It’s the Black Friday of the floral industry, a time when long hours and extra staff are a must as love-struck consumers vie for affection with roses and tulips.
But like any great romance, Valentine’s Day is fraught with highs and lows for florists. Sales, which dipped during the recession, have been slowly rebounding since.
Allan Woods is ready. The owner of the eponymous flower shop in Woodley Park started photographing Valentine’s Day arrangements for his Web site in the summer. There are 15 in all — from $75 bouquets of baby calla lilies to a $125 medley of hydrangeas, roses, orchids and lisianthuses.
Woods counted 100 orders a week before the big day. “We’re marginally ahead of last year,” he said. “But most orders won’t come in until the weekend,” before Valentine’s Day.
A recent survey by the National Retail Federation reported that consumers plan to spend $1.8 billion on flowers this year, up from $1.7 billion a year ago and $1.6 billion in 2010. Floral sales are typically higher when Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday, as it will this year, said Jennifer Sparks, vice president of marketing for the Society of American Florists.
“There are a lot of office deliveries when the holiday falls during the week,” she explained. “People want to impress their Valentine at work, when they can’t be with them.”
At Karin’s Florist in Vienna, president Maris Angolia has hired 100 additional workers to design, deliver and take orders in anticipation of a high volume of sales. The shop carries 53 Valentine’s Day arrangements ranging in price from $40 to $340. Angolia wouldn’t give an exact number of orders in the works, but said demand has been healthy this year.
The same is true for the industry as a whole, and not just for the holiday. Analyst Nikoleta Panteva of IBIS World anticipates florists will record $6.6 billion in annual sales this year, a nominal increase over the prior year, but a sign the industry is in full recovery mode.
“The return to purchasing more discretionary products will drive sales,” she said. “But florists also have this changing business model, where they not only cater to their immediate community.”
Over the past decade more florists have partnered with wire services, such as Telaflora and FTD, to move inventory, Panteva said. These delivery services take orders via the Internet or phone, and contact local florists within their network to fill the order. A convenience to customers, wire services often charge a 20 percent commission on orders, a major turn off to florists such as Wood.
While he does not belong to any wire services, Wood is still keen on having a strong online presence to remain competitive. “Online ordering is much more prevalent, so it’s important that our Web site is updated and has lots of products on it,” he said. “The online thing has really changed the industry.”
Technology has certainly made it possible for H. Bloom, an online subscription-based floral delivery service started in 2010, to blossom. Six months ago, the New York City company opened an office in the District, a move that has doubled its weekly revenue, according to Sean Wainwright, the company’s local market manager.
H. Bloom is selling one-time delivery Valentine’s Day arrangements, but the salesman in Wainwright urges customers to think about sending flowers more often.