Man of flowers says local industry needs nurturing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 April, 2006, 12:00am

The owner of Oscar Floral Workshop, Oswald Chan, wants the government to help promote creativity in floristry through education

WORKING AS A florist involves waking up early. My wife and I are both at the wholesale flower market by 6am every day to place orders for our store.

Things are hectic from the minute we open shop at 8.30am. We not only deal with walk-in customers, but also have to ensure that all the orders that were placed the day before are going out properly. We co-ordinate the delivery details with the courier, change the water for the flowers and, in the afternoon, start preparing for new orders.

We check every single flower (and stem) before it goes out. This is to control quality and ensure that we are giving the customer the very best.

The industry has become a lot more competitive because the market is saturated with flower shops and there is a lot of choice. The key to doing business these days lies in your design skills and customer service.

Depending on what the customers want, we normally work with them to come up with a design. This can sometimes be difficult, because most people do not have a clue about what they want. So we have to ascertain their vision before we can actually start work.

The people of Hong Kong know very little about flowers. They always think that whatever is expensive is the best, but this is a wrong perception. Costly and cheap flowers have their own uniqueness and beauty - we should be able to appreciate both.

My wife and I are the only staff in the store, so we can never really take a holiday. The only time we shut our shop is during the Lunar New Year break. Huge sacrifices are involved in running the store, but we really think the work is rewarding, particularly when customers tell us how much they like our flower arrangements or when we know that our work has brought two people together.

I joined the industry 20 years ago to help my wife run the store. She has been in this business since the age of 16, so I am really her assistant.

I used to be a music teacher. I have always had an appreciation for the arts and for nature and flowers. I therefore have a natural interest in the industry.

There is a lot more to flowers than people think. I learnt floristry from a Japanese teacher for two years before working full-time in the shop. To put together a good flower arrangement, you need to understand a range of things including a flower's history, background, structure and colour combinations.

Although we would eventually like to find a person outside the family to take over the work, we know it is going to be extremely tricky. Young people these days are just not interested in this type of business and no one really seems to have the passion for it. They are too focused on making money and see no income prospects in what we do.

Sadly, the design standard in Hong Kong has really slipped over the years. Countries such as Japan and Europe are now way ahead of us in their creative composition.

To stimulate interest and encourage creativity and originality, the government needs to take the lead in nurturing these elements through education. If this does not happen, I think the industry in Hong Kong will really be in the doldrums in the years to come.