Florists push through flower shortages ahead of Mother's Day
Roses are red, violets are blue.
And if you envisioned a specific Mother's Day bouquet this weekend, you might be, too.
Some flowers are expected to be in short supply on the second most popular day for floral purchases due to a number of factors, from increased demand during COVID-19 to weather woes. The limited variety means you might have to let your local florist make other arrangements.
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The best advice: Order now and don't get too specific about the flowers you want in the vase. Stick to color schemes, not dahlias, daisies and daffodils.
“Leave it open — mom loves pink or yellow,” said Claudia Grimes, who owns Green Thumb Floral in Wooster.
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Weather and COVID-19 slow flower imports
The biggest issue florists and wholesalers are finding this year is importing flowers from South American countries. The United States imports 78% of its fresh flowers from Colombia and 15% from Ecuador, according to the Society for American Florists. Flowers from these countries include daisies, carnations, roses, and cushion mums.
About 64% of fresh flowers sold in the United States (by dollar volume) are imported. California supplies the highest volume of domestically grown fresh flowers with 76%.
Several factors caused issues for growers. Due to the pandemic, there weren’t enough workers to run the plant farms, which forced the farmers to shutter their production or reduce their stock by tearing out some of their fields because of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic’s longevity, according to Stan Sereychas, owner of Canton Wholesale.
The flower-growing region in South America then experienced a stretch of cold weather, followed by flooding that made roads inaccessible. Since flowers aren’t essential cargo, they are shipped to Miami, Florida on commercial flights. With fewer flights due to a decrease in travel, it becomes more difficult to get flowers into the country by air.
“It’s many different things all hitting at once,” Sereychas said. “COVID caught up with the growers down there. Then they had bad weather that impacted their crops… It was the perfect storm.”
Certain flower arrangements could cost a little more due to an increase in shipping fees. Grimes said she can keep the prices the same, but she may need to use some different flowers than the ones advertised.
Supply chain issues overseas also caused a shortage of other floral components such as containers and vases, according to Amit Shah, president of 1-800-Flowers.com. The floral retailer and distribution company still plans to deliver 23 million stems to help customers celebrate the holiday.
Flowers keep customers connected during the pandemic
Many people discovered a newfound appreciation for flowers and plants in their homes over the past year, leading to increased demand, according to Kate Penn, CEO of the Society of American Florists. Sending flowers to friends and loved ones was also a way to stay connected during the pandemic.
“With the isolation and separation brought on by COVID, which disrupted so many gathering rituals, people turned to flowers in a big way to say, ‘we wish you were there,’ ‘congratulations,’ ‘thinking of you,’ and so many other reasons,” Penn said in an email.
The continuing rise of gifting flowers led to a more than 70% increase in revenue for 1-800-Flowers this past quarter that included Valentine’s Day. The company also saw an increase in floral gifts being sent “just because.”
“People are looking for ways to let others know they are thinking of them,” said Shah, who added customers on Mother’s Day will often buy floral gifts for not only their mothers but mother figures, including moms-to-be, grandmothers, and caretakers.
A 2015 survey by the Society for American Florists found 77% of women remember the last time they received flowers and 89% of Americans remember the last time they gave someone flowers. The study also found 80% of Americans say receiving flowers makes them feel happy, and 88% said giving flowers makes them happy.
Florists make it work
Due to the increased demand, the flower arrangements that customers are receiving are of outstanding quality because the product is moving through the distribution chain “very quickly,” according to Penn. If a florist offers “designer’s choice,” the customer “can trust that you’re getting the best flowers in the cooler.”
“You need to call your local florists,” Grimes of Green Thumb said. “We’ve been here for 60 years. Let us make you a beautiful arrangement… Let us do what we do best.”
Other than Christmas, the month of May is the busiest time of year for Kim Zachardy, the owner of Cummings Florist in Massillon for 27 years. This month, orders for Mother’s Day, proms, and weddings come flooding in. Zachardy is concerned about the flower shortage, but she doesn’t want to scare customers.
“We have flowers. We might just have trouble getting certain things,” Zachardy said. “We are still able to make arrangements, it might just not look like the picture. They're still beautiful.”
Light at the end of the tunnel
Coming off a record year last year, Jon Coffman, owner of Colonial Florist in Akron, expects to see another very busy Mother's Day.
With the difficulties in importing flowers and the high demand this time of year, he said, at some point there won't be anything left to buy.
"Last Mother's Day, the demand was like nothing I have ever seen in my life," Coffman, who has been in the flower business for 30 years, said.
He anticipates the same response this year, but he'll likely have to turn down orders as the day gets closer.
"Every order we take is going to get filled, but at some point enough is enough," he said.
Penn wishes the Society for American Florists “had a crystal ball to say for sure,” but its suppliers are reporting improvement in the supply chain. Weather conditions also have gotten better in South America, which should increase the supply of flowers in late spring and summer.
“Fall will be even better,” Penn said.
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