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Florists expecting a festive labour crunch

With Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day coming near, florists are preparing for an onslaught of demand.
January 21, 2013
By: Sue-ann Tan And Priscilla Kham
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Florists expecting a festive labour crunch Far East Flora (above) is among a number of businesses preparing for increased demand, with the Chinese New Year period and Valentine’s Day falling so close together. It plans to increase manpower by about 20 per cent, by hiring students for two to four

FLORISTS are anticipating a labour crunch this festive season that may rival the one in 2010, when Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year fell on the same day.

With Chinese New Year beginning on Feb 10 this year, and Valentine's Day just a few days afterwards, florists are preparing for an onslaught of demand.

Alongside large orders for traditional Chinese New Year plants, such as kumquat and money plants, will be those for typical Valentine's Day flowers, such as roses and lilies.

On Valentine's Day, flower deliveries can shoot up to around 700 - around 10 times more than on a usual day - said Mr Soh Yee How, managing director of Xpress Flower, a floral chain with 13 outlets.

The Chinese New Year is equally busy for florists.

"Two weeks before Chinese New Year, we can receive more than 100 transactions an hour," said Mr Mok Keng Houng, manager of Ji Mei Flower, about the number of orders during peak periods.

Well-versed florists are taking pre-emptive action, like hiring temporary staff or priming staff about longer work hours in the coming weeks.

A spokesman for Far East Flora, one of the country's most established florists, said: "It has happened before, and we know they clash every few years. Manpower is always an issue during the festive season. Sometimes, there is also a shortage of flower stocks."

Added Ms Lennie Biacora, a 30-year-old creative executive who has been with Far East Flora for five years: "We will work about 12 hours a day for three weeks to prepare for the Chinese New Year period."

The company also plans to hire temporary staff for jobs such as packaging bouquets and cashier duties.

Ms See Pei San, general manager for Far East Flora, said it will increase manpower by about 20 per cent, by hiring students for two to four weeks.

This will help, but perhaps not entirely.

Said Mr Soh: "The trouble is getting experienced people. Our staff can wrap much faster, about one bouquet every 10 minutes. The part-timers can wrap as slowly as two bouquets an hour."

To get around this, some florists have a pool of people they can call on. Said a spokesman for Prince's Flower Shop: "We have kept close ties with previous part-time staff who have experience, so we don't have problems getting new ones every year."

In addition to hiring more staff, Xpress Flower also outsources its packaging to smaller retail florists to cope with demand.

It also offers discounts for early birds. But this does not always work, as plants are perishable products, said Mr Soh. So when the festive season rolls around, efficiency is crucial.

He said, "we are like the char kway teow man frying plates on the spot for a long queue of people".


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