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Ditch the Red? … no way rosé!

16th January 2022

We put a shout out on our social media pages to find out what people thought about dropping red roses at Valentine’s. We got a flood of replies .. some as passionate as the flower itself.

It wasn’t all in favour and there did seem to be a divide between what shop and studio florists felt - probably led by the volumes involved, but overall, the feeling was red roses are a must even if in limited numbers. Read on to find out more.

For Phil Suarez, who with his partner Lesley Nash runs the busy Jennifleurs shop in Colchester, any florist not selling red roses was like a butcher going vegan the week before Christmas. “Ridiculous nonsense!” as he explained.

“We offer a bespoke service and shouldn’t be frightened to offer premium products at premium prices. Most people fully understand that prices have increased in virtually every other industry. Our motto this year will be to do ‘less for more’ using premium quality flowers.

We’ll be totally upfront re costings and our top-quality premium dozen will likely be £90 dependant on final pricing. That maintains a good margin. Product lines will be limited with hand tied pricing starting at £50 and castle box arrangements at £35 with one rose.

And as to whether he’s frightened he’ll get caught out. “To be honest no. We’ll have our quotas set so we don’t get left with many, if any but personally I feel anyone who wants roses will be more than happy to pay premium prices provided they get a premium product which only your wonderful local florist can provide.”

Nicola Wilson Place (left) of Simply Flowers in Fairfield, Stockton on Tees also took the food analogy when she wrote We are florists, red roses are what Valentine’s Day is all about – not having them would be like baking a cake without a blooming cake tin!!! Florists need to learn to be versatile in times of need.

"We’ll be ordering for dozens but when they are sold out, they’re sold out or customers can choose a bouquet to include 1 red rose. There’s always a way to make the buyer feel like they have made the right choice for their loved one, and of course what's more important is to keep the sales coming in so for us red roses are a must.”

For Charlie Couchman, (right) of Lotty’s Flowers in Faversham not having roses on offer just isn't worth the risk. “People will always want red roses and I can’t risk missing out on the business. The people who buy 6 or 12 red roses will – within reason - buy them irrespective of the price and whilst, of course, I will have other flowers available I will be stocking red roses without a doubt.”

Angelene Evans, who has two shops in Wales, Eileen Jenkins in Abertillery and Newport, pre-ordered for the first time and got Freedom months ago at a really good price and will be offering red rose bouquets as normal with a good margin while Frankie Davison (below right) who runs D&G Florist in Strood, Kent has used the whole pricing issue to totally rethink his

collection as he explained.

“We will be stocking some red roses but pushing other designs as well and using dried flowers with fresh pampas etc.! I was offered 60cm Freedom at £1.45 plus vat which is not a bad price, so I have gone with it! That said obviously you need to try and be different as that’s what makes you stand out, but I reckon the pricing has made every florist re-think their business which is not a bad thing. I know for sure it’s made me dust off and get to work with a new twist and I’m loving it!

Yvonne Palmer-Knight from The Flower Room in Nottingham is another shop that is playing a balancing act. “Most of our clients associate the red rose with Valentine’s so will still be stocking red roses, but I will be encouraging our staff to push other designs. We found lily hand tieds a huge hit last year as well as just tulip bouquets and a lot really liked the idea of a mixed hand tied with a red rose included so it certainly won’t be only roses. However, as a florist of over 35 years, I just don’t see Valentine’s without the red rose in there somewhere.”

As far as Philip Thornford, (left) co-owner of The Bearded Florist (formerly Blue Geranium) in Totnes it’s customer preference that leads him to fewer red roses. “The general consensus from customer feedback over the past 15 years indicates they are not fans of the red rose for the sake of Valentine’s. Some men think their partner will appreciate the thought, but the partners have a definite preference for seasonal Spring flowers.”

In Swansea Paul Jackson of Flowers by Arrangement admits he would rather close for the week!! Obviously, he won’t but he is definitely cutting back. “I won’t go rose free but I’ve slashed the number by 2/3, leaving enough for the usual crowd that just don’t care and are happy to have them. My plan is having less stock, limiting order numbers so no overtime bills and, fingers crossed, I’ll make a smaller but still half decent profit without upsetting too many of my customers.”

But as Paul pointed out it’s not just roses that are, and will be expensive … everything is going up and he like many, worries that flower prices are starting to push customers to other, perhaps more long lasting, gifts.

Because at £60/£70/£90+ you’re talking a purchase price that could buy a decent bottle of perfume, a not too shabby piece of costume jewellery or a decent meal out.

Which is why it is so important to not only make sure the design looks a million dollars but perhaps be a bit canny with the margins to make sure you hang onto the sale whilst keeping it at a competitive but still money-making price point.

Because whilst we all know not everyone likes red roses truth is flowers are still the preferred gift.

So, what about the people who aren’t doing red roses. Now the leader in the movement is actually Bloomsbury Flowers, based in London’s trendy Covent Garden who made the decision to go red rose free way back in the early 90’s … nearly 25 years ago.

