Valentine roses put thorn in florists Flowers: A jump in the wholesale cost of roses is putting florists in a tight position just before Valentine's Day, one of their biggest days of the year.

February 13, 1997|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Call this florist in Frederick to place your order for a dozen roses and you will get this unusual message:

"Flowers by Jim has decided to close Valentine's week from Feb. 10 through Feb. 15. due to the outrageous price increase of fresh flowers."

Martin "Jim" Blank, owner of the shop, said he just couldn't in good conscience charge his customers as much as $100 for a dozen long stem roses.

While there aren't any other retail florists who are locking the doors on one of their most profitable weeks, some are swallowing a 5 percent to 15 percent increase in the wholesale cost of Valentine's Day flowers, according to industry and trade associations, or passing on the increase to any consumer determined to send a traditional bunch of red roses.

Blank said he was pushed to his limit when the cost of some flowers doubled in the past week. He could have sacrificed quality and bought flowers that were cheaper, or he could have passed the increase on to his customers. Neither option was acceptable, so he closed down.

"We are not able to do for our customers what they expect for a price that is fair," he said. Normally, he said, he sells premium roses for $50 a dozen.

"I was buying roses for $1.50 apiece last week," he said. "This week they are $2.50 to $2.85 apiece. Those roses came from the same crop that the roses came from last week."

This week, 95 million roses will be sold across the nation, said Chris Braunsdorf, marketing communications specialist for the Society of American Florists, a trade association.

The price has risen about 5 percent over last Valentine's Day, he said, largely because of higher transportation costs that stem from a trade imbalance with South American countries, where many of the imported flowers are grown.

For instance, he said, planes flying between Miami and Bogata have been carrying very little cargo down to the Colombian capital, but lots of flowers back. That means that the fuel costs are higher for the flower shipment. In addition, a number of Colombian carriers have been grounded, creating shortages.

Weather patterns and other factors have also combined to increase the cost of flowers, he said.

"We have maintained the same price at Valentine's Day for three years," said Gail Coe at the Gateway Florist in downtown Annapolis. But this year, she said, she has paid more than she ever has in 18 years for the premium roses she sells at $50 a dozen normally and $75 during Valentine's week.

Increases in the price of roses at this time of the year are standard, as many romantics know. Growers, wholesalers and retail florists have added costs associated with getting so many flowers delivered on one day.

Take Bob Tilford, owner of Forthuber's, a Baltimore area florist specializing in roses. He will have to get 1,800 deliveries out the door on Valentine's Day, so he advertised and then interviewed 500 people so that he could have 70 vans on the road first thing tomorrow morning.

And he will turn on additional refrigerators, which are used only a couple times a year, and train additional help to go full tilt for just a few days.

"Our normal staff is 65 people. I will pump that up to 125," he said.

Tilford, who sells a dozen roses for $42.99, says he has had to increase the cost to consumers this year after his wholesale cost went up 12 percent.

1-800-Flowers, a company with a network of florist shops across the country, will handle about 2 million phone calls this week and do 8 percent of its annual business.

"We feel badly we have to increase our prices," said Julie McCann Muligan, the company's creative director. So, she said, they are giving customers $25 in coupons for flowers.

But florists, particularly Martin Blank, suggest customers buy at other times of the year -- particularly July when roses are cheap.

"A lot of women say they they would rather receive them at other times when it is not an obligation," he said.

Or try following the advice of customer Lisa Jones, a Baltimore woman shopping at Belvedere Florist yesterday:

"Roses," she said, "are not always what women want."

Pub Date: 2/13/97

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