Roses are a passion for millions of consumers around the world and they are a critical component of a wholesale florist’s daily business. Roses can represent 30-35 percent of the fresh flower sales in a wholesale house and are the top flower category every month of the year. Our customers use roses in all segments of their business — weddings, funerals, special events, weekly commercial business, and cash-and-carry — and they are all affected by the supply of roses.
Kennicott Bros. was established in 1881 and has lived through the evolution of rose production — we were once one of America’s largest rose growers. We have witnessed the shift from localized production to imports from South America, Holland and Africa, all enhanced by the speed of transportation and improvement in the cold chain. Hundreds of farms throughout Colombia and Ecuador produce millions of rose stems and an incredible array of varieties.
The rose demand we see comes from specific requests from florists, event specialists and supermarkets and we respond to these requests on a daily basis. Color trends are a huge factor in customer choices and our customers are buying reds, pinks, yellows, whites and lavenders.
The specific varieties can vary widely from market to market and the greatest color trend this year is in peach and coral, along with recurring seasonal colors like Sahara and the brown and orange tones in the fall.
We are also seeing an exploding demand in garden roses being driven by David Austen. Social media is increasing the exposure of trends, and garden roses are a prime example of this.
Kennicott Bros. relies on our individual locations to source for our customers’ demands and as a group, we buy from over 100 farms worldwide. We also rely on our partners in the Miami market on a daily basis because the importers in Miami draw from hundreds of sources and allow us to say yes to our customers’ requests more often than we say no. We speculate for our flower inventory based on historical data and current trends.
Our rose choices for our locations are driven by our customers’ confidence in the farms we work with. Consistency in quality throughout the year, and our farms’ ability to quickly communicate with our buyers, are critical to a wholesaler’s responsiveness to customers.
The market is continuing to evolve as groups of rose farms work together to save on costs, and new varieties are coming into the market every year. The selection of new varieties is determined by what each farm needs in production per square meter, so low production varieties are replaced with more current varieties. Every farm needs a mixture of reds and colors, as well as stem lengths, for various markets around the world.
In 2013 another key factor affected the entire United States flower market. Roses from Colombia and Ecuador had been imported duty-free for many years because of the Andean Free Trade Agreement, but the failure to renew the agreement triggered a duty on all flowers imported from Ecuador. While this duty affects all importers the same way, it added a cost that differentiated Ecuadorian roses from Colombian roses.
The Kennicott Bros. logo is a rose and our employee-owners work hard to satisfy our customers’ demands — quality roses are critically important to our success.
Scott Cheeseman is the branch manager for Kennicott Bros. in Milwaukee, WI. He can be contacted at Scott@Kennicott.com.