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The high cost of roses won’t stop shoppers from showing their love on Valentine’s Day, florists say

Niven Sabherwal
90.5 WESA
Florists in and around Pittsburgh say this year they’re charging between 5% and 20% more than they did last Valentine's Day for a dozen long-stemmed roses.

The price of roses typically goes up around Valentine’s Day, when demand for the quintessential love symbols swells. But this year, when you add inflation, the flowers arguably become a stronger display of affection.

Floral shops in the Pittsburgh area generally charged between $75 and $100 for a dozen long-stemmed roses before this Valentine’s Day. For some vendors, those rates represent increases of 5% to 20% over last year.

Chris Stewart, who owns Dormont Florist, noted that price hikes are affecting the entire economy. The U.S. inflation rate has soared to a 40-year high, with January prices for consumer goods 7.5% greater than they were a year ago.

“There's nothing we can do,” Stewart said. “We just have to carry the costs on to the customer, unfortunately. We wish [roses] were less expensive as well.”

Last week, a dozen red roses at Dormont Florist cost $90 — $15 more than last year, Stewart said.

Business owners said the higher prices mainly reflect strain on the global shipping system. The cost of transporting goods has soared amid a shortage of air cargo space and truckers.

But as prices rise, consumer demand remains strong, Stewart said.

“People are still buying them. … Since [last] Monday hit, it’s been non-stop — phones ringing, orders online, people coming in.”

Stewart and other florists in the region were confident they could fulfill all of their orders.

“We have had no trouble getting the flowers that we needed and ordered for the holiday,” said Jason Gidas, manager at Gidas Flowers in Oakland.

“The key is just being able to predict what's going to happen [and] ordering well in advance,” he said. “Since we gave our suppliers enough time, they’ve come through for us and gotten us what we needed.”

In an age of inflation, however, Gidas still has raised its prices. It now sells a dozen long-stemmed roses in a vase with greenery and baby’s breath for $85. Last year, such an arrangement cost between $75 and $80, according to Gidas.

At West View Floral Shop, the price has gone up from $70 to $80 for a dozen long-stemmed red roses wrapped in tissue paper, owner Beth Schellhaas said. In a vase, she said, the bouquets cost $100 — a $10 markup from last year.

The U.S. imports most of its roses from Colombia and Ecuador. Diana Scalamogna, vice president of operations at BW Wholesale Florist in the Strip District, said farms in those countries now grow plenty of flowers after abandoning entire crops amid the COVID-19 shutdowns of 2020.

Limited shipping capacity remains the prime drag on the market, Scalamogna said.

“There was a lot of backlogging with transportation. And then [the price of] fuel went up. So a lot of that is part of the problem with the scarcity or the cost involved in the flower market,” Scalamogna said.

She estimated that most floral shops in and around Pittsburgh charged between $75 and $100 for a dozen roses this Valentine’s Day.

John Richards, vice president of sales at wholesaler DVFlora, said the rising costs of fertilizer, packaging and other materials also have pushed up the price of flowers. Based in New Jersey, DV Flora runs a distribution center in Cranberry.

“The industry in general, for all growers at all levels in all parts of the world, [has] experienced a number of increased inputs or costs on their end,” Richards said.

He noted that the minimum wage has also increased in Colombia and Ecuador. He estimated that the two countries produce 95% of roses sold in the U.S.

Even so, Richards said, the flower industry is “healthy and robust,” thanks largely to COVID-19.

“We've actually seen an increase in flower consumption for everyday gift-giving and then also for personal use,” he said. “People liked having plants in their home as they were cooped up through the pandemic and liked having fresh cut flowers on their table because it's an item that definitely brings a positive outlook.”