Just in time for Mother’s Day: A flower shortage

Mother’s Day is one of the biggest flower-based holidays of the year but a shortage of blooms might make it a challenge for gift-givers.

Tom Hamilton, owner of Beavercreek Florist at 2173 N. Fairfield Road in Beavecreek barely had time to talk Thursday, as he and staffers rushed to prepare bouquets ahead of the holiday and local high school proms.

“Almost everything has gone up and we can’t guarantee anything,” he said. “That’s the unfortunate truth and any florist will tell you that story. With COVID, it’s just hit or miss. It’s one of the worst holidays for trying to figure that out ever.”

In the past two months, florists nationwide have reported having issues receiving all the types of flowers that they typically have on hand for customers, according to Elizabeth Daly, spokeswoman for Society of American Florists, the national trade association representing all segments of the floral industry.

Cold weather in some of the flower growing regions in Colombia and Ecuador hampered supply. Then the industry fell victim to the same supply chain and logistics problems that have hampered all industries nationwide during the pandemic, Daly said.

“Specialty flowers not grown in high quantities will be especially tough to obtain in this environment,” she said.

The shortage comes at a time when demand for flowers and plants is “very, very strong,” Daly said.

“With the isolation and separation brought on by COVID, which disrupted so many gathering rituals, people turned to flowers in a big way to say ‘Wish we were there,’ ‘Congratulations,’ ‘Thinking of you’ and so many other reasons,” she said.

Dayton florist are experiencing some  price hikes and lack of certain varieties in the supply chain. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Dayton florist are experiencing some price hikes and lack of certain varieties in the supply chain. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

There has also been “a more intense focus” from consumers using flowers and plants to beautify their homes where they’ve spent so much time during the pandemic, Daly said.

A lack of field workers due to the pandemic also has contributed to the shortage of some blooms and contributed to a 10- to 20% price spike for some flowers, said Red Kennicott, chairman of Kennicott Brothers Company, a Chicago-based wholesaler with 16 locations nationwide, including one in Dayton.

“It originated with the whole shutdown of the economy at the beginning of COVID,” he said. “That just disrupted a lot of things that are still catching up.

“It’s not unusual with a perishable product like flowers to have some disruption, have some shortages, because it’s subject to the weather, to the perishability, to the logistics.”

Brian Smith, owner of Ed Smith Flowers & Gifts at 209 W. Riverview Ave. in Dayton, said he’s increased the price of a cash-and-carry bouquet of roses by 33% to offset the rise in color rose prices. Those prices shot up by as much as 35% and the rise in red roses prices increased more than 20%.

“We kind of averaged it together and thought ‘OK, let’s just go ahead and just take it up $5, that way we’re covered on both sides of the spectrum,” said Smith, whose father opened the business in 1955. “But we haven’t raised our price at all for a dozen roses arranged in a vase because we can absorb it.”

Carnation prices have tripled for what Smith Flowers would normally pay, but the business isn’t raising its price on the flowers by three times as much, he said.

“If you want to jack up the prices on the flowers you’re very likely going to all of sudden see less people coming into to buy what you’re selling because you raised your prices above what people are willing to pay,” he said.

It helps that Smith Flowers has been buying flowers for the last 30 years from brokers in Miami, Florida, who get their plants from South American countries of Ecuador and Colombia, as well as Canada, he said.

Hamilton said his Beavercreek floral shop has not seen a situation like this in its 45 years.

“I’ve owned it 26 years,” he said. “We know what we’re doing and we’ve not seen the likes of this.”

Last year, the business reopened two weeks before Mother’s Day, which made it a challenge to ramp up operations so quickly, Hamilton said.

“That was hard but it still wasn’t as difficult as this as far as product, pricing and keeping up with demand,” he said. “We know what to expect but we definitely are hoppin’.”

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