We recently wrote about Starbright Floral Design’s home in New York City’s amazing Flower District. As we mentioned in that post, the Flower District allowed for New York to become the site of the world’s second busiest flower trade, behind Holland. We figured you might like to learn a bit more about Holland’s own major flower market, known as the Aalsmeer Flower Auction (or Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer).
Located about eight miles southwest of Amsterdam, Aalsmeer has come to be known as the “Flower Capital of the World” due to the Auction, where over twenty million flowers are sold every day. The Auction, at least in title, was started in 1968, when two smaller markets called Flowerlove and Central Aalsmeer Auction merged to create the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. Four years later, a huge warehouse space was built near the Schiphol Airport. This space, which is still home to the market, is the largest building in the world in terms of footprint, at over 10.75 million square feet. It wasn’t until the 1980s, though, that the Auction became the major flower hub that it is today. Until then, the Netherlands was the only country that did any major exporting of flowers. When other countries, such as Israel, Kenya, Colombia, and many others began to see the value in exporting flowers, the Auction became the central selling and distribution point for the entire world.
The way the Auction works is different from most others. Known as a “Dutch auction,” the system involves a “clock” that begins at 100 (the highest price) and counts down. The buyers, who sit in glass-enclosed rooms that resemble large college lecture halls, then press a button when the clock gets down to a price they’re willing to pay. The first buyer to press his or her button pays that price, and the flowers get sent to the distribution center and shipped to their new owner’s place of business. For a good look into the Auction’s workings, check out this brief video from travel guru Rick Steves:
Visitors are allowed between 7 am and 11 am on weekdays (Thursdays are 7 am to 9 am), and they can watch the action from a catwalk that sits above the ground level and goes around the perimeter of the building. By the time visitors arrive, the flowers, which have been sent to the Auction overnight from their growers around the world, will have been refrigerated and sorted by variety, inspected over thirty times and given a rating. The buyers start the auctioning process at 6:30 am, and the flowers they buy will amazingly often get to the consumer by 4 pm that same day.
The Aalsmeer Flower Auction, aside from being a great tourist destination and a place to see some of the most beautiful flowers in the world, is a major driving force for the area’s economy. The 6,000-plus growers and the 2,000-plus buyers contribute to an auction that generates over two billion euros a year. With 80 percent of the Auction’s flowers being sent to other countries, it is truly one of the great industries of export for Holland.
While the New York Flower District—Starbright’s home and our favorite place for flowers in the world—is still the only major global flower market at which the public can purchase flowers alongside professional buyers, the Aalsmeer Flower Auction is certainly a very special place and one worth a visit if you’re lucky enough to travel to the region. For more information on the Auction, visit the website for FloraHolland, the company that merged with the Auction in 2008.
Kudos to our friends in Holland for their world-class flower business! For an equally impressive display where you can take home flowers yourself, don’t forgot to come by Starbright’s West 28th Street location!