ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Valentine's Day is the second-largest gift giving holiday of the year, and one of the most popular gifts is flowers.
TFS Roanoke Inc. has been preparing for Valentine's Day since September. There's a lot more to the industry than what you see at your local flower shop.
"When you hear your customers say, 'Kelly, my flowers were beautiful,' that's why we do what we do."
Before the sun has even risen, Kelly Dooley and the rest of her team at TFS Roanoke Inc. are already well into their work day. Valentine's Day accounts for 30 percent of annual flower sales. Several of TFS's shipments of flowers go to flower shops in Roanoke. However, they go through quite a journey before reaching their final resting place in your home.
"Ninety-percent of our roses will come out of South America, Columbia and Ecuador," Dooley said.
"Right now we are in cooler #4 which is predominantly our rose cooler," she said, gesturing to the walk-in refrigerator around her that's filled floor to ceiling with boxes of flowers. "A rose that we have in here today could leave a farm in South America, arrive in Miami, and we can actually have the rose in two and a half days."
From the gardens, the flowers are loaded onto planes, inspected at customs and then distributed to floral warehouses around the country - all while never leaving a cold environment which preserves their freshness.
"If you're going to get roses, this is the thirstiest time of year you're going to get them so they have to be pre-cooled down," Dooley explained. "They have to be given a drink in a refrigerated cooler and then they're able to be sourced out beyond that."
In all, their travel time from garden to home can be as little as three days.
"It's a pretty fast turn-around of time."
Though it's a hectic time of year for the floral industry, the customers' happiness remains Dooley's number one priority.
"I feel that it's our job as a wholesaler to yes, satisfy our customers and make sure we put excellent product in our customers' hands, but more than that, I'm more concerned about their customer," Dooley said. "Ultimately our job is to make our customer's customer happy."
This year, shoppers are expected to spend more than $27 billion on Valentine's Day.
"Today is all about the rose," Dooley laughed.
Like all agricultural industries, mass growers rely a lot on favorable weather for a profitable year. Fortunately, Dooley said this year was fabulous for the flowers.
"The growing season was perfect for them," she said. "They didn't experience any foul weather whatsoever. The quality of the rose is superb, very superb."
With over $2 billion expected to be spent on Valentine's Day flowers this year, many consumers feel prices unfairly inflate during the Cupid season.
"People tend to think that the flower shops are elevating their prices for the holiday. That is not true," Dooley corrected.
The flower shop's margins don't change, it's the growers whose prices increase to make up for the deficit they incur the rest of the year.
"When people are out selling roses at $8.99 a dozen or $9.99 a dozen, the farms are not making any money. They're losing money," she explained. "So this is one time a year where farms demand a specific return."
Airlines also put in extra fuel charges and holiday charges to their price of shipping this time of year - all of which increase the price for consumers. However, that part of the industry isn't going to change so long as our flowers are outsourced from other countries.
"The United States is a huge dependent upon those roses in those countries, Dooley said.
Another thing Dooley emphasized was the importance of choosing a local florist and contacting that florist directly to order your flowers. With everything on the internet, it's easy for scammers to trick you into buying a bouquet from a fake website where you may never even get your flowers. Or if you do, Dooley said the flowers are often old and quickly wilt because their quality is not as carefully ensured.
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