With Valentine’s Day soon approaching and the usual mutterings from angry singletons surfacing, declaring the rose filled, loved-up day as a total waste of money, rip-off, commercialism at it’s worst and the theory that all florists are evil, I thought that I would write a post about the day from a florist’s point of view.
As some of you may know, I am both a florist and a photographer, but I would say that only as a photographer do I really enjoy Valentine’s Day and the opportunity it presents us for connecting with our clients with special offers for a romantic couple shoot etc. As for Valentine’s Day as a florist ….. it’s a nightmare!! I became a florist because of my passion for flowers, NOT because I thought that I would make a shed load of money … and believe it or not, Valentine’s Day does little to fill up any florist’s shed. Or perhaps I should say greenhouse …
But first a brief history of the day itself. As with all traditions, it is difficult to tell what is fact and what is fiction, but most sources agree that St Valentine was a real person. In fact he may be one of two people – Valentine of Terni, a Bishop sentenced to death by a Roman Prefect named Placid Furious for his Christianity in or around 197AD, or Valentine of Rome – a kindly Bishop who lived around 270AD who conducted secret marriages after the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, banned them. It is believed that both men were executed on 14th February, although this does seem rather unlikely. More information can be found on sites such as Wikipedia (Valentine’s Day article), and The Telegraph (Telegraph article).
It was only during the Middle Ages though that St Valentine became associated with romance and love following a connection made by Chaucer in his book, “The Parliament of Fowls”. In England and France it was believed that birds mated on the 14th February and Chaucer wrote,
“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”
By the Middle Ages, St Valentine had become one of the most popular Saints and by the 1800’s the 14th February had evolved into a day to celebrate love with the exchanging of gifts and the giving of hand made cards. In time, the tradition grew in popularity and spread across the world, with it now being worth an estimated in excess of £880 million in the UK alone, with over 1 billion cards being sent world wide.
The red rose has become synonymous with Valentine’s Day and is the traditional symbol for love and romance. It also denotes beauty and perfection – but there are many other colours of roses that are suitable for Valentine’s Day; for more rose meanings, visit Bouquets and Blooms blog here.
Anyway, back to the evil florists.
As a florist, I see it as my personal responsibility to educate my customers in the world of flowers, especially when it comes to Valentine’s Day. We get accused by all and sundry of ‘cashing in’, ‘ripping off’, ‘taking advantage of’ and ‘exploiting’ those of the great British public who want to give flowers to their loved one’s on Valentine’s Day. But let me tell you straight – for the majority of florists, it is most definitely NOT an enjoyable time of year, nor a time of year where they can make an ‘easy buck’ …. In fact, in my experience that couldn’t be further from the truth.
All year round, flowers across the world are mostly bought and sold at large auctions in Holland (in fact 80% of the world’s cut flowers travel through the Dutch auction houses) and they are purchased against the clock on a supply and demand basis. The way the flowers are purchased goes something like this:
- A wholesale buyer has a list of flowers that need to be ordered; some for the wholesalers themselves and some that have been ordered specifically by florists as special requests for their shop or event.
- Each buyer competes with other buyers to get their bid in before their time runs out. Prices start high at the beginning and get lower as the clock ticks away. They have to have balls nerves of steel!
- Limited availability or high demand means that buyers have to be quick or they risk losing out and not being able to fulfill their orders, therefore, the sooner they bid against the clock, the higher the price.
- At times of high demand, eg Valentine’s Day, all florists will have had to pre-order their flower requirements (that’s where the supply and demand bit comes in), and therefore as the demand goes up, so does the competition to ensure orders are met, and that’s why the prices go up. And that’s prices increasing from the grower to the wholesaler, and NOT the florist increasing their prices.
Now, anyone who is selling a product, knows that when their wholesale costs go up they have to pass at least some of it on to their customers. Especially in the case of red roses (or any red flower for that matter on Valentine’s), when the wholesale cost can increase as much as 50% or more. And in my own experience, it is only because of order volume do we make any money as our actual profit margin is reduced considerably.
So that, my floral friends, is why the cost of flowers increase on Valentine’s Day and at other times of high supply and demand such as Mother’s Day and Christmas. We also have to contend with the fact that other countries celebrate different holidays and occasions on different dates, impacting the auctions & therefore the cost of flowers for many countries.
Now that I have enlightened you, perhaps you will spare a thought for the frought and frazzled florists of the nation (and across the world), who are currently trying to guess-timate the number of love-sick puppies/hapless husbands/wives of metrosexual men/guilty partners who will come through their doors and want to order ‘a stunning bouquet of a dozen red roses’ but don’t want to spend more than £20 and can’t be swayed to order something more original. But that’s another story … in fact, you can read my first Valentine’s article for TMK entitled ‘Roses, schmoses’ here.
Love & blue skies
Words: Louise Bowditch, Bouquets and Blooms
Photos: Bouquets and Blooms
[stextbox id=”tmk-box”]Louise is both photographer and florist. She loves photography but is passionate about flowers. Visit Bouquets and Blooms here.[/stextbox]