Anyone who has bought flowers on Valentine’s Day knows the scene: lots of mildly frantic men crowding into the florist or grocery store or deli, overpaying for somewhat sad-looking roses. It doesn’t take an economics degree to know what’s going on — with an estimated $3.3 billion in demand crammed into a couple of days, prices soar and quality slides.
To get a better bouquet for a lower price, order your flowers before Feb. 1. “The people who order early get a huge benefit,” says Farbod Shoraka, CEO of BloomNation, an online network of local florists. Prices, especially for in-demand roses, begin escalating in February.
For those keeping track, the average amount spent on Valentine’s flowers is $75 per household, says Prince& Prince, a floral market research firm. To get the best flowers for your money, follow these strategies:
Get Moving: “Surprisingly, most people wait until February 13 to buy, when prices have have jumped two-or-three times normal and the best shops are out of quality blooms, Shoraka says, “If a florist has 200 orders and you’re calling at the last minute, they can’t handle that order anymore.”
Be Skeptical of “Sales”: Make sure a deal is a deal: Florists and big online distributors like 1-800-Flowers or FTD may offer big pre-holiday deals, but like many retailers, those discounts are probably on inflated prices. You may be better off with specialty retailers such as Organic Bouquet, which rewards members with a discount ahead of holidays instead of advertising markdowns on the site, says Robert McLaughlin, CEO. www.organicbouquet.com A 25% discount went out this week, good through Saturday.
Think Beyond the Rose: Consider that 80% of Organic Bouquet’s customers buy roses on Valentine’s Day. The looming Valentine’s rush sets complex industry forces in motion, says McLaughlin, including the need for extra flower-filled airplane flights from the growing regions of South America (flights that often return south empty). What’s more, meeting demand in February means stifling supply in earlier months. Growers pinch off buds from plants in November to spur bud growth by February: the spike in prices makes up for the slack in sales, McLaughlin says.
But avoiding roses doesn’t give you a free pass to procrastinate: If 80% of customers want roses, then florists stock roses. If you want tulips or lilies, be sure to order in time for your florist to have them in stock for you, suggests BloomNation’s Shoraka.
Avoid shipping if you can: Because flowers are perishable and have to be sent at the last minute, shipping costs are sky-high. “Over 50% of the cost is all FedEx and UPS,” says McLaughlin. And if the temperature of the flowers isn’t controlled at 34-38 degrees, your beloved may end up with wilted stems on the doorstep, says Laura Hoy of Sunshine Bouquet, a Florida firm that ships to U.S. supermarkets from its farms in Columbia. You also risk flowers not being delivered on time, Hoy explains: “Over 250 million roses are grown for Valentine’s Day and there’s only 24 short hours for them to be delivered to their recipient on time.”
Buy local: If you have the time, and your recipient lives nearby, walk to your local flower shop, pick out the flowers and arrangement and have it delivered by the shop. Do this early to get the best price and selection. If you don’t have time to go yourself, consider a site like BloomNation, which provides access to about 4,000 local florists across the country that can arrange an artistic bouquet that’s hand-delivered, with 90% of the sale going to the retailer.
Hate planning ahead? Your local supermarket is a surprisingly good option — but go two days ahead “before other customers have rummaged through the selection,” says Hoy. She argues supermarket flowers are the freshest alternative because they are bought directly from growers.