Spain is a beautiful country, and I had the pleasure of being on vacation recently. I enjoy preparing for my travels and was interested in learning more about the industry and how it managed the COVID-19 pandemic. I have always believed we can all learn from each other, no matter our country of origin, because we may be doing the same things or going through the same things.
While I visited Madrid, I had the pleasure of meeting Guillermo Gomez Weinzetl from Coflores. Guillermo and his brother welcomed me for a couple of hours to sit down for a talk and showed me their facilities. I really wanted to learn how and where most of Spain and Madrid source its flowers, how business is changing for them, and how COVID-19 affected the industry.
I was very impressed by the workshop classroom they had set up for their customers. They did not generate any profit, it was only a way of adding value and staying connected with their customers. During COVID they had around 15 people, now they have more than 30. The room and facilities were top notches which meant they invested into it and, as I always say, it is crucial to invest in your customers. It was a pleasure meeting the two brothers and hearing about the floral industry in Spain and Madrid. I want to thank them for allowing me into their business and sharing with me their story.
When I first sat down in Guillermo’s office, I was impressed by his antique farm tool collection. The best I had ever seen. I love that stuff! I know it’s not flowers, but it is farming and it was super vintage. We spoke about the industry. He then showed me the workshop space from which he invites 30+ florists to learn from the best teachers in the world. I was very delighted to know that they only charge cost in order to give back. We also entered the cooler full of locally grown products from Spain. Amazing! I also visited the preserved section, the largest I have ever seen and the colors were just bursting like a skittle commercial.
Here is part of my conversation with Guillermo and his brother.
Guillermo, tell me about the company.
I am Guillermo Gomez Weinzetl and I am the general manager of Comercializadora de Flores de Colombia (Coflores). This is a family company owned by 4 brothers. We have had this company since 1992. My father is from Colombia and my mother is from Austria. We started importing flowers from Colombia and then we started with Holland and then Ecuador and now we import from all over the world. Colflores bought Florimex 7 years ago when the headquarters in Holland went bankrupt and we put the company together.
How many years have you been in business?
What are your operating hours?
We are open from 7 am until 7 pm. We sell to most flower shops and wholesalers and the majority of them come starting at 8 until 10 am and others come later in the afternoon but we mostly do delivery.
How do you normally sell?
We have a website where most of our customers buy. We used to do personal sales over the phone back in the days but now we drive all people to the website to avoid wasting time over the phone. 70% of our sales are generated through our website. Our client base is all of Spain not only Madrid. We deliver as far as Portugal and a little bit in France, we have an office in Barcelona too.
Where do most of the flowers in Spain come from?
90% of flowers are imported because in Spain the production of flowers is really short. We have excellent weather to grow flowers but we are not used to doing it. Part of the locally grown product is hydrangeas but not too many. We also have carnations,chrysanthemums, glads, etc most of these flowers are grown locally, Eucalyptus and some greens as well. Most of all the other flowers come from Holland. We sell only the best quality.
Are carnations shipped to the world?
They are shipped to Holland and England
What is the flower people purchase the most?
Roses. 30% of all sales are roses from Colombia and Ecuador.
How was the situation during COVID-19?
During COVID we had to close on March 14th of 2020 and all the purchases were already in process, so we shipped all the flowers on Sunday. Around 50,000 euros and then we closed and couldn’t sell anything afterward. During the pandemic, we decided to give flowers to hospitals, nursing homes, police departments, pharmacies, fire departments, basically to all essential workers. After 3 weeks people started to call again to ask for flowers. We started to bring a few flowers from Holland but it was only my brother and I and everyone else, our 30 employees, were working from home. My brother and I cleaned everything because we needed to throw all the products away. We opened and people started to buy again but the website never stopped. We started bringing some people to work and finally, after 1 year we came back to normal business.
How did the industry change in Spain during COVID-19?
People were not used to buying flowers via the internet so online flower sales grew. Many people who don’t have flower shops have a website, and that’s how they sell to their customers.
How is the market now?
Events and weddings restarted and increased sales. During the Summer, the sales normally drop. Last week we had 33% of sales. The weather affects the buying process since it’s too hot to bring flowers home but the weddings are still active.
Where do people buy flowers in Spain?
People buy flowers in markets and shops. There are a lot of them, you don’t need any certification to open a flower shop.
Who are the biggest wholesalers and distributors in Spain?
COLBIN is the biggest that sells directly to consumers. Interflora sells more to florists and the largest distributor is Bernatura in Valencia. Also us, there are 4-5 main players in this arena.
How many wholesalers are here?
We have approximately 250 wholesalers.
How did the industry change from the 90’s to today?
In the 90s, the production of flowers in Spain was seasonal and most of the product was locally-grown. For the past 35 years, Spain has been importing almost all its flowers. For example, in winter you don’t have carnations you need to bring them from Colombia and Ecuador and the quality is much better. Most of the production from Colombia and Ecuador was focused on the United States now they changed it to Russia and Spain is a small piece of the pie.
What do you think is the future of the flower industry?
This is difficult to answer. I think people are changing their minds and they like to see new varieties and decorations. Florists like what they see on the internet and they are looking for trends in social media and everywhere. For example, in Spain there were a lot of flower decorations but now there are more greens incorporated.
Thank you Guillermo for opening the doors to your family business with more than 30 years in the industry to show me the beautiful flowers you have and for sharing with me the story of the flower industry in Spain and beyond. I am forever grateful.