The action begins at 6 a.m. in a Burnaby warehouse, home to the largest flower auction in North America.
There is a quiet intensity as over a dozen buyers file into their seats wearing caps and jackets, hoodies, and sweatpants. They sip from their water bottles and Tim Hortons cups as they open their laptops to log into the auction software. Adapters dangle from their USB ports so they can plug Ethernet cables into the jacks at each table.
The bidders in the warehouse are competing against some 200 others who’ve also woken up at the crack of dawn but are tuning in from home. It’s recommended that they too rely on a wired connection because the latency of Wi-Fi could cost them their winning bid. The bidders who have shown up in person are mostly Americans who’ve brought their trucks with them to take the product back to Washington State. These bidders are big buyers, stocking the warehouses that service corner stores, florists, garden centers, and grocery chains. The busiest holiday of the year for flower sales is about a week away: Mother’s Day.
The auction is hosted by the United Flower Growers Co-operative Association, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It was founded in 1963 by six growers, a number that has bloomed to 90. The auction is Dutch style, a nod to the heritage of the original growers. Instead of the price going up with each bid in an English auction, the starting price of a Dutch auction goes down with inaction until there is a bid. That buyer is automatically the winner, avoiding bidding wars. Pre-bidding is also possible, saving wedding suppliers from the worry of losing the color or variety they’ve promised a couple.
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