Full-time art of running a thriving florist’s shop

Crafts in focus: Florist Eric Délibie tells Jane Hanks about the work involved building a thriving business

24 October 2018

An artist’s eye and an in-depth knowledge of plants and flowers are not enough to be a fleuriste (florist) in France.

You also need to know how to run a shop and have a sympathetic way with your clients, who often require your skills at key moments in life, such as a marriage or a funeral.

Eric Délibie is a Maître Artisan Fleuriste, a high professional qualification, and has been a Meilleur Ouvrier de France since 1986.

He runs a business (art-et-fleurs.fr) in Sarlat, Dordogne, with 10 members of staff and supplies floral arrangements for events throughout the region, as well as selling bouquets from his shop and via Interflora.

In 2016, he provided flowers for 137 weddings, 148 in 2017 and was already up to 138 in 2018 when I met him.

He was so busy that he only had time to chat as he worked, finishing off an order for 15 arrangements for a funeral the following day.

In between taking orders, directing his staff, plucking flowers from the brimming vases surrounding him, trimming them and placing them in just the right place in his arrangement, he explained how he got into the sector.

“When I was a child I had two passions: one for flowers and one for animals. I now have beautiful animals at home and work with flowers.”

He did two professional bacs available at the time; a Bac Pro Production Floral and a Bac Pro Jardin Paysagiste et Espaces Verts, before being accepted by a prestigious school for florists, Piverdière in La Ménitré, Maine-et-Loire.

He said he was one of 30 students picked out of 1,200 candidates: “I got on the course because I had two Bac Pros with good results and from Piverdière I gained a well-respected diploma, the Brevet de Maîtrise Fleuriste.”

He says he lives for his job. “I really do not see the time pass. I work all hours.

“For example, last week I worked from 6.30am on Wednesday through to 11pm on Thursday, and yes, that was without sleeping.

“There were weddings to do, which were planned, and funerals, which of course cannot be planned, and the work had to be done.

“If you are good, there is plenty of work and for young people it is a good choice because in our region, at least, I know there is a good future.

“There is work all year round, because there is always some event to celebrate with flowers – St Valentine’s, Mother’s Day... and at Christmas we do all the decorations for the town’s shop windows and the Christmas Market.”

He said he loves weddings most of all: “It is fantastic creating large-scale decorations in beautiful settings like the local châteaux and churches.

“We cater for small and big weddings. It can take three to 10 people three to eight days. It typically costs the client between €2,000 and €15,000, though our record is €45,000 for flowers and plants for just one wedding.

“It all has to be planned in advance so as to make sure we have all the flowers we need.”

Generally, clients give him a price, the colours, preferred flowers, and a theme and he creates arrangements.

“You need to be an artist and have a sensitivity for colour and have manual dexterity. There are some rules – and the golden rule is to use an odd number of varieties of flower in an arrangement.

“You have to have a lot of patience because there is a lot of preparation involved. You have to be good with your clients. I am invited out a great deal and it is important to go and keep people happy. It is a noble profession where you deal with beautiful things.”

The Fédération Française des Artisans Fleuristes (ffaf.fr) represents 30,000 florists and describes the job as buying, preparing and selling flowers.

Florists typically earn between €1,000 and €3,500 a month, with an average net monthly income of €2,000.

The Fédération recommends that although anyone wanting to work or set up a flower shop is not obliged by law to have any professional training, it is much better to have a diploma.

The basic qualification is a Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle (CAP) Fleuriste, which can be studied for after collège (without the baccalauréat) and lasts two years.

This is suitable to work in a flower shop, a specialist area of a supermarket or garden shop, or in a décor business.

The CAP can be followed by a Brevet Professionnel (BP) Fleuriste which lasts another two years and teaches further technique and artistic styles and also concentrates on the commercial side so that someone with a BP can later run their own business.

Another qualification is the Brevet de Maîtrise Fleuriste which is studied as a sandwich course and allows successful students to call themselves Maître Artisan.

Students can also have a broader education in plants by studying for a Bac Pro Productions horticoles (horticulture), Bac Pro Aménagements paysagers (landscape gardening) or a Bac Pro Technicien conseil vente de produits de jardin, (technician specialising in sale of garden products), and then go on to specialise in floristry later, as Eric did.

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