Valentine’s Day fell on a Thursday this year, a day in the week that one industry veteran described as “the sweet spot,” and that seemed to lead retailers and growers to issue sunny sales bulletins, with records broken in most companies surveyed and sales widely up by double digits.
Among growers, importers and retailers, 12- and 16-hour days were not unheard of.
One chain had “Lovers Lanes” set up for express check-out for Valentine’s Day purchases, another had a floral display with sock monkeys under the theme, “Let’s Monkey Around.” An importer in Florida brought in a masseuse to give back rubs to workers pulling extra hours in the holiday crunch, while a California grower spread his full-time employees among production teams so temporary workers had a seasoned hand on their teams.
In the sunny Southwest, United Supermarkets/Market Street in Lubbock, TX, racked up record sales. Bradley Gaines, floral specialist, told The Produce News, “As a company we were up 14.83 percent. Same-store sales were up 9.7 percent over the prior year. This was our largest Valentine’s ever.” Another Southwest chain had record sales, up well over 20 percent for the week and racked up 7 percent of its annual floral sales in one 18-hour period.
In the Northeast, Price Chopper holiday sales set records as they soared in double digits “through the roof,” in the words of Jon Strom, vice president of new business development. Price Chopper had specials on red and pink Intuition roses, and they sold very well also, Mr. Strom said.
In the Midwest, sales at Schnuck Markets based in St. Louis were up by double digits, also setting new records. “We had excellent weather,” said Michael Schrader, director of floral. “We had record-setting sales up 15.3 percent over last year.” Arrangements were best-sellers.
Also in the Midwest, at West Des Moines, IA-bases Hy-Vee, Cindy Sulzman, assistant vice president for floral operations, said Feb. 14 was a record day with sales up 6.5 percent. “And Valentine’s week was also a record week, up 21.5 percent,” she added.
On the West Coast, Alice Grazziani, director of floral at Gelson’s Markets in Commerce, CA, weighed in with a report that Valentine’s Day there was “fantastic, with sales up significantly.” Bay City Flower Co. in Half Moon Bay, CA, echoed that. On the East Coast, Silver Vase Orchids in Miami increased holiday production from 5,000 units in 2012 to 60,000 for 2013.
“I hope you’re ready for Valentine’s Day, because it is headed your way,” texted David Register, head of FernTrust in Seville, FL, in late January, with a photo showing the FernTrust packinghouse stacked with boxes of ferns. “We are floor-to-ceiling today.” In a follow-up interview Feb. 20, he said sales were up here and in Europe for Valentine’s Day, with follow-on demand for Women’s Day and Mothers’ Day in England.
At Sun Valley Farms in Arcata, CA, workers used to work around the clock to process and ship Valentine’s Day orders, David Long said on a company blog. “In the old days we would be here 16 to 18 hours a day. Team members would get burned out. Now, we still work some overtime, but with the technology in place, we are working smarter and much more efficiently.”
Mario Vincente, owner at Fresca Farms in Miami, again brought in a masseuse to give back rubs to workers as they toiled to fill orders. “The masseuse took over the conference room with dim lighting, soothing music and a lavender-scented air spray,” said Ali Cruz, director of marketing. “And, oh yes, it was a record-setting Valentine’s Day for us.”
Augusto Solano, president of the Colombian flower export group, Asocolflores, said that about 500 million flowers were shipped from Colombia for the holiday, mostly to this country, and an additional 10,000 temporary jobs were added to the 130,000 the industry normally employs. Valentine’s Day accounts for 12 percent of Colombia’s annual flower sales.