To mark International Women's Day 2022, which will be celebrated on March 8th, we are bringing you a series of profiles on some of the women who work at New Covent Garden Market. There are more women working each year in what is a traditionally male-dominated Market and we want to show you why and how you could be amongst that growing number. Today, we talk to five women who work at Whittingtons, in the Flower Market and its parent company APAC Group – left to right in picture Lindsay Brown, Mandy Daily, Melanie (Mel) Walton Olivia Gerard and Faye Lavender
What is your background?
Faye: I owned Lavenders of London for over 20 years with my husband Brady Lavender. I fully trained whilst there in floristry. I ran it sole from 2015 when Brady joined the APAC team, then in 2019 sold Lavenders to APAC and joined the APAC team full time. Lavenders of Covent Garden was a natural extension and exciting opportunity for us to source and supply on trend interior design/entertainment venue design items that also go hand in hand with Covent Garden plants, flowers and artificial.
Melanie: I was torn between art and design, nursing and Finance. Finance won, so I worked in accounts, stock control, office management and IT systems integration with finance. I went to Night school for CIMA, Followed by Management Accountant roles, Group Accountant, Financial Controller. When at APAC I fell in love with the family-run feel of Whittingtons and the branches and wanted to help them get so much more out of the business. I love having a more people and systems focus, whereby I can be more creative and work with a great team driving the marketing and business forward to try and offer more to staff and customers.
Lindsay: Customer Service.
Mandy: I was a Florist for 32 years and owned a flower/furniture shop for six years. I was then a manager in the party card and gift industry. I started work in Sheffield Whittingtons 11 years ago, then moved to area manager four years ago. I've also recently started buying for Part of the APAC Group.
Olivia: I was born in the UK, lived in New Zealand for a short while, and then grew up back in the UK. My family and I have always been known to never settle somewhere for long periods of time, moving house 14 times in 10 years! School was something I always struggled with - the subjects I excelled and had a true passion for were always the creative ones. I soon found a passion for taking photos, after I saved for my first camera at 15. A good few years later, this led me to attending University, in which I studied Documentary Photography. During my seven years as a photographer, I soon found my love for Marketing; I found I was enjoying posting on socials, updating my website, and customer communication more than I was enjoying Photography. Before I knew it, my personal roles and jobs developed and I found myself immersed in the Marketing World - and the rest is history.
What’s your Job title and can you pick out some of the interesting parts of your role?
Mel: General Manager of Wilfrid Whittingtons Ltd. I work with all the great team at APAC Group Ltd and a fun Whittingtons team. It really is a team effort. Our 16 wonderful branches are all very different and unique in their own ways, and Lavenders of Covent Garden and Lavenders of London are no exception to that rule. I love getting out and about and hands on in branches, whether it’s helping stock count or clear out old stock or set out new stock. I love a shop floor feeling. (It’s much more rewarding than number-crunching speadsheets)
Lindsay: I work for Mel as Office/Accounts Manager. Staff and customers bring different challenges each day.
Faye: I’m responsible for buying, product design and development, merchandising and managing the Southern Branches. What I find interesting is the travelling, designing layouts and displaying.
Mandy: I’m responsible for buying, product design and development, merchandising and managing the Northern branches. I like travelling around meeting lots of people, problem solving staff issues and when I get the chance, making lovely displays with the Whittingtons products in store.
Olivia: I work as a Marketing Manager for Whittingtons; there are lot of aspects I love about my role. The typical response of ‘every day is different’ applies, it’s very fast paced, and I can switch between different tasks at any point in the day, meaning I don’t get bored too quickly which suits me perfectly. I work with a lovely bunch, but also have a fair share of work to do on my own, which I really enjoy too.
How long have you worked at Whittington’s?
Faye: 3 years
Mel: Nearly 7 years
Lindsay: 16 years
Mandy: 11 years
Olivia: I’ve been here just over 8 months now, so I’m still a newbie learning daily!
What did you like about New Covent Garden Flower Market?
Mel: The hustle and bustle, the smell and the café.
Faye: I’ve been going for over 20 years. I still love seeing the variety of flowers.
Mandy: I like the buzz it has about it, and the fast morning pace.
Olivia: I loved the visits I’ve had to Covent Garden! It’s a busy, friendly, and colourful environment. Its so much more than just flowers – there are elements that everyone will fall in love with. Not only open for Trade customers, but also retail; it’s a place in London that shouldn’t be missed, even if that does mean setting your alarm a bit too early!
What do you love about working in wholesale floristry?
Mandy: Because I understand what Florists want, I enjoy supplying florists with new exciting products and keeping up with the changing trends.
Lindsay: I like dealing with a variety of colleagues and a diverse range of customers
Faye: Trends, seeing new products being sold that we've bought and sources. Seeing them in the hotels and restaurants/
Olivia: I love that no two days are the same- there's always something to keep you busy!
Mel: Seeing all the wonderful creations people have made with our products.
What advice would you give to women who might want to get in to the Wholesale sector?
Mel: Go for it if you love flowers, it’s so creative and ever changing.
Faye: Be prepared to do any aspect of the job, early starts, long hours, but very rewarding.
Mandy: Don’t be put off by thinking it’s a male orientated business. It’s really not, but there are some big characters out there. Once you get to know them and the trade they give you full respect.
Lindsay: This is the place to be If you have a creative flair as this will keep you up to date with the latest trends.
Olivia: Be prepared to work hard, stay on your toes, be prepared to learn from others and also learn from your mistakes.
What’s your favourite available item in Lavenders / Whittingtons at the moment?
Mel: I’m torn between the Artificial range that now has over 2,000 lines and the eco glass. We have a lot of glass that's 100% recycled now and lots in colour, I love that it’s more sustainable and looks great.
Olivia: I’m a sucker for homeware so I’m going to have to say Lavenders Wicker Baskets! Baskets are so versatile and you can style them however you wish, whether its for planting, popping in blankets, or just for styling around the home.
Mandy: The Marakesh lanterns and candle holders.
Faye: Some of the new ceramics at Lavenders.
Lindsay: The new Artificial flower range, especially the large Peonies as the texture and colours look so real.