Van der Plas has been a reliable supplier of a unique and wide range of sustainably grown flowers and plants for florists across Europe for many years. 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 actually looks like? In this blog, we look over the shoulder of Brian Vis, purchasing employee at Van der Plas.

Before dawn

Even before nature’s flowers open, Brian’s alarm clock has gone off. The time Brian gets up varies, but it is always 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 buy well prepared. I then arrive at the auction at 4.00 in the morning so that I can inspect the plants that go into the auction later for quality.”

Seasonal shopping

Brian is part of a team of six buyers, with everyone responsible for their own product group. Within this team, Brian handles the purchasing of seasonal plants. “At the moment, for example, I’m buying a lot of potted bulbs and towards spring I will focus more on annual bedding plants. But whatever I buy, I want to see it with my own eyes first. I keep in mind what the customer is looking for and look at 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.”

Game with the clock

After inspecting the plants at the auction, Brian fills in on an order list which plants he wants to buy. Then, while most of the Netherlands is still asleep, he drives to the Van der Plas office to get ready for the auction. “Auctioning plants is done remotely with a digital auction clock,” Brian explains. “The auction starts the clock at a certain amount, after which the price starts dropping. Buyers can stop the auction clock at the amount they want to pay. The one who stops the auction clock then buys some or all of the plants or flowers for that amount.”

Always alternating

When the auction is over, Brian’s day really begins: he approaches customers with the latest offer and calls growers to see if they have any interesting offers. He also takes photos of the freshly purchased plants for the WhatsApp offers and makes sure the new plants are added to the webshop. “Depending on my schedule, I then often visit a grower as well,” Brian says. That agenda looks different every day. “That’s also what I like best about this work: no day is the same. You have to 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 the auction, this has now 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 ease what we need and how much we want to order. The days I’m not at the auction, I visit some of our growers. Then I see which plants are coming and whether I can make nice offers for 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 me 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 purchasing agent. I have now been taking care of purchasing for four and a half years with great joy. 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 clear in advance. Transparency and keeping our promises are essential for me.”

“What I find special about Van der Plas is that we are the largest company within the Floral Trade Group, but you are still given all the freedom to implement your own idea,” says Brian. “As a purchasing agent, I can carry out the work in my own way. I also have very nice colleagues, which makes the atmosphere super. Partly because of this, the staff at Van der Plas are also very accommodating.”

Brightening products

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.”

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