Florists Aren't Feelin' the Love - Valentine's Day Rose Sales Expected to Wilt

One reason for the floral slump: Sales are higher when Valentine's Day lands in the middle of the week. This year, it's on a Saturday.
One reason for the floral slump: Sales are higher when Valentine's Day lands in the middle of the week. This year, it's on a Saturday. (Bigstockphoto)
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By Kathleen Hom
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 12, 2009

Each year, Jose Enamorado, owner of Art With Flowers in McLean, receives 250 prepaid orders for a dozen long-stem roses. As with other florists, this helps him start the year off right after a slow January, putting him ahead for one of the busiest days of the floral business. But for this Valentine's Day (Saturday), in a recession that seems to get worse every day, Enamorado had received only 28 orders by the beginning of the week.

"It's not as good as in years before," he says. "I don't think people want to spend a lot of money on flowers."

The sour economy may put a damper on romance if cut-flower sales plunge on Valentine's Day. A recent survey by the National Retail Federation reported that consumers plan to spend an average of $102.50 on valentine gifts and merchandise, down from $122.98 last year, a 17 percent drop.

The economy is not the only reason Valentine's Day sales are falling. Floral sales peak when the holiday is in the middle of the week, says Jennifer Sparks, vice president of marketing for the Society of American Florists, but this year it falls on a long weekend. People send flowers when they can't take the day off from work or school, and the recipient gets bragging rights, Sparks says. But on the weekend, consumers can go out to celebrate instead of buying roses.

At Lee's Flower & Card Shop on U Street NW, the business has ordered fewer roses than usual because it expects demand to be down, says Stacie Lee Banks, general manager of the 64-year-old store.

"We took a long time debating how many roses [to get, and] . . . our wholesalers said to buy 20 percent less," Banks says. The store usually makes an initial order of 3,000 to 4,000 long-stem roses. But, being cautious, Lee's will have about half its usual stock to start; it can get more if sales pick up.

John Nicholson, co-owner of Arlington's Company Flowers & Gifts, Too, says he expects to have a surplus of roses after the holiday. He's promoting less-expensive arrangements and is planning to sell extra roses after Saturday.

Despite the grim predictions, many local florists are not charging less for long-stem roses, which run up to $100 for a dozen. That's because wholesalers are not lowering their prices for retailers, says Allison Webb, design room manager at Rutland Beard Florist in Baltimore. But customers can find cheaper stems by buying directly from wholesalers. A search on the Mr. Roses Flower Co. Web site and found roses as low as $2 per stem.

Will the dire sales forecasts come true? No one knows for sure. Customers who buy long-stem roses are mostly "men [who] wait until the last minute," Enamorado says.

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