It’s been more than a year since the pandemic started to change our lives and our livelihoods. Every week things change and new protocols are put in place, restrictions are loosened then tightened again, lock downs are lifted or extended, every emotion and resource goes up and comes down.

For the past few months the flower industry has had rumours bouncing around. Forecasts that were predicting to hit the industry took at the beginning of the pandemic was going to catch up sooner rather than later. There were warnings of shortages, and major price increases like we’ve never seen before.

Now  here we are in spring of 2021, weeks away from Mother’s Day, the busiest holiday in the floral industry, and we are receiving letters from suppliers informing us that the effects of the pandemic are drastically affecting the availability and prices of flowers. A recent Instagram post on March 26th made by Mayesh Wholesale (a cut flower distributor in the US), said,

“Currently, the demand for flowers is outstripping the supply significantly. We are seeing unprecedented shortages in every category of floral product.

Primary Causes of Supply Challenges:
• Reduced Production
• Logistics Bottlenecks
• Increased Flower Demand

Growers are just getting back on their feet after production came to a screeching halt in early 2020 – they are currently replanting and staffing up, but it does take time.

Unfortunately, we anticipate the flower shortages will continue throughout the Mother’s Day holiday and beyond until production and logistics can catch up to the demand.”

Oak & Lily Clippers Photography by Victoria Anne Photography, Winnipeg

In the spring of 2020 the industry watched entire warehouses of processed cut flowers emptied into dumpsters and then overflow into piles filling entire parking lots. Lockdowns and stay-in-place orders were not allowing distributors to access their facilities and product had to be disposed of in short notice to avoid the un-attended perishable products from rotting in their buckets and coolers spreading bacteria and fungus that would seriously damage the facility’s environment. The delicate nature of flowers requires the same standards of cleanliness and handling that food does in order to avoid contamination and decay. Even if the flowers could have been salvaged and donated or sold at cost to clear them, they had nowhere to go, local hospitals and care homes were in lock down, and shipping and transportation departments were parked at a standstill.

All around the world farms’ greenhouses and fields were abandoned as workers were forced to stay home. With reduced occupancy capacity many growers couldn’t keep up with the care required to grow commercial blooms. Many of their plants were unable to survive the neglect and perished or were removed. In response to the shut down many farmers also chose to reduce their production plans for 2021 to avoid further loss which has resulted in the current shortages. Patrick Dahlson, Mayesh CEO, further explains that business acquisitions and weather have also helped create a perfect storm for shortages. “Exacerbating the supply constraints, several large scale grower/bouquet makers supplying mass markets have acquired South American farms thus reducing product available to the florist channel. On top of all that, Mother Nature has weighed in with inclement weather conditions in Colombia and Ecuador recently, which has further reduced the production of many flower commodities”.

Oak & Liy - Flowers - Photo by Victoria Anne Photography - Winnipeg

Transportation has also affected the industry drastically. “The pandemic also wreaked havoc with supply chains and logistics companies throughout the world. Passenger flights have been dramatically reduced, forcing increased demand to cargo airlines for freight. In some cases, cargo planes themselves have been redeployed from South America to other regions of the world to accommodate spiking demand. The result – higher prices for air cargo and less availability of space. To complicate matters, trucking companies in the U.S. have been struggling to hire drivers for years, but the explosion of e-commerce in the past year has driven the overall demand for drivers to an all-time high,” Dahlson explains. On a local level, the price of gas has sky rocketed significantly increasing the cost for shops to provide delivery services.

Along the way the industry was able to somewhat recover from the first shock to its system by pivoting its models of distribution and adapting to the new economic and cultural environment. Although cancelled weddings, corporate events and standing orders from hotels and restaurants put a strain on many florists at the beginning, the demand for flowers bought at a retail level increased throughout the pandemic with clients wanting to connect to socially distanced loved ones through contactless delivery gifts as well as wanting to brighten up their own new home offices with flowers and plants. In a letter to customers the CEO of Mayesh Wholesale in the US said, “The supply-demand imbalance for flowers is unprecedented in the last 30 years”.

Oak & Lily - Hellebore bundle - Phot by Victoria Anne Photography - Winnipeg

At Oak & Lily we have always made it a priority to support other local small businesses and we were glad to take the opportunity to avoid purchasing imported flowers and were more than happy to support local growers and offer our bouquets and arrangements made with 99% locally grown blooms. Purchasing locally allowed us to support our farmer friends and maintain the level of quality and value we insist on offering our clients. The only drawback to locally grown flowers in Manitoba is the short season they are available. Between October and May we are completely dependent on imported flowers.

We value transparency and want our customers to be confident in their choice to trust us which is why we want to share this information. These impacts on the industry mean that customers can expect an increase in prices and we want them to be informed.

Oak & Lily- Lisianthus- Photo by Victoria Anne Photography - Winnipeg

With the current shortages and challenges favourite flowers such as ranunculus and peonies would need to be priced at $25-35 EACH STEM using our regular mark up practices and other imports such as roses will see an increase upwards of 30-40%. So, a bunch of 10 peonies would have to be priced at over $300.00 for our business to achieve the margins required to cover our costs and make a profit. We don’t see this as a sustainable mark up model and will have to take a big hit on our margins this holiday in order to competitively market and sell our bouquets. Our goal is to always provide quality products uniquely designed for a good value to our customers. This will always continue to be our goal. We are happy to share this inside information with our loyal customers so they can know to expect something a little different this Mother’s Day and the weeks and months that follow. We are working on building a beautiful collection of gift packages that we know will help our customers gain better value for their purchases that include flowers!

We encourage our customers to order early to avoid disappointment as we have been told the shortage will likely result in limited supply available to us. We also want to ensure our customers that they can trust us to design something beautiful for each and every order and that a designer’s choice is one you can count on! We are always so honoured to be a part of such special sentiments in the lives and relationships of the customers we serve!

 

Oak & Lily - Narcissus - Photo by Victoria Anne Photography - Winnipeg

 

All images (except the first one) by Victoria Anne Photography.