MARION—The biggest day for florists is right around the corner, Valentines day. Local florist Wendy Youk, owner of Aunt Bee’s Floral and Gifts in Marion, said Valentine’s Day is one of the single largest days in the industry, next to Mother’s Day.
While Aunt Bee’s is a small business, they will send thousands of bouquets out the door.
“It’s a chaotic day, but it’s a good day for us. It’s fun to get to see people that don’t come in any other time of the year,” Youk said.
Valentine’s Day is an unusual holiday, in that florists must prepare months in advance.
“We had to have our flowers ordered before Christmas,” Youk said.
But, fresh cut flowers have a limited life, and arrangements must be made only a couple days, or even hours, in advance. Youk said the shop ordered over 2,000 roses just for Valentines Day—in addition to other extra flowers and greens.
“It’s a lot of getting supplies in, prep work, and having everything streamlined is a good thing,” Youk said.
The staff at Aunt Bee’s has, collectively, decades of experience in the floral industry.
“With Valentine’s, it’s a mass production of bouquets—a lot of roses and a lot of other arrangements. It all just comes to us; it comes together as you go, making arrangements,” Youk said.
Success on Valentine’s Day is important in any year, but during 2021, the holiday will help florists make up some ground lost due to COVID-19.
Youk said the industry has been affected on both the consumer and supplier side. Weddings and funerals were cancelled or severely curtailed.
“We tried to wire flowers out for someone in Wichita for Via Christi, and they still aren’t accepting floral deliveries. That’s one of the last things you can see or get from a loved one, because you can’t have visitors,” Youk said.
However, to balance the dip in demand for arrangements, Youk has a healthy greenhouse business that bolstered Aunt Bee’s, supplying area gardeners with flowers and produce.
“That was actually our best year ever. Last year, people were needing something to do. Since you could still go outside and grow your own food, it was a crazy season and totally unexpected,” Youk said.
While at-home growing was a blooming industry, Youk said getting fresh cut arrangements was at times impossible.
“Right after the country shut down, we couldn’t get flowers. When we were able to get flowers, we weren’t able to choose; they’d send an assortment, and that’s what we had.
The massive South American flower fields were withering away.
“Some of them didn’t come back for business after all this. Some are still shut down, and some of that industry, COVID took care of business for them,” she said.
The logistics of moving flowers across international borders and then to shops across the nation continues to be a challenge.
“There are some things that are not available, even little supplies like the little ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ business cards. Flowers that are totally unavailable; farms that have been shut down. COVID is still affecting everything, even a year out,” Youk said.
An unintended consequence of the pandemic is people becoming more reliant on online ordering and deliveries. Youk said big-name online floral shops are little more than a “call center, and most are not even in the U.S. They’re a telemarketing firm collecting information, and that’s it.”
Orders placed at large online retailers trickle down to small, local florists, but the online retailer takes a cut. Youk said customers will get more for their money simply by placing orders directly with local florists.
Youk added, with flower shipments coming in nearly daily, there is still time to support the small business and even have flowers delivered to a loved one.
“I think the delivery drivers have the best job. They get to see the reactions, which is kind of cool. We are here putting things together and sending them on their way,” Youk said.