The positive points
As customers may stay away from shopping centres, 70% of our florist business have online shopping websites and indeed we are known in the UK to have one of the most healthy online shopping habits for flower buying.
We know that our industry is reliant on air freight, however oil prices were already falling due to a lack of demand which has come about very much due to people’s reluctance to travel due to the coronavirus. The possible increase in oil supply and drop in demand is almost unprecedented and led to falling stocks and rising gold prices. So while you’re filling up next week look out for possible reductions in petrol prices.
Tuesday we saw tumbling global stock markets close almost 8% lower around the world, their worst day since the financial crisis. It would be easy to blame the coronavirus outbreak on the fall however the main driver was a disagreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia over oil output. Saudi Arabia said it would slash prices and pump more oil, sparking fears of a price war.
With the tumbling stock markets and the news that Italy has extended its emergency coronavirus measures the BFA thought it may be prudent to send out some information on the situation so far, though as you can imagine this is changing hourly.
Focusing on issues closer to our industry it is hard to ignore the 2 countries most affected by the coronavirus, China and Italy.
Though as an industry we do not rely on China for fresh products we are reliant on them for sundries etc. Already we have seen imports fall by 4% and exports fall by 18% – this ratio really reflects that raw materials are getting into China but they are unable to do anything with them due to a shutdown of the production and logistics. It appears that certain products may not be arriving this side of Mother’s Day with no real indication when they will be available.
Jane Nicholls, Director of Operations, I.S. Sundries quoted
” We would like to reassure our customers that in light of the Coronavirus outbreak we are fully geared up to meet business demands. As always we strive to offer the very best value and service to our customers.”
Italy has become a major concern, until then exports seemed to be unaffected this is due to San Remo the major growing area reporting no known cases of coronavirus.
However Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended Italy’s emergency measures, which include travel restrictions and a ban on public gatherings to the entire country. Schools and Universities will be shut till 3rd April, bars and restaurants will remain open from 6am to 6pm. Currently no one knows if there will be any long term impact to exports but it is worth noting some of products that we rely on Italy for may be in short supply.
Please note that Italian florist shops are closed. The same applies to Kuwait, Belarus and Albania at the moment.
John Davidson said ”Speaking to suppliers in Holland, it is very much business as normal”
All wholesalers have obviously put the usual precautionary measures such as increasing the availability of hand sanitiser and other such products to staff. They have also advised staff to avoid contact with one another and all round taken the general precautions. At this time they are taking a cautionary approach to travel but it appears they are happy to come to the UK.
Tom Brown Wholesale Florists Ltd said ”we have reviewed our sanitary practices. Most of it is common sense and hopefully practises we all follow every day but refocusing those procedures should hope keep the risk to a minimum. At the moment travel to any destination affected has been banned and this will remain while we monitor the ongoing situation”.
It goes without saying that everyone has to pull together and the larger companies within our industry are working hard to give the best information they can to their members and followers.
Paul Isaia Regional Director eFlorist Ltd
”At Euroflorist/eFlorist, the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees and florist network are of greatest importance. Because of that, we want to give you an update on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and remind you of the necessary actions, to ensure we are all taking the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe and well both at work and home. We are following the NHS guidelines and are encouraging our employees and florists to do the same.
We are closely monitoring the situation and are working on contingencies to ensure orders are processed to and from the florist network. The beauty of the eFlorist system is that it can be managed and accessed from anywhere. eFlorist will continue to help and support our florist network. ”
Nick Priest, Director Interflora Services states:
“Fundamentally, we are being guided by the advice that is available from the various government and health agencies. We are seeking to re-assure our employees that as an employer, we are doing everything we can to protect them in their workplace and that we should all be ready and prepared should the situation worsen. We have passed this message to our florist network to support them in their decision-making as independent employers.
As the situation develops, we are all likely to experience operational challenges. In the event that travel and movement restrictions come into force, we will at that time, review the guidance and direction that the government sets and react accordingly. In the meantime, we are advising our florists to take all sensible precautions when delivering gifts, such as leaving the gift in a safe place and taking a photograph as proof of delivery but, whatever advice we are offering, ultimately, we are asking our florists to treat an Interflora order in the same way that they are treating a local order. We are not imposing any conditions that they would not otherwise be meeting in the course of their local deliveries. We are also making consumers aware of product delivery challenges via our website.”
At the moment it seems that some of the UK are in panic mode however there are some practical tips and information available here.https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Another thing to think about is if you are introducing new cleaning products you may have to update your COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations) assessment and introduce control measures. https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/harmful/coshh.htm
Statutory Sick Pay
The government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying COVID-19 related SSP by refunding eligible SSP costs. The eligibility criteria for the scheme include:
- the refund will be limited to two weeks per employee
- employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
- employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
- employers should maintain records of staff absences, but should not require employees to provide a GP fit note
- the eligible period for the scheme will commence from the day on which the regulations extending SSP to self-isolators come into force.
Time to Pay
The government will ensure that businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs.
HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help those in need, and they may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. Time to Pay gives businesses a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back.
Support during the coronavirus
The Prime Minister previously announced that the forthcoming COVID-19 Bill will temporarily allow Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to be paid from the first day of sickness absence, rather than the fourth day, for people who have COVID-19 or have to self-isolate in accordance with government guidelines. The Budget sets out a further package to widen the scope of SSP and make it more accessible. The government will temporarily extend SSP to cover:
- individuals who are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate
- people caring for those within the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate.
Support for those ineligible for SSP
The government recognises that self-employed people and employees earning below the National Insurance Lower Earnings Limit are not entitled to SSP and will offer financial support to these individuals through a ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.
We have been asked advice re-wedding insurance taken out by the bride and groom. Having a brief search it would seem each is different but most mention that the actual venue would have to be closed down by an authority for insurance to kick in. But reading the small print is really your customers responsibility, just make sure your terms and conditions cover your business for all eventualities.
Unfortunately, we have already been informed by florists of events that have been cancelled but these seem to be the more corporate events where companies are restricting the interaction between staff.
Obviously this is just an overview and there is a lot more information official online websites but as and when anything changes we will keep you up to date.
Thank you to everyone for their valuable input and collaboration.