If you’re wondering why the price of flowers jumps in time for Valentine’s Day, look no further than the fact that Feb. 14 is the biggest day of the year for flower sales.
And, while the red rose is still the No. 1 flower sought after on that day, the demand for all flowers goes through the roof on North America’s annual day of romance.
That means competition, and competition in a capitalist market means the prices go up.
But there’s good reason, and it’s not necessarily the retailer taking advantage, said Wendy Cornock, owner of Oak Bay Flower Shop.
The demand for scented lilies, which have grown in popularity, for instance, is up to $15 a stem from the supplier. Roses, as has been well documented, will also cost a pretty penny on Feb. 14.
Most independent retail florists in the province rely on the United Flower Growers outlet in Burnaby, a Dutch-style flower auction supplied by a co-operative of 80 B.C. flower growers.
Local growers can not make a profit running extra greenhouses solely for Valentine’s Day. And so, retailers will outbid each other.
“It’s an auction, [fuelled by] the madness and logistics of making sure we have fresh flowers in stock for our customers,” Cornock said.
Cornock can access the auction online but also relies on her local suppliers to bring back what she wants.
“Most florists rely on suppliers, and suppliers, who are often local growers, will head to Vancouver not only to unload Island-grown flowers but return [with a truck full of] mainland-grown and imported flowers,” Cornock said. “So much goes into it, it’s not just two days of the year. This week some suppliers are making multiple trips per day.”
Locally, two of the bigger suppliers are Eurosa Farms and Mount Newton Floral, both on the Saanich Peninsula.
One thing that stands out about Valentine’s Day is the distinct profile of the customer, she says. While Mother’s Day is a close second as the two biggest days in the calendar of a flower business, the purchase of Mother’s Day flowers also has a high number of women involved in the buying. Valentine’s Day is generally one half of the relationship buying for the other. It means there is less of a need for a surprise, and for these reasons, pre-orders are far more common.
“With Mother’s Day we get a much better idea of how much flowers to have in stock,” Cornock said. “With Valentine’s Day, it’s mostly men, and we love them. But they want to keep it a surprise, so they don’t want to buy them early.”
It means that some men are out of luck when it comes to getting their partner’s favourites.
“The answer is to pre-order if you want to make sure you’ll get what you want,” Cornock said. “And it helps us, so we can get a better idea of how much to buy.”
That said, demands are changing. It used to be straight roses. And while roses are still the most sought after, it’s become more common to pair roses with the sweetheart’s favourite flowers, or to purchase other flowers altogether.
“Just look how full we are, there’s no room,” Cornock said.
Working long days this week are Cornock, her partner, three staff and three more high school students on the night shift.
“We’ll have to send the students upstairs to our storage to prepare flowers, there’s no room down here.”
After 10 years in business on Oak Bay Avenue, Cornock still gets a tingly feeling of excitement when she sees a fresh arrangement. “I still love it, the colours still make me say, ‘Wow.’”