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Entire floral supply chain contributes to successful Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day 2018 is now in the history books and initial reports, at the time of this writing, indicated that it was a good holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. consumers were expected to spend $19.6 billion — up from $18.2 billion a year ago — on gifts for Valentine’s Day, with more than 10 percent — or $2 billion — spent on flowers.

United Parcel Service delivered approximately 88 million flowers through its global “lovegistics” network, according to a news release. That’s more than eight million pounds of blooms for U.S. consumers, enough to fill 64 wide-body 767s — and they are only one of a plethora of carriers.

CUB-2Customers entering the Cub Foods store in Plymouth, MN, were immediately met with this cross-merchandised flower and gift display, front and center for Valentine’s Day.“Delivery must move at the speed of ‘love at first sight’,” said Frank Diaz, global marketing manager for UPS Americas Region, in the release. “This is why we rev up our operations to move more than 514,000 boxes of flowers. We take helping love bloom seriously.”

Nick Fronduto, chief operating officer at Jacobson’s in Boston, told The Produce News, “Valentine’s Day was better than expected. The perfect convergence of a mid-week holiday and great weather contributed to this. It appears that most retailers anticipated this and bought accordingly. Since 2008, we have seen retailers wait until close to the holiday prior to making purchasing decisions. This year, there was enough confidence in where the economy was trending that the sales came early and stayed strong throughout.”

Robert Kitayama, president at Kitayama Bros. Farms in Watsonville, CA, told The Produce News, “This Valentine’s Day met our expectations, as we hit sales and production targets. The weather helped us tremendously. It was warm and dry in California, therefore we had very little disease issues and the heat helped bring the lilies in on time. We also buy flowers for resale and the quality I saw was good from California, Mexico and South America.”

Frank Biddle, owner and managing partner at Tradewinds International in Boulder, CO, told The Produce News, “There was a good supply of flowers, especially roses. There were some last minute issues with roses coming out of Ecuador, but in the end it all seemed to work out.”

A wholesale florist in the Midwest confirmed to The Produce News, “There weren’t any shortages of flowers, a few minor delays maybe, but the quality was good and sales were strong.” They reported a near double-digit increase over 2017.

Liane Mast, marketing and floral director at Stater Bros. Markets in San Bernardino, CA, told The Produce News, “Sales were up. The weather was clear and cool — perfect for roses. The Valentine’s Day holiday has always been a last-minute holiday when everything sells the day before and the day itself. It always amazes me how much product the store sells the day of the holiday. Everything sold -— from the potted plants to the balloons -— but always, the dozen rose bouquets and arrangements are the top sellers.”

An unnamed floral manager at a Midwest supermarket chain also agreed that this year was really a last-minute holiday, stating that the stores seemed slow until midday on Feb 14.

And Susan DeMuth, floral director at Coborn’s in St. Cloud, MN, shared that even though the below-average cold Minnesota temperatures leading up to the holiday had an overall impact on sales, still “the holiday was good.”

“We did some pre-made arrangements for our smaller stores, so they could capture sales that would normally be missed with no designer on duty,” DeMuth told The Produce News. “In addition to our featured roses, we had blooming plants, candy bouquets, balloons, and we also tried the 100-centimeter roses in our full-service stores for the ‘wow factor.’ We had success selling them and our overall sales were strong.”

One area of concern coming into Valentine’s Day was a major shortage of Florida leatherleaf and greens, as the result of two hurricanes and a very cold winter. Jana Register, director of marketing and sales at Fern Trust in Seville, FL, told The Produce News, “Excessive cold weather in January tightened an already tough leatherleaf supply to make a bad situation worse. But, through teamwork and cooperation with our floral partners working with us on shipping dates and substitutions, we survived.”

According to a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, Customs and Border Protection officials expected to process and inspect more than one billion imported stems of flowers leading up to Valentine’s Day. In 2017, CBP officers at the Miami facility processed over 954 million stems of flowers; CBP in Los Angeles processed 40 million; followed by Otay Mesa, CA, at 25 million; and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, which saw 19 million stems of flowers.

Christine Boldt, vice president of the Association of Flower Importers of Florida in Miami, told The Produce News, “For the most part, is was a pretty good holiday. From the incoming side, AFIF works with CBP in order to have extra people to process the incoming floral shipments. We had 15 extra people here in Miami to help with the inspections and the movement of the product, so we had no issues for the holiday; there weren’t any backups, there weren’t any delays.”

A successful Valentine’s Day floral holiday is the result of the entire floral supply chain coming together to grow, produce, transport and distribute the products that floral departments need to serve their customers. And this year, it appears the whole industry did a great job.