from the impact of the shift in distribution channels and sales methods, the French plant and flower trade is also increasing because there’s more competition and there are more direct lines from other countries, according to Paul van den Oever of Kariflex.
The upcoming French presidential elections on the 23rd of April and the 7th of May aren’t casting a shadow yet, but they could have a large effect, whatever the outcome may be. “We’ve seen this in the past”, says VGB. “And our customers are also talking about it. Elections often create a sense of unrest, which can reduce consumer confidence. That translates into lower spending”, is Aanhane’s experience.