Vision16 - Leicester, UK

I know that the purpose of Vision16 was not to confuse and cause what seemed like great inconvenience to the operational side to the bar at the Leicester Marriott Hotel, but it seems that no-one forewarned the hotel that when a bunch of florists gather in one place there will be a few drinks required...!

Rather than take to Tripadvisor with my grumbles, I'll perhaps thank them instead (maybe it was their way to limit the consumption) as they did seem to make it pretty difficult for me to buy a drink without a convoluted way of payment...

Anyway enough of that...!

Vision '16 was the sequel to 2020 Vision (I know, I love the pun too!) which was devised to create a 5 year plan to claw back as much of the market share of the massive floral industry back into retail florist businesses as possible. In a year not much has changed in terms of the figures (there is a long way to go after all) but I definitely feel there is a shift in attitude by those who were there. Whilst maybe not quite as well attended as I would have expected it is perhaps this element that is the saddest indication of the state of our industry. Those with the passion, the desire and the vision were there... those who are quite happy to be "ticking along" stayed at home. This is the problem. The consumer sees far too many flower shops and florist businesses who just don't "get it". They are doing the things they've always done, and seeing their business stagnate, stutter or even crumble and fail. Well, what do they expect...?

This years conference was an uplifting, informative, fun, diverse and rewarding few hours spent listening, absorbing and mentally planning. There were some key messages that I'll pick up on later, but I was pleased that much of what was spoken about is well set in my plans for my own business this year.

We had a talk on Managing Your Margins (an important bit of business that...many haven't got a clue perhaps?), a presentation on Social Media by the engaging Claire Mitchell from The Girls Mean Business group (who, incidentally gave my own Facebook Page a massive thumbs up in front of the attentive crowd!), a rather wacky and totally off the wall bit of dialect from the crazy but incredibly knowledgable Jan de Boer from Barendsen BV which a recount of his recent trip to the Aquarium in Genoa (it is relevent trust me!) and the ever-so-tall Aadrian Roodenburg from Rosa Natura who spoke at great length about Rosa& and his little Princesses that grow into Queens who need care and respect through their journey from greenhouse to consumer. It was all remarkably engaging, at times light hearted/hilarious but most of all to the point and relevant - which is exactly what you need from this kind of event. 

Jan de Boer from Barendsen at his engaging best!

Jan de Boer from Barendsen at his engaging best!

Claire Mitchell from The Girls Mean Business astride her new favoured form of flower delivery!

Claire Mitchell from The Girls Mean Business astride her new favoured form of flower delivery!

The mood after lunch was perhaps a little more serious and this was certainly the case when we kicked off with an Economic overview by internationally renowned macroeconomist Russell Jones from Llewelyn Consulting. Whilst not the first choice for many at a conference for the Florist World, I felt it was a totally sound and reasonable option to include this complicated and often confusing world of economics at the event. In fact Russell's explanation of the whole "Brexit" shenanigans was easily the clearest and less "scaremongering" that I've heard - anywhere! In truth, these things do matter to us the small business owner and anyone who dismissed this section of the event as dull and uninteresting, probably shouldn't be in business. 

Following on was Mike Bourguignon from Florint who I was particularly looking forward to hearing. This presentation was all about how we the retailer need to be looking at how we are to engage with the new wave of consumers, the Millennials or Generation Y. Ignore this at your peril was the general message...something I am looking very closely in my own business at I know for a fact that this category of consumer make up a large proportion of my local demographic. It incredibly important that the florist understands what this all means - Mike (and me incidentally) is convinced that there is to be massive change in our industry sector and those who don't keep up are going to lose out. It was quite inspiring stuff and I was so pleased as the whole presentation could almost have been the script for the changes I'm applying to my business this year. I'm sure they'll be much more to report on this subject through the year...so watch this space!

Caroline Marshall-Foster rounded off the event with a humorous, unexpected and at times emotional list of reasons why we as Florists are, and should always be, a massive part of peoples lives. I won't spoil it by telling you too much as I'm sure Caroline would like to do that herself when The Florist release their own review of Vision16.

Finally, I think the way the bar operated saved my Sunday. It was late enough, I'd definitely drunk enough (perhaps they knew that lol!) and it meant I could give Vision16 my full attention!

If you've enjoyed reading this, tell your friends...if you've got a comment for me, then leave it below - I'll be as open to questions as possible!