Why You Should Still Give Flowers For Mother's Day (And Beyond)
Sales of toilet paper and sourdough starter may be soaring, but COVID-19 hasn't been so kind to other household goods—fresh flowers included.
"In a word, the global floriculture industry was decimated by COVID-19," Becky Roberts, a director at Produce Marketing Association, a trade organization for the mass-market floral industry, tells mbg. While it's difficult to quantify the pandemic's impact on the industry as a whole, according to Roberts, it's safe to say that "billions of stems, billions of potted plants, and billions of dollars have been lost."
How has COVID-19 affected our fresh blooms?
"We're still figuring out all of the ways COVID-19 has impacted our business," says Tobie Whitman, the founder of Little Acre Flowers in Washington, D.C. "Firstly, our events business has been decimated—100% drop. We did our last big event during the first week of March and assume that there will be few to no events until the fall, if at all."
Many independent florists, like Whitman, have historically relied on large gatherings—weddings, birthdays, and the like—as a source of income. With these events canceled and restaurants (another hot spot for flowers) closing their doors, the industry has needed to pivot.
Little Acre Flowers has found success shifting to a flower subscription model, and demand for their bouquet and vase deliveries remains high. And since they only sell local flowers, they haven't been affected by any international shipping changes. "I'm hopeful that in the long term, this will bolster the local flower movement as more florists and customers become aware of the advantages of local flowers—freshness, sustainability, beauty," she says.
Many companies that import flowers from overseas, on the other hand, have been hit hard by a reduction in cargo ships and trucks.
"Typically, most retail florists and wholesalers in the U.S. receive truck deliveries once or twice a week, but the trucking industry reduced its operations in floral during COVID-19," Roberts says. "Cargo planes that once made up to 10 trips a day to carry flowers from South America to Miami were mostly idle, reducing service to one cargo plane due to decreased demand."
Roberts also notes that very few people were purchasing flowers in U.S. supermarkets from mid-March through early April of this year. During this time, while some growers were able to donate their unsold blooms to front-line workers, nursing homes, and employees, many had to toss their already-cut stems. From Australia to the Netherlands to Kenya, fields full of hyacinths and honeysuckle, calendula and carnations, lay in piles destined for trash or compost.
How you can help the flower industry out this Mother's Day.
The good news is that demand does seem to be picking up for both small local shops and larger global retailers. As of May 6, florists in the Netherlands reported up to 90% of their normal sales volume, and the "outlook overall is more positive now than two weeks ago," Roberts says. The arrival of Mother's Day will likely help, too.
Consider supporting the industry by gifting your mom or mother figure a bouquet this weekend. There's no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through flowers, so just be sure to follow CDC guidelines when you're picking your blossoms up from your local shop or ordering them online for contactless delivery. And while you're at it, maybe get in the habit of gifting yourself flowers from time to time too? They're a reminder of beauty, hope, and comfort—things we could all use some more of right now.
"[Ordering flowers] feels like a normal thing to do," says Whitman. "And I think people like that."