Overhead Keeps Florists From Cashing In On Feb. 14

If you're buying roses for Valentine's Day, you may be looking at a premium price. But that doesn't necessarily mean big profits for those doing the selling.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Here in the United States, florists are gearing up for Valentine's Day. NPR's Wendy Kaufman checked in on prices and has this report.

WENDY KAUFMAN: Doug Otani the general manager of Northwest Wholesale Florist has already processed more than 100,000 stems of roses and more are on the way.

Mr. DOUG OTANI (General Manager, Northwest Wholesale Florist): We have a whole bank of red roses over there and right here. Then we have pinks and whites and yellows and oranges and, you know, every shade you can imagine.

KAUFMAN: Most of these long-stemmed roses come from Ecuador and Colombia. And ordinarily, those growers charge somewhere around 50 cents a stem for a premium quality rose. But for Valentine's Day, the wholesale price can more than double.

Otani says it's a classic example of supply and demand.

Mr. OTANI: From the grower's standpoint, you know, this is their one chance to try to make a killing. For the rest of us down the chain, we have to mark up because our overhead has increased.

KAUFMAN: And it's not just the flowers, but the cost of shipping and wholesalers and retail florists alike, need lots of extra staff to handle the flood of orders for Valentine's Day. So, despite what you might think, the holiday isn't a huge money maker for most retail florists.

(Soundbite of people talking)

Mr. MARK YOUNG (Owner): This is true. It's a misconception that florists are just trying to gouge people and just doubling their prices. Our costs do increase a lot.

KAUFMAN: Mark Young, is the longtime owner of a tiny but elegant flower shop in downtown Seattle. He says while he has loyal customers willing to pay a premium price, many mainstream retail florists aren't so lucky. They're under enormous price pressure from supermarkets, big box stores and online flower delivery companies.

Mr. YOUNG: They've certainly taken a bit of business from the retail florist. And, unfortunately, there are a lot of shops that have had to close their doors.

KAUFMAN: But for those still in business, their biggest challenge right now might be getting all those flowers ready and out the door on a single day.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News, Seattle.

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