The business of carefully transporting Valentine’s Day flowers to the front door
By: Jim Erickson
Christmas-like business volume comes more than six weeks later for some retailers, but the mid-February rush comes and goes very quickly.
The occasion, of course, is Valentine’s Day.
“Valentine’s Day is the busiest single day in the industry,” said Angela Carter, of Mary Tuttle’s Floral and Gifts in Chesterfield.
Lou Knockel, flower manager-buyer for Dierbergs Florist & Gifts, agreed, noting that Valentine’s Day is his department’s busiest one-day event.
Glenn Sprich, a sales associate at Baisch & Skinner, a long-time St. Louis area wholesale flower distributor on the city’s “floral row,” recently told a tour group, “We’ll receive and then move out 500,000 roses in the 10 days before Valentine’s Day.”
At every level, the flower business is demanding and fast-paced. From the time they are cut until the time they reach the customer, flowers need to be moved very quickly and must be handled carefully. Many flowers found in local florist shops come from thousands of miles away, putting extra emphasis on speed and handling factors. Source countries include “most corners of the world,” Knockel said.
While local growers also are big suppliers during the growing season, Carter said, careful handling still is required.
Moving flowers to St. Louis from Colombia and Ecuador, the two largest importers to the U.S. market, takes five days, if all goes according to plan. Primary ports of entry for air shipments include Miami, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. From those points, trucks carry the colorful cargo to other major cities.
Whatever the source and ultimate destination, keeping flowers chilled is essential, preferably at temperatures only a few degrees above freezing. The goal is move cut flowers quickly – typically within two days – and plants usually need to move within a week.
That kind of turnover puts a premium on inventory management, especially when there are literally hundreds of different items from multiple sources. As a result, good record keeping is a must.
“We also need to be aware of what’s going on in the world, including weather that could affect growing conditions or transportation, the economy and other issues that could have an impact on supplies and timing,” Knockel said.
When buying cut flowers for Valentine’s Day, consumers should keep an eye on the thermometer and take care not to leave them in the car when the temperature is below freezing. Once an arrangement of cut flowers makes its way into the hands of someone’s sweetheart, there are several steps that can be taken to maximize the life span of the blooms:
• Keep cut flowers cool until they are placed in water.
• Before placing flowers in water, use a clean cutting tool to trim an inch or two off the stem, and remove any leaves that will be below the water’s surface.
• Place flowers in a clean vase.
• Change the water every other day, and trim stems at the same time.
• If the arrangement comes with a packet of flower food, use it.
• Keep flowers out of direct sunlight and drafts.
While many types of flowers are popular for giving on Feb. 14, red roses are considered the traditional Valentine’s Day flower, and like most products, supply and demand affect their cost.
According to the Society of American Florists (SAF), Valentine’s Day inspires the heaviest demand for long-stemmed roses, and after the Christmas season demand for roses is fulfilled, growers need 50-70 days to produce enough roses for the occasion. Winter’s reduced daylight hours and increased energy costs make it hard to grow large crops, and inclement weather can affect delivery efforts. What’s more, florists often have to hire extra workers and work longer hours to fulfill all of their customers’ orders.
In addition to red roses and roses in a other colors, popular Valentine’s Day flowers to send this year will include lilies, tulips, gerbera daisies, hydrangea, orchids, callas, succulents, and fragrant flowers such as gardenias, freesia and hyacinth, according to the SAF.