As Stephen Wicks and Mark Welford (pictured left) say, "the move was partly in response to rising prices on all red flowers, not just roses and partly to create something that showed the sender hadn’t just opted for the easy – some might say mundane and ubiquitous choice."

It’s a decision they’ve stuck with ever since and every year they create and market to the full the Bloomsbury Flowers Valentines bouquet which has ranged from The Vanilla Pink, Lilac Luv and Bloomsbury Blush.

Bloom and Wild got on the no rose bandwagon last year and achieved oodles of press coverage and, we guess orders although given their probable demographic we’re personally not sure how much was to generate orders or to get their name in the press in preparation for Mother’s Day. What we do know is they must have spent ages putting the campaign together and that's another thing you need to think about. Do you have time to explain why you are ditching THE flower of Valentine's

But other florists are taking the same stance although, as Belinda Campopiano, (pictured below) who runs studio florist Chez Fleurs in Haywards Heath, Sussex says there’s still an urge never mind a moral dilemma!

“If I can hold out and resist - and it is hard as I do rather love a red rose - I am offering wraps of bright red anemone with foliage and hopefully Smith & Munson bright red tulips – large wraps of them! – and maybe white. Ideally, I would offer S&M to be British but if the price is too high I would not be averse to using Dutch.

The move away from red roses is gaining momentum and in some ways the industry probably had it coming as people object to the high prices every year but I can’t help feeling a little concerned for the growers in Ecuador and Colombia (and others I am sure) who rely heavily on our trade especially in February – what do we do?”

And that is a good point. Truth is imports not the evil beastie that some would like us to believe. Many far-flung growing countries actually have better worker and environmental conditions than Northern European counterparts - and yes that includes the British and Dutch – but it's also important to remember that in countries like Colombia, Africa and Ecuador - where state aid is far less - families rely on the sales to provide food, education and housing … a point leading eco online florist Petalon concede in their very good blog.

For others it is a simple case of pushing seasonality as Lindsey Kitchin, who specialises in weddings through her White Horse Flower Company explained.

“I’ve not sold a red rose on Valentine’s Day in over 15 years after an early foray proved there was very little money to be made unless one was selling volume - I’m a sole trader specialising in weddings so many of my customers were returning grooms and local customers and it was hard to make it work with the mark up required despite low overheads.

Instead, when customers call, I ask what if any, are the receivers favourite colour, spend a brief moment espousing the virtues of seasonality with spring blooms and how much prettier and generous a bouquet of tulips or mixed spring bouquet in a favourite colour combo looks rather than six or twelve overpriced roses. They love it and often tell me a year later when calling for a repeat order how many brownie points, they’d got for thinking outside the cliched red rose box!”

What is clear is you have to work at it as Shelia Ross a retired florist in New Mexico explained. “We went Rose-less many years ago because of the Valentine pricing and sketchy quality. We suggested a “longer lasting European” mixed bouquet, and named it “Ooh, la, la”! The recipients loved it, the senders thanked us and we made a much better profit margin. It took a lot of educating the senders about flower types but so worth it in the long run. Never looked back!”

And you might also have to relent a bit as Lesley Adams from Simply Flowers in Brighouse, said. “We have been rose free for 10 years now and it’s the best decision I ever made as it's taken all the stress out of Valentine's and turned it into a nice busy couple of days. We did relent slightly last year and do bouquets with a rose in the middle but I'm never going back to doing dozen red rose bouquets.”

The conclusion??

In truth, just as there is no one design idea that will work for every customer so there is no clear answer to the great should I/shouldn’t I sell red roses debate either. On balance though it seems that the majority of florist shops, i.e., full-service bricks and mortar shops wouldn’t dream of dumping the rose and will find a way to make it work.

The environmental issues are not a make or break … well as long as you buy from a reputable grower and the prices are not so horrendous that we are falling off our chair.

There is also no rule that says you have to have a shed load of roses in the shop for the ‘just in case’ buyer. If they leave it too late that’s their look out just as long as you explain nicely you’ve sold out and have something else.

We would also urge caution at dropping red roses because YOU think they are too expensive. Just like that scene in Pretty Woman (when the sales assistant gives Julia Roberts a sniffy look and makes her feel like dirt because she doesn’t look the part of a Rodeo Drive shopper) we don’t think it’s your (actually any retailer's) place to say what a customer can … and can’t afford.

You could also spend a heck of a lot of time explaining your rationale and still not get a sale because actually the person can both afford it and wants them so will just go to a florist that will do it … all of which means you’ve totally lost out on this, and possibly, future sales.

Indeed it could be argued that if you are a full service, retail florist shop dropping the key commodity of the whole event could be viewed as just plain wrong. And if you did, could you then really moan about online players taking your customers when you weren't prepared to provide your customers with what they wanted.

Having worked more Valentine Days than we care to remember we know it is tough and we know committing to a shed load of roses is scary.

However, unless you can really afford to look as if you will only pick and choose to sell what you want and when you want to, personally we’d still have a fair few roses along with all the other gorgeousness.


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