May 25, 2017
“They’re the happiest people you’ll see at 4:00am,” says Anthony Clear.
And he couldn’t be more right – the vendors at New Covent Garden Market are brimming with bouquets of flowers bright and early every day.
The market starts in the wee hours of the morning but with the hustle and bustle of a bazaar at midday.
Anthony is a seasoned member of this buzzing community; he’s been part of this hive of horticulturalists for 20 years. “Imagine a job where 20 years into it, you’re still learning something new each day.”
He shares how the best way to store sunflowers for long periods of time is to get a cylindrical container, fill it to the brim with water and steep the stems in the water with just the heads peeking out over the edge – something he learnt a few days ago. It keeps them fresh and vivid.
What you’ll notice about Anthony’s business is how modern it is: all bouquets are barcoded with their respective prices, the system is all electronic, and he keeps tabs on what his suppliers have through their social media channels. The entire system used to work based on credit with buyers paying for their purchase months later. However, it’s now moved away from that to an immediate transactional exchange that’s faster, friendlier and financially firm.
That makes Anthony very happy.
He runs his operations with swift efficiency: predicting every day what he’ll need to buy for the next, puts an order through, and the following day, a truck arrives from Holland with his delivery. He has mastered this guessing game to the point of having only 1-2% waste!
Having been in the business for 20 years, Anthony is a pro. Some of his customers extend way back to the beginning and most of them are independent, small scale florists.
His flowers come from all over: South America, Europe, Africa. Have floral trends changed over the years?
A little: Anthony notes how lillies are no longer thought of as funeral flowers. They’re purchased all year round. Also, African roses have reached impeccable quality, rivaling European varieties.
The move to the new space last month was naturally stressful but much smoother than Anthony expected. The building is chilled to 14℃ – the optimal temperature for storing flowers – and brightly lit, making the carnival of colour really pop.
Florists can visit Anthony’s stall at the shiny New Covent Garden Market between 4am and 10am Monday to Friday and till 9am on Saturdays. Members of the public can pop in for the last hour each day to see this beguiling world of flowers. Do say hello to Anthony: he’s been up since before 4am and burgeoning brightly.
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