Valentine’s Day is 2 weeks away which means love is in the air – and so is almost 2 billion dollars worth of flower sales. Nobody hustles quite like cupid and florists this time of year when more than 35% of Americans buy flowers.
It seems easy enough to grab some flowers from your local florist, grocer or online – but like all warehouses – there are seriously complex supply chains happening behind the scenes. All holiday seasons can be hectic behind the scenes, but this industry has a handful of added challenges:
1) It is an infamously “last-minute” holiday
2) Flowers are perishable
3) Shipping in cold, fickle February weather can be deadly for flowers
4) Valentine’s flowers are expected to arrive exactly on the 14th
5) Flowers often are grown abroad and shipped great distances
Talk about a high pressure holiday!
Lovebirds across the land can thank the cold chain for delivering blooms to their beloved. “Cold Chain” refers to shipping of perishables such as food and flowers. The majority of flowers sold in the U.S. come from abroad. While, California produces a large share of American domestic floral product, it is only a tiny percentage of the total flowers sold here. The bulk of the flowers primarily come from South America, Africa and Europe and South American countries like Chile, Columbia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Roses rule the roost, and approximately 250 million of the flowers sold are roses.
Miami International Airport is the main port of entry for the planes stuffed with flowers. In 2018, U.S. Customs inspected 823 million cut flower stems during the 6 weeks prior to Valentine’s Day. This delicate cargo is stored in refrigerated rooms at the airport before moving into refrigerated trucks /planes to move around country. The flowers next stop is distribution centers where they are sold wholesale or made into arrangements and bouquets on site.
Flowers do best when kept cool so if temperatures rise above 35F the precious petals can wilt – right along with the profits. Naturally, not all regional airports & wholesalers have sophisticated refrigeration so the hustle ramps up even more once the flowers hit the highways. Just like romance – it’s hard to revive a flower once the bloom is off the rose.
Vendors try to encourage buyers to order flowers early – even offering early-bird incentives. Despite their best efforts, Valentine’s Day remains a “last minute holiday” because men drive about 75% of sales. In contrast, Mother’s Day is also an intense floral season, but these bouquets tend to be ordered by women who prefer to order in advance. A great reminder of how critical it is to understand who your clients are and how they like to shop.
Accessing and understanding your data can unearth great insights into your company . Will more variety boost your sales? Or eat up your profits? Variety and customization is king in some industries – but in the flower biz, variety can kill your profit since margins are so tight. Florists often minimize variability to ensure there is less waste in their supply chain. To forecast orders, flower importers looks at year-over-year data, but as online ordering continues to grow each year the e-commerce variable remains tricky to estimate. One must also consider what day of the week that Valentine’s Day will fall on. This year, Cupid arrives on a Friday which could actually decrease flower sales. That’s because on weekends lovebirds often skip flowers and go out for a nice dinner instead. And who can blame them? Flowers are lovely, but you can’t eat them!