MAQUOKETA, Iowa — Customers purchasing flowers for Mom this weekend might pay a few more dollars for bouquets or have to be open to a flower substitution.
The floral industry is feeling the impact of supply chain disruptions and cold weather in South American growing regions, alongside a simultaneous jump in demand. The circumstances have left florists scrambling to fill Mother’s Day orders — a challenge any year, but even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It kind of keeps me up at night, to be honest,” said Wendy Scott, owner of RonAnn’s Floral Shoppe in Maquoketa. “We’ve been in business here at our flower shop for 66 years now. Never before have we had to deal with anything like this.”
Mother’s Day traditionally is the second busiest holiday for florists after Valentine’s Day.
A poll administered by the Society of American Florists, a trade association, to members found that 70% of respondents reported an increase in Mother’s Day sales in 2020, and about the same percentage expect to see a sales increase this year, too.
With the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, people turned to flower delivery to connect, said Paul Goodman, president at Floral Finance Business Services and SAF member, in an email.
Plants and flowers also complemented home beautification projects that occurred during the lockdown.
“Even as people are gradually starting to gather in person and go back to the office, we’re not seeing that spike in demand taper off,” Goodman said.
Mary Triervieler, co-owner of Konrardy Florist in Dyersville, is swamped this week trying to fill 300 orders in cities along the U.S. 20 corridor in rural Dubuque County.
“We have two vans out right now and maybe three over the weekend,” she said.
Triervieler first noticed flower shortages last year. Economic shutdowns left flower growers without markets to sell to. Subsequently, they planted fewer acres, and the industry is now experiencing the effects.
Triervieler has navigated the market by ordering stock early. She obtained popular blooms such as roses and carnations, though not all colors have been available.
“Prices did go up, so unfortunately, we have to pass it on,” she said.
A 2020 survey of customer spending conducted by SAF found that the median amount spent on Mother’s Day flowers was $45, about a $10 increase from both 2019 and 2018.
A loss of transportation channels also has added to retailers’ expenses, as airlines reduced their fleets when international travel came to a crawl.
“One of my wholesalers actually had to book passenger planes out of Colombia and fill the seats with flower boxes because they could not get enough cargo planes,” Scott said.
Bryan Fitting, owner of Butt’s Florist in Dubuque, said wholesale flower prices “are as high now as they have ever, ever been.”
He has obtained blooms without trouble but said some items, such as exotic potted plants, are harder to come by.
Locating accessories and supplies, such as ribbons, vases and wire, has proved Scott’s greatest obstacle, but she also periodically is challenged to obtain specific flower varieties. That can be a problem for weddings, which alongside Mother’s Day account for several orders in recent months.
“Brides tend to be very specific in my book,” Scott said. “So, they don’t do substitutions as well as maybe some other types of events.”