As I sit here at my desk at just before 6 pm, waiting for my husband and driver to return from setting up a large floral event at the Hyatt in Princeton, I'm reading an online article from the Society of American Florist in their E-Brief. I love these e-mails that arrive every Wednesday with bits of new of the floral industry.
The article I just read prompted me to think about what, if anything, sets a local florist apart from the local Supermarket. Aside from the fact that we usually offer delivery, which most markets don't, along with a wider range of "arranged" flower selections, we sometimes sell the exact same flower. People may ask why the flowers from the florist cost more than the Supermarket, and the truth is that it's about buying power, gross margins and acceptable spoilage. A local florist will buy far less than a Supermarket, thereby paying a higher price. They don't have the volume to make up for low margins. The Supermarket can also afford to throw more away. Toss in a traditional flower shop is unheard of. If you toss a lot, you are not buying correctly. Those three truths are well known. What is not always known, is that sometimes the very same quality of flowers are being offered by each, but what the Supermarket does with those flowers is far different from what a local florist does. Sometimes the bunches of flowers are offered at lower stems counts and that is confusing to the consumer. If you go to your local florist and pay $9.95 or even $10.95 for a bunch of alstroemeria (which is a growers 10 stem bunch) and compare that to the Supermarket bunch that sells for $5.95 or $6.95 (which may have 5 or 6 stems of the same flower) you are actually paying more per stem.
The article I just read was written by someone who is classically trained as a floral designer, yet she works at a Supermarket. One of the biggest differences she notices is that the flowers are not processed with the same level of care as the local florist. At most flower shops, when those flowers arrive from the wholesaler or farm, they are quickly processed and cooled. If flowers are left "dry packed" they are usually left for less than a day before the hydration process is done. The flowers are also often cooled for 3 to 12 hours before being sold. I also believe we may buy less and sell less, we often turn our flowers over within a few days, if not quicker. Most Supermarket flowers are fully bloomed, meaning they are easily 2 or 3 days more developed. I'm a big believer in letting the flowers bloom in the consumers home, not in the shop.
By no means, am I being negative on what Supermarkets sell. As the person writing the article points out, it's more of a point of reference, than a criticism. The concept of "Getting what you paid for" is especially true with flowers. Flowers grown by premier farms cost more but usually last longer or are more beautiful. Sometimes this is important (especially with gift giving, sympathy and wedding designing) and other times, it's just nice to have an inexpensive bouquet of flowers for your dining room table for a special family dinner.
As I'm fond of telling people that I meet who apologize for buying flowers from the Supermarket - "It's more important that you live with flowers in your life than where you get them". Supermarkets service a need of convenience and low cost but when you need that special gift, hand crafted and hand delivered I sincerely hope you will give your local florist a ring!!