March 8, 2018

Floristry Career Insight : Simon Richards | Product Developer for Cut Flowers | Marks & Spencer

On Flowerona, my aim is always to promote the floristry industry in its entirety, helping and inspiring everyone involved in this wonderful community. And today, I’m delighted to share with you an insight into a career in flowers, which had its foundations in one of London’s top florist shops.

A warm welcome to Simon Richards, Product Developer for Cut Flowers at retailer Marks & Spencer.

When did you first become interested in floristry?

As a career changer in my late 30s I decided to try and make a career out of my life long hobby: horticulture. Having completed the RHS General Certificate, I thought I would try my hand at garden design.

After 18 months, although I loved it the work was physically very demanding (I had pursued a design and build path). And I realised that winter was a fallow period. So I looked for a florist job to tide me over until spring.

This took me to Jane Packer Flowers, where I started to train ‘on the job’ as a complete novice. I loved it from day 1, despite the long hours and within 5 years I was co-managing the flagship store in Marylebone. I travelled to the States and Far East while working for Jane, working on some amazing events. And I didn’t do back to gardening…

How has your floristry career progressed?

After 5 intense years, I was pretty worn out from long florist days (not exactly breaking news I know!) and I needed a new challenge. I was also looking for better remuneration, something I’m sure lots of florists can relate to.

By chance, or maybe serendipity, Marks & Spencer were looking for a Product Developer for their cut flower ranges, the first time they had ever recruited externally for this role.

What is your current role?

As Product Developer for cut flowers, I work closely with the buying and technical teams to develop 12 ranges a year – 6 for stores and 6 for on-line, covering all the floral peaks: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas, plus seasonal ranges for spring, summer and autumn.

What does a normal week look like?

There is no normal really…lots of meetings, reviewing the ranges I mention above, some inspiring travel to UK growers as well as further afield to Kenya, Colombia and Holland. Visiting any of our 500+ stores to look out for quality issues and display standards. Oh and spreadsheets – everything (rightly so) needs to be documented and tracked.

How do you feel now about your career change? 

Before I joined Marks & Spencer, I didn’t really have a notion that there were ‘floriculture’ jobs outside of floristry itself. While I definitely miss the hands-on creativity of floristry, the delight of counting customers in the hundreds of thousands mean that I don’t regret my career swerve at all!

What is your favourite part about your job?

Directional visits to ‘centres of excellence’ which can be London, Amsterdam or further afield. You never know where the next big idea is going to come from. Also customer events and masterclasses. And of course the RHS Chelsea Flower Show! We are well ahead in planning our 6th exhibit at the moment. We have won a Gold Medal for the last 3 years, so no pressure!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Simon’s flower journey. Do let me know if there are any other people within the floristry industry that you’d like me to feature.

(Images : Marks & Spencer)

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