We spoke to Anthony Cox, owner of Manchester-based – and aptly-named – Flourish, to find out how his award-winning business has become a focal point for his busy high street.
Flourish is a florist with a difference. Its open store front on Tib Street in Manchester city centre bursts with vibrant colour and adds real interest to the high street. The sheer array of flowers and houseplants – from old favourites to more unusual options – draws a steady stream of loyal customers six days a week.
It is the product of 20 years of hard work for Antony and family, who initially started the business on a site close to St Anne’s church, where a flower stall has stood for over 100 years.
But, even though Antony has been involved in floristry since the age of ten, this is not a business rooted in the past. It has an eye on the future – in everything from stock, marketing, and the customer demographic, to the entire business model.
“That’s one of the things I love about my business,” Antony explained. “If I have an idea I can act on it quickly and any idea is my own calculated risk.”
Adding a diverse array of more unusual houseplants to Flourish’s stock was one such risk, but has paid off handsomely. Quite apart from adding a unique sense of discovery for anyone visiting the store, it landed Flourish a Royal Horticultural Society Award for houseplants – a useful marketing lever in its own right.
“It’s pretty simple really. You have to do the 1% that no-one else is doing if want to stand out,” Antony said.
Similarly, Antony and the team make great use of social media as a means of attracting a younger demographic to the store: “A lot of florists will tell you the average customer age is probably 50 plus, which is fine of course. But you have to look to the future, to the next generation of customers. Social media really helps in that respect, and having unusual flowers and plants to post about makes that easier, so it all works together.”
Although one of Antony’s plans for the future is to sell online and move into wholesale, he remains committed to the high street.
“The high street can be successful for businesses who get it right, and isn’t going anywhere. In time, we want to find an equilibrium between the high street and online, and when the rates drop there will be more opportunities for shops.
“People are loyal to the high street and do appreciate the effort we independent business owners put in to our products. I can say that from experience, and I am proud of the high street business we have built.”
That is not to say Antony does not see the inherent risks in business: “That’s why insurance is important, to help us balance those risks. For instance, it’s the nature of our business that there can be water and wet leaves on the ground, which is cause for concern if a someone slips and falls. Our insurance helps to protect us from that kind of risk, but also makes it easier for me to make sure any temporary staff I bring in at busy times are covered.”
“Overall, business insurance for me is having right insurance which protects my business so I don’t have to worry. This means I can focus on looking for new ways to showcase the beauty of flowers and houseplants, not only to both my loyal customers but to a whole new generation of people.”
Finally, for any budding high streets entrepreneurs, Antony’s advice is simple: “Be prepared to work hard and do that extra bit to make yourself stand out, whether that’s down to products, service or both.”