Order early for Valentine's Day, florists warn as demand blooms, supply wilts amid pandemic
Some florists capping orders for Feb. 14 amid unreliable imports from South America
Valentine's Day is already one of the busiest days of the year for florists, but the pandemic is posing some special challenges in 2021, prompting several flower shops across southern Ontario to encourage customers to order arrangements early.
"We have had to limit the selection of designs on our website due to limited product availability," explained Cheryl Dick, co-owner of Adrienne's Flowers & Gifts in Ajax.
Many flowers are imported to Ontario from Ecuador and Colombia. But with pandemic restrictions and a drop-off in passenger and commercial flights the supply of imported flowers — like roses in particular — is less predictable.
"The flowers come over on passenger flights from Miami and then get distributed from there," explained Sara Jameson, the owner of Sweetpea's, a floral design studio in Toronto's Roncesvalles neighbourhood.
"So, if there are no flights going into Miami, we can't be absolutely certain we're going to get our flowers."
Several shops report flower shortages have been ongoing throughout the pandemic, with farms in Ecuador and Colombia often unable to keep up with demand.
WATCH | Natalie Kalata speaks to florists about challenges the pandemic is posing ahead of Valentine's Day:
"They have been limited in terms of their capacity to fulfil regular orders," said Martha Vandepol, co-owner of Van Belle Flowers, from her greenhouse in Courtice, Ont, east of Oshawa.
"Say, for example, we would order 1,000 tulips, when the order comes in we might only get 500 and we might not get the colours we want."
Complicating matters, say florists, nearly a year into the pandemic, demand is blooming.
"We deal with emotions; we're here for the good times and the bad times," said Helen Kisicek-Soroka, owner of the Flower Room on Annette Street near Jane Street in Toronto's west end.
"We get a lot of customers calling because they can't see their friends or loved ones ... and they want to reach out to them and they want them to feel great and what better way than flowers."
But keeping up with that demand amid a supply shortage and COVID-19 physical distancing practices in the workplace has proved too much for some, and they are capping orders as a result.
"I'm putting the well being of my team ahead of profit," Jameson explained. Her store has decided to limit itself to 100 orders.
"We normally do anywhere from 175 to 275 orders on Valentines Day proper, not including the days going into it," she said.
"Based on the increase we've seen ... we were expecting upwards of 400 orders for a single day."
If customers still have their hearts set on a bouquet on Feb. 14, several florists recommend asking shops for recommendations beyond roses.
"We have really had to encourage our customers to allow us to design them something custom," said Dick, the flower shop co-owner in Ajax.
"This allows us to use more local flowers and overall we have found people are very happy with what they're receiving."