Van der Plas has been a reliable supplier to florists across Europe for many years, offering a unique and wide range of sustainably grown flowers and plants. Van der Plas employees do their utmost to deliver plants and flowers of the highest quality every day. But what does an average working day of a Van der Plas employee look like? In this blog, we will be following Brian Vis, a purchasing agent at Van der Plas.
Before the dew
Before the flowers in nature even start to open, Brian's alarm has already gone off. What time Brian gets up varies, but it is always quite early. Brian: "When I go to the Royal FloraHolland flower auction in Aalsmeer, I get up at 3:30 in the morning, on other days the alarm goes off at 4:45. The reason I get up earlier when I go to the auction is because I want to be well prepared to buy. I arrive at the auction at 4.00am so that I can inspect the plants that will be going into the auction for quality."
Brian is part of a team of six buyers, with everyone responsible for their own product group. In this team, Brian handles the purchasing of seasonal plants. "For example, at the moment I am buying a lot of potted bulbs and towards spring I will focus more on annual bedding plants. But no matter what I buy, I want to see it with my own eyes first. In doing this, I keep in mind what the customer is looking for and consider freshness and stage of maturity. Furthermore, before buying mixed trays, I pay attention to the colour combinations to see if they match the customer's requirements."
Playing the Clock
After inspecting the plants at the auction, Brian fills in on an order list to indicate which plants he wants to buy. Then, while most of the Netherlands is still sleeping, he drives to the Van der Plas office to get ready for auction. "Auctioning plants is done remotely with a digital auction clock," Brian explains. "The auction starts the clock at a certain price, after which the price starts dropping. Buyers can stop the clock at the amount they want to pay. The person who stops the clock then purchases some or all of the plants or flowers for that price."
When the auction is over, Brian's day really begins, he approaches customers with the latest offerings and phones growers to see if they have any interesting offers. He also takes photos of the freshly acquired plants for WhatsApp offers and makes sure the new plants are added to the webshop. "Depending on my schedule, I often then also visit a grower," Brian says. That schedule looks different every day. "That's what I like best about this job: no two days are the same. You must deal with a lot of factors, so every day is full of surprises.”
Having tea at the grower's
Whereas in the past all flowers and plants were bought 'on the clock' through auctions, this has changed. "We buy less and less via the clock and more often buy directly from the grower," says Brian. "There, we can see at our leisure what we need and how much we want to order. On the days I'm not at auction, I visit some of our growers. Then I see which plants are coming and whether I can make nice offers on these for our customers. I then always engage with the grower to make sure we can offer our customers the best quality at the best price."
Honesty is the best policy
Brian joined Van der Plas at 16 through an internship. "That internship pleased both myself and Van der Plas, so I was subsequently offered a job. In five-and-a-half years, I carried out almost every part of the ordering process. After this period, I worked for another company for a while, before returning to Van der Plas as a buyer. I have now been taking care of purchasing for four and a half years with great pleasure. The most important thing for me in this job is that our customers trust us. The quality of the flowers or plants coming out of the lorry at the flower shop must be ensured before they leave the trailer. Transparency and keeping our promises are essential for me."
When asked about the best moment at Van der Plas, Brian gives a surprising answer. "Surely that's 2020, when the Netherlands had to deal with the coronavirus. Although it was a difficult time, we saw that - against all odds - consumers started buying more flowers and plants again. It was very nice to see that we could still make people happy with our flowers and plants during this unpleasant period."