Jordi Plana: “Some people travel to see a market like this and now we’ve got it right here!”

Interview with Jordi Plana, chair of the Mercabarna-flor Wholesale Business Association (AEM)

9th September 2008

How is everything going in these first few days of the new Mercabarna-flor?
We business owners are very pleased. Everything is positive: the venue, the facilities, the work conditions... However, it’s true there are still some final touches to be added and certain facilities, such as the headquarters of the Florists’ Guild and the bar-restaurant, yet to be completed. I think that’s only understandable, given the Market’s remarkable scope!

And what is the feeling among wholesalers?
Widespread optimism and excitement! This is a Market we have all been waiting a long time for. Most of us business owners have staked our future to be here. We have invested both money and effort into it. For this reason, I think the new venue will be a wonderful opportunity both to consolidate the customers we already have and to gain new ones as well.

Perhaps it’s too early to say, but have you noticed any new faces in these early days?
We have indeed seen new buyers, but also old customers that we hadn’t seen in a long time. First you think they’ve come just out of curiosity to see the new market, but then you see them return! It is very positive!

What’s the buyer pulse on the new Market?
Right now opinions are favourable. They point out the huge number, variety and quality of products they find. The only complaint received so far is that, despite the Market’s good location, the final access to the centre is rather complicated.

On the whole, is there a greater offer here?
I’d go so far as to say we’ve tripled the old Market offer! All the wholesalers have brought in plenty of stock, even knowing they might have a hard time selling it. It’s an enormous undertaking, but one that’s essential if we want to attract more buyers.

Now you just have to tell people about all you’ve got here!
Admittedly, a good promotional campaign for the Market is going to be paramount. However, this is a sector that also works by word of mouth. That means we have to make people aware, among other things, of the fact that our Market has the most important concentration of accessories - in volume and variety – in Europe. That is very attractive! Some people travel to other countries to see something like this and now we’ve got it right here!

Another key feature is the Market’s extended business hours...
The issue of business hours has been one of the most hotly debated topics by the business owners, since for some it means making changes in their business structure; for others simply their habits. But one thing is clear: in this Market we have to go all out. And that means extending our hours.

What type of customer are you looking for?
The majority of our customers are buyers who come to the Market two or three times a week from Barcelona and its outlying areas, and purchasing in the early hours of the morning suits them perfectly. Now, however, we’re also aiming at buyers from further afield, who come in less often, and those who simply prefer to buy later in the day... A slow and steady approach will be needed to capture these customers.

What expectations do you have for the new Market?
Very high ones, otherwise we wouldn’t have opted for this model. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only tailored market in the world.

On the whole, warehouses or other vacant premises are put to use for the sale of wholesale flowers. In contrast, we’ve got a building designed precisely to perform this activity: with cold facilities for keeping cut flowers in optimum condition, closed stalls in the accessories area to prevent dust build-up or too much light, a radiant heating system to conserve plants better and so on. In short, Mercabarna-flor has been custom-made to meet not only our needs but those of the products we market.