December 8 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Being a fourth generation Covent Garden fruit and vegetable merchant has stood Michael Pooley in good stead.
He learnt at an early age that retail is about offering value for money, service, product knowledge and, perhaps most importantly, a smile. He has inherited his dad’s shrewd business sense, along with one or two of his sayings, and has applied all he knows to building his flower empire which now operates under three brands, including the retail arm Twig, and with many more plans in the pipeline.
Having trained in graphic design at art college, the young Michael started his career in fashion, working in the King’s Road and Covent Garden helping to dress the rich and famous.
When he was 21 he joined the family business and went on a course to learn about flowers.
“I don’t think you grow up thinking I want to be a florist, floristry finds you,” he said. “It is not really seen as a career like gardening or being a chef, it is still very much regarded as a hobby despite the fact the industry is a huge concern.”
In 1996 when he opened Michael Pooley Flowers in Islington, London.
With perfect timing, his shop was a stone’s throw from Sadler’s Wells Theatre just as it received lottery funding and evolved into one of the most advanced dance centres in the world.
Michael’s already thriving business serving clients such as Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, suddenly found the likes of Madonna and Kylie on its books.
“Suddenly it was very high brow and the business was fabulous,” he said.
In an interesting turn of events, however, the congestion charge was to have a lasting impact on the business as the busy thoroughfare where Michael’s shop was located became a quiet street.
However, it proved a new beginning for Michael who continued to provide flowers for corporate clients, wedding and parties under the Michael Pooley Flowers brand whilst developing the training aspect of his business.
At about the same time he started working with Waitrose, and helped “set up, train and enthuse” staff at the new flower hall at Bluewater.
After that the offers to open concessions for other major retailers flooded in but Michael’s sound business head told him that the numbers wouldn’t be right.
“They wanted the look but not the overheads of a florist shop.”
What had happened instead was the revitalisation of the retail side of the business under the new name Twig.
“I wanted something snappy and quick and was amazed the name Twig hadn’t been patented or trade marked.”
All he needed now was a home for his new concept.
“I knew Ipswich had a gap,” he said, “for a florist like us that does everything – weddings and funerals to everyday bouquets. I also knew Waitrose was coming to town and I have always had a lot of synergy with them.”
Queen Street fitted the bill nicely with its heavy foot-fall and close proximity to the town’s major employers and its professional quarter.
Since opening in June last year Twig has made quite an impact on the street scene, the front of the shop festooned with Kentish hops and floral displays pouring out of suitcases, tall rattan baskets and even a barrow from his days on the London markets.
Michael’s businesses, including a his private client concierge service, are clearly thriving but never one to stand still he is always looking to the future.
He has been commissioned to write two flower books and also has an eye on garden design. Then there’s the idea of opening a flower school.
It is all in a plan which for now remains for his eyes only. Rest assured however, whatever direction it takes, the business will have service and quality stamped all over it.
He is a Londoner, through and through, but has he has grown rather fond of his new home in Suffolk.
“I think Suffolk is really chilled and is a place for family.
“In London Mother’s Day was dead for us, here we had queues out of the door and I rather like that.”