The Unique Flower Auction at Aalsmeer
The Aalsmeer Flower Auction or Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer in Dutch, takes place in the town of Aalsmeer in North Holland near Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, and is by far the busiest and largest floral market in the world. Everyday 20 million flowers arrive here from all over the world. Whilst a large majority of the flowers sold here are from the Netherlands, many come from far off places like Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. The warehouse itself, where the trading takes place, is the largest building by footprint in the world, covering 518,000 square meters or 243 acres.
Flowers arrive the night before the auction, at around 10 PM, and are cooled and sorted during the night. The auction starts early morning. Carts of flowers are presented to the buyers, one at a time, while they bid on them. The flowers get bought and distributed almost immediately. By late afternoon, all the flowers will have moved out and the warehouse prepared for the next round.
Flowers in Aalsmeer are sold using the infamous Dutch auction system. The price is set high and a clock starts ticking down from 100. As time falls, so does the price of the cart. The first person to make a bid gets the cart. Anyone buying too fast risks overpay, but those waiting too long for the price to drop may go home empty handed. This unique system was invented in the 17th century for selling Dutch tulip bulbs, and is based on a pricing system devised by Nobel prize winning economist William Vickrey. The ingenuity of the Dutch auction ensures that flowers are sold off quickly while extracting the highest price out of the dealer who wants the lot the most.
The bidding process can be seen on the large screens inside the auction room. Visitors are allowed but neither them nor buyers can get close to the flowers. The most interesting aspect of the Aalsmeer flower market is seeing the logistics in action, rather than admiring flowers up close. The closest one can get to the f