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The True Cost of Valentine's Day Roses & How to Get Fresh Ones

Updated on March 4, 2017

Truth About Red Roses

Radio ads for Valentine’s Day flowers give the impression that you will be ordering from a florist and that special care will be taken to assure your gift arrives fresh and gorgeous. “Picked fresh from the field and rushed to your doorstep,” they say.

As a florist for 20 years and the owner of a flower shop for eight years, I cringe when I hear these claims. I’m going to tell you why, and then I will tell you how to get the freshest flowers and excellent customer care. And I’m going to tell you where all those red roses get grown and the path they travel.

FTD and the Advent of Flower Delivery
FTD (Florist’s Transworld Delivery) was established in 1910 and was the granddaddy of all floral wire services. Everyone recognizes the little Mercury deliveryman logo on the windows of shops offering this service. Years ago, FTD was a useful and excellent floral service for sending flowers across the country and even out of the country.

At one time to become one of their filling florists, a shop and florist had to qualify. A representative was sent to look over the establishment, check their equipment, and ability to fulfill orders and even test the skill of the head florist. It was a relatively rigorous examination, and some failed. This is not true anymore. I daresay they don’t turn anyone down now because of competition.

The Rise of Alternative Services & Shoddy Service
Arriving on the scene was 1-800-flowers, Pro Flowers, Teleflora and others. They are all wire services and are entirely dependent upon the thousands of privately owned flower shops across the country. There is a problem with this that begins with the order takers. Telephone order takers that know absolutely nothing about flowers will accept most any order and fax it out to the florist nearest the recipient. Not all flowers are available all year, and the florist who is under extreme pressure during the rush of holiday orders will probably set aside an impossible request to deal with later.

For the florist, it means returning the call and asking the order taker to get back to the sender and get a second choice. Often mass confusion does not come close to describing some of these orders. If florist one cannot fill the order because peonies are out of season, it goes to florist 2, and so on and may never get filled because no one is storing peonies in the winter and the order taker just doesn’t get it.

Roses Are Stored for Months
For holidays such as Mother’s day and Valentine’s Day, roses are ordered in bulk and packed 25 to the bunch. Red roses for Valentine’s Day are ordered months in advance and shipped weeks in advance in huge quantities to warehouses in Florida and other coastal ports. Most are arriving from South America and are held in cold storage then sent to a wholesaler and again held in a cold unit. Finally weeks after their picking they get delivered to the filling flower shop. They have a long, long trail to your doorstep.

Some Roses Won't Make It
The florist will give the roses their first real attention. Getting them out of their tight packaging is first in their line of care, then stripping off their excess foliage and thorns, giving the stems a fresh cut and putting them in room temperature water. At last, they drink and hydrate. If they are too old, they will blow open very quickly and are discarded. It’s difficult to say how many roses end up in the trash because they are too old to sell but it is significant. The florist must compensate for this terrible loss when they price their bouquets.

It's Hard for the Florists to Make Money
Not many florists that I’ve known are thrilled with using wire services because it may even cost them money to belong. If they are a small shop and cannot get enough volume in wire orders, they will end up owing the wire service money each month. Also, the orders they receive have a shared profit with the wire company.

Right now red roses are being advertised to the public at $29.00 per dozen. For a small flower shop, the wholesale cost of a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day runs from approx $8.40 per dozen to $21.00, depending on the length of stem and the variety. To stay in business, a florist must ask at least four times the wholesale cost due to high perishing and labor costs involved. A wire service offering a dozen roses for $19.00 is not attractive to a flower shop because they are looking at a loss. They may turn down the order, and it can bounce around for hours and perhaps days.

Of course, the wire service will offer to sell roses to a shop at less cost because they buy them in enormous quantities. They have stocked a warehouse with roses for Valentine’s Day and will also ship directly to the recipient and by-pass their filling florists. In other words, they compete with their filling florists. If you are lucky, your flowers will get delivered on time, and they will be fresh. FTD owns Pro-Flowers and Shari’s Berries.

How to Get Fresh Flowers
There is a method to ensure fresh flowers and excellent service, and it always works. Go directly to a local shop and talk to someone about your floral needs. Customers that go this route always get priority. Shop owners take great pride in their bouquets and want your return business. If you are sending flowers out of state, google the florists in the town where the recipient lives and talk directly to the head designer in that shop. Most florists will immediately set aside their best flowers reserved in your name. It is the surest way to get the quality and the service you deserve for those expensive Valentine’s Day roses. Ordering on the Internet is risky. Instead of personal service by a trained floral designer you are dealing with an order taker who’s goal is to get the order out as fast as possible.

You should know a rose bouquet showing on the Internet with a price as low as $29.95 is using very short stems. Personally, I prefer short stems, but there is a huge difference in price. Long stemmed roses for this holiday can run more than $100.00 per dozen depending on the variety. If I were ordering red roses, I would ask for short stems and Charlotte variety. They are full and a gorgeous red, but you must order early.

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