Did you ever wonder how millions of flowers and plants are sold in only a few hours' time every single auction day in Royal FloraHolland? This is all you want to know about how to buy flowers at the world's biggest flower and plants auctions. Learn here how the auction clock of Royal FloraHolland works.
Buying at the Auction Clock of Royal FloraHolland
Flowers and plants can switch ownership from grower to buyer by trading directly or on platforms like Floriday, or they are freely available for every registered buyer at the clocks of a flower auction like Royal FloraHolland, the global market leader. These buyers are mostly wholesalers, but more and more smaller buyers hop on through remote buying.
Image by Royal FloraHolland
In the past, a buyer had to go to the auction himself to sit in a big hall where the products were put on auction. These products had been brought to this auction in the previous evening or in the night. The clocks started at 6 AM - and they still do - so you had to be an early bird going to the auction when you want to do get some fresh products. The flowers and plants were shown in large halls, so every buyer in the stands could observe them before making a buying decision. Since 2002 remote online purchasing 'Kopen Op Afstand' (KOA) has taken over the way buyers buy their flowers and plants at the clocks. There's no need to be present in the auction anymore, so everyone with a KOA connection can buy from their own computer in the Netherlands or even abroad. But the principle is still the same: there is a grower, an auction, and a buyer.
The Clocks Explained
When a product, let's say a rose Avalanche+ of 60cms from grower Meijer Roses is auctioned, the bidding goes from high to low. This may sound strange when you are used to bidding on something like art at Sotheby's when the price only goes UP every time a bid is made. So, in the flower auction, the price goes DOWN. The auctioneer starts the price at, let's say 90 cents, and the clock starts to run toward zero. This is an exciting moment for the grower because at what price is his precious Avalanche+ rose valued? It is also an exciting moment for the potential buyers because the first person who dares to stop the clock by selecting a number on an electronic number-pad buys the product. The selected number that the buyer has pushed is the quantity that he/she wants to buy for the price at which the clock was stopped.
Desks with electronic number pad at the Rijnsburg auction. Image by Royal FloraHolland
If the grower has offered a big lot the buyer is not obligated to take all of it for that price, but surely at least a minimum number of buckets, boxes, or trays. When the lot is not fully sold, the clock runs again. Another chance for the potential buyers, perhaps to stop the clock at an even better price. That's the challenge, of course, to get the flowers for the best possible price, better than all competitors. So, the clock starts over and over again until the whole lot is s The tricky part for potential buyers is that the minimum order increases, so waiting might result in a better price, but also that the buyer has to take a bigger part of the lot.
Usually, there are several growers offering the same varieties to the clocks, so there are alternatives. When a buyer's Plan A fails, Plan B might not be the right grower, size, or quality, but at least the buyer can still get the product. Hence, you can imagine the level of stress when there are beautiful and unique must-have flowers or plants auctioned, and there is only one single chance to push the button and get these...
Could You Do It?
Especially since 2002, when KOA (remote purchase) was introduced, buying from a computer screen looks like a game, an online casino if you will. Still, easy as it looks, it is terribly difficult and takes quite some product knowledge, buying experience, and computer skills to be a good buyer. It's about big bucks, you don't just buy a single stem or a bunch of flowers, you buy per bucket, often even per full trolley. So, could you do it...?
Check also this tutorial by Royal FloraHolland:
Credits: Video and all images by Royal FloraHolland.