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Why flowers get so expensive on Valentine's Day

Every year, Miami's international airport is flooded with imported flowers to meet Valentine's Day demand. Here's how those flowers are stored, inspected, and distributed.

Posted: Feb 14, 2019 8:21 AM


A dozen roses at Kroger stores usually costs around $10. During the Valentine's Day stretch, they go for double.

Why are flowers so expensive around Valentine's Day? The rush for flowers creates international logistics bottlenecks and elevated transportation costs for a limited supply of perishable flowers.

"It's an old economic adage. Supply and demand," said Charles Hall, professor of horticulture at Texas A&M University. "It's really expensive just to get them to the market."

Refrigerated trucks

Flower shops around the country have been preparing for Valentine's Day, the industry's busiest day, for months.

Kroger, the country's largest florist, started getting ready for Valentine's Day last spring with growers in Colombia and Ecuador. The two countries were the biggest flower exporters to the United States during last year's Valentine's season, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

"It's pretty complicated," said Jennifer Lien, Kroger's director of floral merchandising. "We have to keep a cold chain going. We have to make sure that the products keep the quality going from Colombia to Miami and then throughout the country."

Kroger's floral team first estimated how many roses the company would need at its thousands of stores around the country. More than 250 million roses are produced for Valentine's Day, according to estimates from the trade group Society of American Florists.

The grocery store also had to prepare its supply chain to preserve fresh stems along the journey from South America.

Flowers are fragile and have a short shelf life. Any mistake along the route could spoil them. Although improvements in cooling technology and preservatives in recent years have helped growers and retailers keep flowers fresh for longer, it's a high-stakes trip to stores.

Chris Drummond, who owns Penney's by Plaza Flowers in Philadelphia, said the temperature in refrigerated trucks is set to 34 to 35 degrees. "It keeps the flowers from getting moldy," he said. "We want to keep the flowers really cold."

Drummond buys flowers for his two stores from growers overseas and through wholesalers in the United States. He also buys from farms in the Netherlands, a top exporter of flowers to the United States.

Companies in Holland use an auction system to sell flowers. Drummond retains a broker who sits in on auctions and bids for flowers. "It's got to be the most efficient auction in the world," he said.

Kroger placed its orders for Valentine's Day roses around three months ago. Farmers in South America cut the roses at greenhouses and boxed them up in coolers before sending them to the airport. They fly in cold planes and land at Miami International Airport, the busiest airport in the country for flowers.

During last year's Valentine's season, US Customs and Border Protection in Miami processed around 1.3 billion stems, or more than 90% of the total imported flowers to the United States.

After clearing inspection for bugs and bacteria, roses hit cold trucks headed for Kroger's distribution centers. Then it's straight to fridges at stores.

Higher costs

In the lead-up to Valentine's Day, every flower retailer and wholesaler in America scrambles to get planes full of boxed flowers off the ground in Bogota, Colombia, and Quito, Ecuador.

Demand for flowers dropped off during the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, but it's picked up in recent years.

That's forced companies to hire extra workers in both South America and the United States to help with logistics during the rush.

While Kroger is able to use its size and scale to keep costs down, smaller players like Drummond say they're feeling the effects of higher transportation and labor costs in a tight jobs market.

"At every link in the chain, there's an increase in costs," he said. "The biggest thing I've noticed this year is the difficulty finding labor. Go try to find temporary help that wants to work in a 34-degree cooler."

High costs and razor-thin profit margins have pushed thousands of local florists shops out of business in recent years. The number of private florists has dropped 45% since 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Profit margins have eroded over time for the floral industry," said Texas A&M's Hall.

So when Valentine's Day rolls around, florists have a chance to recoup some of the money they lose during slow months.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 296154

Reported Deaths: 6764
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19700230
Hinds18851392
Harrison16736281
Rankin12757265
Jackson12623228
Lee9694161
Madison9480203
Jones7990147
Forrest7234138
Lauderdale6837226
Lowndes6032140
Lamar589680
Lafayette5740113
Washington5220130
Bolivar4616124
Oktibbeha441593
Panola431995
Pearl River4178131
Warren4134115
Pontotoc410571
Marshall403592
Monroe3990127
Union396174
Neshoba3817169
Lincoln3552104
Hancock348975
Leflore3380118
Sunflower318986
Tate303174
Pike301296
Scott294570
Alcorn292263
Yazoo290565
Itawamba290175
Coahoma281169
Tippah279265
Copiah278758
Simpson276280
Prentiss270258
Wayne254341
Leake252871
Marion252778
Covington249580
Grenada247878
Adams234678
George232145
Newton230852
Winston221877
Jasper213645
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Attala206669
Chickasaw201453
Holmes182370
Clay179251
Stone172429
Tallahatchie171239
Clarke169371
Calhoun158028
Smith153033
Yalobusha145036
Greene127833
Walthall124340
Noxubee122831
Montgomery122639
Perry122135
Lawrence120321
Carroll118625
Amite111734
Webster110832
Jefferson Davis102231
Tunica99323
Claiborne98829
Benton93824
Humphreys92927
Kemper90323
Quitman77414
Franklin76119
Choctaw69817
Jefferson62727
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey49117
Issaquena1676
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 497154

Reported Deaths: 10029
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson714001387
Mobile36252736
Madison32573462
Tuscaloosa24289414
Montgomery22708519
Shelby22112215
Baldwin19856285
Lee15021155
Calhoun13755288
Morgan13742252
Etowah13379320
Marshall11439210
Houston10110262
Elmore9451185
Limestone9413136
St. Clair9003225
Cullman8979182
Lauderdale8610212
DeKalb8486175
Talladega7582165
Walker6571259
Jackson6542103
Autauga631391
Blount6229127
Colbert5998120
Coffee5259103
Dale4657107
Russell406433
Franklin399778
Covington3989106
Chilton3891100
Escambia378772
Tallapoosa3613143
Clarke343953
Chambers3423111
Dallas3419142
Pike293372
Marion288895
Lawrence284683
Winston258668
Bibb245960
Geneva240270
Marengo238357
Pickens225055
Barbour212951
Hale211969
Fayette201357
Butler201166
Henry182941
Cherokee177739
Monroe166639
Randolph164640
Washington156635
Macon147243
Crenshaw146254
Clay145554
Cleburne139741
Lamar133733
Lowndes132551
Wilcox122525
Bullock117236
Conecuh107024
Perry105927
Sumter99432
Coosa89624
Greene88532
Choctaw55123
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