Planting roots in Holywood

Ferguson Flowers

Ferguson Flower returns to Holywood with a new coffee element. Neighbourhood Retailer goes along to find out more.

When Neighbourhood Retailer meets Michael Ferguson, owner of Ferguson Flowers, it is a pleasant day in North Down and the windows of the newly opened Holywood store stream with sunlight. The unique combination of coffee and flowers is something nobody else is doing he assures me and glancing round the spacious shop decorated with tastefully displayed vintage crates and jugs of blooms, it’s a wonder why not?

But, being ahead of the curve is what Ferguson Flowers is known for. The name, long synonymous with the floristry industry in Northern Ireland, once adorned many high streets across the province. As the recession hit and the stores started to close many thought it was the end if the line for this iconic florist and perhaps it would have been, if not for the online side of the business.

“The business became online, so we didn’t need the high street stores as much, as it was the most beneficial way for us to reach our customers.” says Ferguson. And indeed they did, delivering bouquets to the whole of Northern Ireland and beyond.

Retaining a store on the Belmont Road, meant that Ferguson Flowers still had a bricks and mortar presence in Northern Ireland alongside Dublin, Cork, Galway, England, and Dubai. “Part of our business model is that we always know where are customers are and we occupy these key locations,” says Ferguson. “Not all operate under the Ferguson brand but they are part of our group.”

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Ferguson Flowers Holywood.

Having occupied a location in Holywood 15 years ago, the town always held fond memories for the family, so when the location became available Ferguson Flowers saw it as the right time to pursue a concept they had been considering for a while.

“It was always a place we did well in and we had great customers here,” says Ferguson. “It’s great to be back in a busy town centre. An advantage for us is that the shop is so easy to get to and there is more parking in Holywood than there was on the Belmont Road. Compared to where we were I just feel it’s a lot more beneficial.”

The florist-come -coffee shop concept was an idea that flourished as a result of many customers over the years popping in to order a bouquet and returning after a trip to a nearby coffee shop to collect the flowers. “It’s not something that’s really been tried here before, but they sort of go hand-in-hand.”

The last few months have been a whirlwind for the business who signed the lease just as they came into their peak season. However, Ferguson Flowers were keen to get the offer just right. “The coffee that we will be using will be Root & Branch – it’s a local brand that is brewed in Belfast,” says Ferguson. “It’s a specialist coffee and that fits really well with what we are trying to achieve here.”

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Ferguson Flowers Holywood.

To complement the artisan coffee, Ferguson Flowers will be offering a selection of traybakes and donuts from local provider Doughzy Donuts. While there is potential to develop the offer for the future, Ferguson is content to start off small and grow. “Putting a kitchen in is a possibly but as this is a new concept, we’re going to start off with coffee and build up. We already have a similar coffee concept in our store in Galway, so it was just the natural progression.”

In the floristry business, social media is essential and Ferguson Flowers encourage their customers to tag their photographs with the hashtag #teamff. Any social media expert knows that the key to getting your brand noticed on social media is to provide an Instagram-worthy location to take pictures in which the Holywood store has captured perfectly. “We spent a lot of time getting the look right because we wanted our customers to get the experience and share it with people as well,” says Ferguson. “We have really gone into it as well with the range of high quality flowers we have on offer. I went on a buying trip last month to Holland, Singapore, and Cambodia to find new ranges and bring them back to Northern Ireland.”

Another reason why the Holywood store was so appealing to the brand was the scope to further develop their flower arranging classes. In the centre of the store sits a large scrubbed wooden table that looks as if it would be the ideal location for such a pastime. “We knew we had outgrown the Belmont Road store, we needed a bigger space and with the floristry classes as well, it just made sense.”

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Ferguson Flowers Holywood.

Not worried about competition from other businesses on the high street, Ferguson says: “We have our own niche with the online business and the shop. There is enough market share for everybody and we don’t class ourselves as in competition with the supermarkets. The customers return for the quality and freshness of our product.”

As a family business, customer service is one of Ferguson Flower’s core brand values and Ferguson states that the businesses’ ability to retain long-term staff is a big part of this. “We work well with our staff to create the ideal customer experience. Everybody works together, and our motto teamff really is the soul of the business.”

Flowers, coffee, and gifts are the three areas Ferguson sees this store excelling in.

“We want to provide a good experience for our customers,” he says. “We’re trying to bring them a wide range of services which is far more than we could have offered them in our previous location. There is such a strong community spirit here in Holywood and we can’t wait to be a part of that again, I’m looking forward to welcoming old and new customers in for a coffee and a relaxing ambient atmosphere.”

 

 

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