NZHerald Article about Snickel Lane Florist & City Jungle

View Article here

Auckland’s rejuvenated downtown districts around Britomart have some colourful secrets - including a houseplant shop tucked away in a little lane. Amanda Browne runs two shops close together catering to customers including Auckland’s apartment residents. Her location is an urban oasis, and that has its benefits and challenges.

What does your business do?

We are both a florist and plant store. We specialise in gift ideas for any occasion. We curate the option for the customer’s budget and requirements. Sometimes people come in for one thing and leave with another.

Plants and flowers go together well and it enables us to have a wide range of gift options for our customers that can fit any budget, which might be why we sometimes get the wacky and last minute requests. We also love a challenge.

You’re running two shops at the same time - how do you juggle that?

 Resilience is key. At the risk of sounding cliche, I have a passion for it so even when it’s tough, I couldn’t think of doing anything else. At times it’s overwhelming but then I will get some great feedback or meet a customer who brings the energy and I am away again. During tough times great staff are a must - and I am lucky to have three little gems.

I pick myself up and start fresh every day.

What is Free Soil Saturday?

It’s a day when you can come and repot your houseplants for free using our soil. So there is no need for you to store a 20kg bag of soil in your inner city apartment.

We will be kicking this off on Saturday, April 27 and we will run them on the last Saturday of every month from there on in. You can view more on our website at www.cityjungle.co.nz.

What are the challenges of operating at your current location?

Even though we are in the city, our stores are tucked away in Snickel Lane. Snickel Lane has been operating for over seven years now and is an urban oasis within the city. Crime and street people are a big issue, which I don’t think anyone will be surprised by, as it’s on the news all the time.

A lot of serious events that have happened over the last few years have been a stone’s throw away from the store, far too close for comfort.

And what are some of the upsides of your CBD location?

It’s central and it has a great community feel amongst the independent owners in Snickel Lane. Each business helps to promote each other and offers support when needed

The building owner, while being a large corporation, is active, supportive and involved with day-to-day issues, including offering security, which is great for peace of mind as a business owner.

A lot of retailers are doing it tough at the moment. How have the last few months been for you in terms of demand and sales?

It is tough out there, and the fresh flower industry certainly has its own challenges with the supply chain.

We are not back to normal yet and while retail is trending down and hospitality is coming back I feel we are somewhere in the middle.

March was a great month and offered lots of optimism - let’s see what winter brings.

Downtown Auckland gets a lot of tourists but one imagines few of them buy houseplants. How accurate is that assumption, and where do your customers come from?

Yes, you would be correct. The tourist numbers tracked for foot traffic in the CBD give a false sense of buoyancy in terms of the economy coming back to life.

The cruise ships can’t take plant or flower material on board due to Customs restrictions. So that rules out a sector for me.

Our customers mostly come from word-of-mouth and repeat customers.

How does houseplant demand respond to trends? Do you find certain plant types gain or lose popularity suddenly?

Yes, take the Thai constellation monstera. What happens is once a plant becomes popular the big garden centres and hardware stores buy them up at a bulk price and flood the market.

I’ve seen the Thai constellations cheaper than I can buy them through a wholesale nursery. But a lot of plant enthusiasts will choose to buy from smaller independent plant stores, recognising the value of care given to the plant prior to them buying it.