Friday, December 16, 2011

Spreading a little Christmas joy.

This is my 3rd Christmas email.  How about that? Some weeks it's hard to find the inspiration, but mostly there is a new question, a new season or a growing problem.  This week it's a business problem that I'm contemplating, one I know I should write about but I'm not so sure I want to.

A few weeks back I wrote about the excitement of discovering Fuchsia's.  We spent nearly 3 years playing and tweaking Fuchsia until we got confident this season and in our terms went for broke and put in a big batch. Part of the lesson in Fuchsia growing came when we had a pre-order for Fuchsias to dispatch in October last year.  Our plants were not up to standard so we called around, I'd rather lose money on the order than admit to messing it up.  We were astounded to discover that we couldn't buy a Fuchsia basket for love nor money, they had all been cut back to prepare them for Christmas sales. Who knew? Well apparently anyone that knows anything about Fuchsia, but I'm prepared to learn.

Learn we did and this year's Fuchsia Baskets have been a winner. We had what felt to us like a huge batch and good sized Christmas pre-orders, but not enough to take away the concern that we had grown too many baskets (Mark gets very grumpy when he has to cut back or worse dump plants).  

We have put a lot of effort into taking Christmas orders and a great deal of effort goes into getting everything delivered on time.  Much more effort than would seem necessary but any number of small problems can derail the process: seed has to be sown on time, plants have to be potted, spaced, moved to the best growing area.  Then we have to put ordered stock aside, plus a few for the inevitable losses. The orders then have to be picked from the correct batches. No it shouldn't be that difficult, but believe me it is. I think we have a pretty good reputation for delivering what we promise, but the order that goes out exactly as it was placed many months before is sadly in the minority. Oh, and just for good measure we are still trying to find a way to move any stock once the pre-orders have been delivered.

Well you can see where this story is heading.  We grew the Fuchsias and a number of other Christmas Gift items beautifully, but thinking we were over stocked we were less than diligent in putting the required plants aside for orders.  Right up to Trade Day last week we were still pushing hard to move the Fuchsias in case we were stuck with them. Then someone suddenly says we haven't got any more Fuchsias???!!! and we've still got orders to fill!!  Some language was used at this point that I'm not proud of.

So, we had some frustrated and angry customers, I am genuinely sorry.  We did not handle these orders with appropriate care.  To everyone else, we have another year's growing experience, great product and an itch to make amends when we next get the chance to handle special seasonal orders.... like Mother's Day.  It's not all bad, we really have tested our systems and found the faults, I'm confident we can improve.

Anyway, We have one week to go until Christmas.  Enjoy the sales, it's not necessarily easy while under intense pressure.  Have a great Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.  By the way we'll work right through and I note with interest that Van Berkel will be delivering between Christmas and New Year for the first time in a long time.  Let's hope that's a sign of the health of the industry.

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