Valentine’s Day no bed of roses for all

Florists say wholesale costs prickly

Adrian Brazier, who, with his wife, Jessica, owns Gloria’s Florist in Elmwood Park, N.J. tends to his arrangements.
Adrian Brazier, who, with his wife, Jessica, owns Gloria’s Florist in Elmwood Park, N.J. tends to his arrangements.

On Valentine’s Day, thousands of Romeos will descend on flower shops for a bouquet of roses for their loved ones. Yet despite the increased volume of customers every Feb. 14, some florists said the event isn’t as big a boom for business as the public might expect.

A National Retail Federation report last year projected people will spend about $1.9 billion on flowers for Valentine’s Day.

But even though Valentine’s Day is the busiest single day of the year for many florists, increased wholesale costs from growers and distributors force floral-shop owners to scramble to find the sweet spot between how much they spend buying the flowers and the price they can charge their customers.

“It’s all about red roses,” said Chet Douglass, the owner of Schweinfurth Florists in Midland Park, N.J. “All roses increase in price dramatically this time of year. It starts with the grower; they know they have a commodity that people are dying to get. That makes a scarcity in the product, and it shows in the prices.

“The wholesale cost of roses jumps more than 100 percent this time of year. We couldn’t possibly charge that much for a dozen roses.”

Every February, thousands of people visit local florists to buy bouquets of roses for those special someones. Growers in Ecuador and other South American countries recognize this and pinch back their rose crops in December to lower the supply, some florists said.

Once the roses are flown to Miami, the major port of arrival for flowers, they are trucked north, with the cost of trucking added to the elevated prices.

Mr. Douglass said that during any other time of the year, Schweinfurth sells a dozen roses in a vase with filler greens and a ribbon for $60.

Because of the increased prices on roses from growers and distributors before Valentine’s Day, Schweinfurth sells the same bouquet for $85.

“The wholesale cost goes up so much, but the florists are not getting the same markup, because the customer won’t pay it,” Mr. Douglass said.

Not only does the price of flowers jump for the holiday, but a florist has to account for the flowers’ brief shelf life, said Jessica Brazier, who owns Gloria’s Florist in Elmwood Park, N.J., with her husband, Adrian.

“Everyone wants red, white, and pink flowers on Valentine’s Day,” Ms. Brazier said. “We have been ordering for two weeks already. If we waited any longer to order, we’d be stuck with orange and yellow flowers — which no one wants on Valentine’s Day,” she said.

She said she typically orders 150 red roses every Monday, but she will have 1,500 red roses for Valentine’s Day, and each of those flowers will cost the store double or triple the usual per-flower cost. The trick, Ms. Brazier said, is making sure she does not over-order and have leftover flowers she can’t sell.

Ms. Brazier said a typical bouquet of roses costs $55 during the year, but she is forced to raise the price to $80 on Valentine’s Day.

“I can’t double or triple my cost, or I’ll be selling no roses,” she said.

Finding the right balance for her busiest day is key, she said. Not only is her store flooded with delivery requests for Valentine’s Day, but walk-in customers are also a factor.

“It’s a one-day holiday for us because all of the men order the flowers at the last second,” Ms. Brazier said. “Sixty percent of my orders come in the day of Valentine’s Day. On other holidays, like Mother’s Day, women and daughters will call me a week in advance. Not on Valentine’s Day, though.”

Other costs also factor into the holiday’s operations.

Brian Patri, owner of River Dell Flowers in Oradell, N.J., said his store rents more delivery vehicles and hires extra drivers and temporary workers.

“People might think we are jacking up the price to make some more money on Valentine’s Day, but that’s not the case,” Mr. Patri said. “The raised price really only covers the added expenses.”

“It doesn’t add to profits at all. It’s a wash in the end,” Ms. Brazier said.