Why are flowers so expensive?

It’s been very difficult to miss the sharp rise in flower prices over the last few months with flowers rising in cost by around 20% since May 2020 - and that’s being conservative. In the same period of time the cost of petrol rose 12% and the cost of milk 2%. Despite Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day now being over, they aren’t returning to normal - but just why is this?

Let’s address perhaps the two most obvious factors first, covid & Brexit. The arrival of covid-19 in 2020 saw flower farms across the globe close due to lockdowns, and some of which haven’t reopened, some varieties that were commonly available before are no longer grown in such high quantities, and a higher demand drives a higher price.

Thousands of stems were simply thrown away last year because the demand for flowers dropped suddenly as localised restrictions closed flower shops, halted weddings and seriously disrupted the normal buying patterns. As with many other industries, small business right across the supply chain lost out on thousands of pounds worth of income, and now they are trying to recoup those losses.

Source: Royal FloraHolland flowers being disposed of in April 2020
Source: Royal FloraHolland

Brexit has brought additional challenges, immediately from the 1st January we saw delays in flowers coming from outside of the UK. Additional paperwork checks meant long queues at the ports, as well as an increase in staffing needed to deal with such admin. Although right now in March those delays have levelled off, from 1st April cut flowers and plants will require a phytosanitary certificate or plant passport and will be subject to additional checks at the borders. This will again will increase the time and the need for additional people to manage the new workload. All of this time and personnel must be paid for, adding to the cost of flowers.

But the supermarkets are still charging the same prices? 

The supermarkets will always charge less than your florist. Flowers are known in the supermarket industry as a loss leader. They are not designed to make any money they are used a marketing tool to entice you through the door and as an additional offering to their one-stop shops. The reason supermarkets can offer such low prices is because they buy in such huge quantities direct from the growers, usually far in advance which gives that grower a guaranteed income for the future. Your local florist simple does not and will never have the same buying power. 

But there are downsides to buying from a supermarket. The flowers themselves are generally older before they’ve even hit the shelves and can be up to 10 days older than those you would buy from a florist. Their bouquets aren’t created with the care and attention of a qualified florist either, they are packed in warehouses and some are even wrapped by machines. With the supermarkets you are not getting the same level of skill or customer service - if you have a problem with your flowers you would never speak to the person who arranged them just a generic member of the customer service team. You can buy steak at the supermarket, but it wouldn’t be to the same standard as one prepared by the butcher and cooked by a chef!

I didn’t train at floristry college straight out of school, my first career was in retail management and was very much more business focused. After I finished my floristry training the biggest shock I had was how little business skill is taught to florists. It is generally the norm just to do what has always been done. For many years, florists have sucked up the rising cost of flowers in order to compete with the supermarkets and maintain a steady price point for their customers. However, in  2021 there is no more margin to be had and the price increases simply cannot be absorbed any longer. Add on top rising business rates and many high streets have now completely lost their local florist shop, with an increasing number of florists choosing to become studio based with an online presence. 

Florists are now simply left with two choices, increase the price of their flowers or make their bouquets smaller.

Do you want to shop local and support a small business, deal personally with the person creating your flowers and providing you with the freshest of blooms and varieties you may not find elsewhere, or are you driven purely by the best bargain? The decision really is up to you.

a florist from Thatch and Roses Flower Studio preparing a bouquet

Photo Credit: Thyme Lane Photography


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