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Valentine’s Day War of the Roses

8 February 2010 Aside Right, Good Dollars and Sense, Lifestyle No Comment


Posted February 8th 2010

Getting a good deal on flowers this Valentine’s Day requires that you not linger too long when you stop to smell the roses.

Valentine’s Day is the biggest holiday for fresh flower sales, accounting for 40 percent of annual revenue, according to the Society of American Florists, a trade group. Prices can easily top $60 for a bouquet of a dozen long-stemmed roses, with fancier arrangements well above $100.

But wait much beyond the start of February to order, and you can expect to pay a premium. Many florists and other companies that sell flowers use complex algorithms based on their supply and demand gauged from early orders to set pricing, says Jon Strom, the vice president of floral and lifestyle merchandising of the Price Chopper Supermarket chain based in Schenectady, N.Y., who has also worked on the wholesale and online sides of the floral industry. As the holiday approaches, they may offer sales on arrangements that haven’t sold well, and pump up prices on those popular bouquets with dwindling supply.

A cold snap in Colombia, which supplies many out-of-season roses sold commercially, may also affect pricing this year. “It didn’t damage anything, but it slowed production down,” says John Dole, a professor of horticultural science at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. The Colombian Association of Flower Producers estimates it may have lost as much as 30 percent of the crops in affected areas near Bogota. If florists must compete for last-minute supply, consumers who procrastinate on ordering could face heftier-than-normal premiums.

Ordering early is a good start, but consider these seven strategies to get the most bloom for your buck:

Get a weekday delivery
Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, and if you want the flowers to arrive during that weekend, expect to pay a premium. Delivery on Friday or earlier in the week will be far cheaper because it allows florists to spread out the work, says Jennifer Sparks, a spokeswoman for the Society of American Florists. At Proflowers, standard delivery costs $5 to $10, depending on where you live. Have your order delivered on Friday, Feb. 12, and you’ll pay an extra $5. On Saturday (Feb. 13) and Sunday (Feb. 14), you’ll pay and extra $10 or $15, respectively.

Slash stem length
“Usually, the longer the stem, the more expensive [the rose],” says Janice Cutler, the owner of North Raleigh Florist in Raleigh, N.C. Arrangements in a shorter vase or bowl let florists start out with stems of shorter lengths, and so cost less. For example, a dozen long-stemmed red roses from the shop delivered on Valentine’s Day would cost $98; slightly shorter stems, $85.

Think pink
Or any other color that isn’t red. It’s the most in-demand color, and so can command a premium, Strom says. At FTD.com, a dozen long-stemmed red roses are $80. The same quality bouquet of white or yellow roses costs $75. Lavender roses are even cheaper on the site, at $50 — but there’s a catch. Growers haven’t yet figured out how to breed those blooms for longevity, so the bouquet won’t last as long, Strom says. On the upside, that also means purple roses are more fragrant than those of other colors.

Mix blooms
It’s a hard sell for customers, but limiting the number of roses in your bouquet can cut costs significantly, Dole says. Roses are out of season and in high demand, which keeps prices high. Everything else is cheap in comparison. His picks: tulips, Oriental lilies and carnations. “They’re in season, and they’re gorgeous,” he says. At Teleflora, 10 red tulips in a ribbon-tied vase cost $42.

Check for quality
In times of high demand, not all flower sellers are created equal, says Scott Testa, an assistant professor of business administration at Cabrini College in Radnor, Pa. Before you order, read both recent consumer reviews and ones from Valentine’s Day last year. If you’re buying online, be sure to check the fine print to see if the bouquet will come pre-arranged by a local florist or shipped in a box from the grower, he says. The latter can be cheaper, but it usually entails do-it-yourself arranging and may not include a vase.

Use coupon codes
There are plenty out there at sites like RetailMeNot.com and CouponShack.com, although deals start disappearing in early February. At FTD.com, code COUPONCABIN20 from CouponCabin.com gets you 20 percent off at checkout through February. Shoppers linking to Proflowers through PayPal get 20 percent off and a free glass vase through Valentine’s Day.

Order a single stem
You’ll pay just $3 to $5 for a single, long-stemmed rose, Strom says. It’s a romantic and economical gesture that leaves you plenty of room in your budget for a fancy dinner out or more long-lasting gift.

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