Florists, symbols of hope, deemed “essential businesses” in virus-stricken Geneva

Faced with a worsening COVID-19 situation, the Swiss canton of Geneva entered semi-confinement on Nov. 2. All restaurants, bars and barbershops are now closed, but “essential” shops, such as grocery stores, supermarkets and flower shops, can remain open.

Why are florists considered “essential businesses,” one may wonder?

A recent survey conducted by JardinSuisse showed that although most of the celebrations and festivals have been canceled, 70 percent of the country’s florists said that their sales were better in the first half of 2020 than in the same period of last year.

Migros, Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain, said that its flower sales in the first six months of this year were 20 percent higher than the previous year.

Meanwhile, another recent survey conducted by PostFinance, the financial services unit of Swiss Post, found that Swiss consumers’ spending on clothing and footwear has fallen by 50 percent and some 80 percent, respectively, since the country adopted containment measures to fight the virus in March.

“Flowers help people deal with the increased anxiety caused by confinement and show them the good side of life during the pandemic,” a flower shop owner in Geneva said.

Immediately after the first lockdown measures were introduced in spring, a Swiss charity group began to distribute relief items every Saturday to thousands of people in Geneva who lost their income due to the pandemic. The relief items included fresh flowers.

In Lausanne, a florist named Pont de Chailly Fleurs launched a “click and collect” service, enabling customers to order online and collect the flowers in the shop in two hours, and a flower delivery service is now also available there.

The owner of Pont de Chailly Fleurs told local media that the business is booming, and while the threat of layoffs is looming large, the shop has had to hire new delivery staff to cope with demand.

Charlene Cattin, a florist in the western Swiss city of Saignelegier, shared her concerns on social media that her newly launched self-service flower shop may turn out to be too small to be competitive and may eventually have to be closed down.

The following morning, she found several kind and encouraging replies to her post, even from people who live far from Saignelegier. “Do not give up,” they said. Help was also offered.

In Chinese culture, flowers represent hope and good wishes. The pandemic has brought hard times for people all over the world, but flowers never cease to be symbols of hope for better times ahead.