Battle of the roses: florists vie for Valentine’s victory

Florists are sceptical about profits this Valentine’s Day as supermarket price cuts threaten to take away business.

Valentine’s Day traditions are all about showering your loved one with gifts, and nothing indicates this so much as flowers, particularly that symbolic red rose. However supermarkets, with their massive economies of scale, are swooping into what should be one of the busiest times of the year for florists.

Carole Martin, owner of Carole Martin Florists on Bloomfield Road, Kingston, said: “Our biggest competition is supermarkets as they advertise on the TV, and as a small shop we obviously can’t afford to do that.”

However Sheila Hyson, from Elsa Brown Flower Style on Chiltern Drive, Surbiton, believes that the service florists offers is one that cannot be found in supermarkets and for that reason people will continue to use them. She said: “Supermarkets do affect us as people go there for the price but if someone wants nine roses instead of twelve or a certain size or certain colour than these are things that supermarkets can’t do but we can.”

This fierce competition has forced florists to try out different techniques to entice customers. Mrs Martin tries to come up with affordable options that appeal to a range of people. She said: “We try and do things for a small price, some small things that children can give to their parents. We do a mixed bouquet with one red rose as it is cheaper but lasts longer.”

Many florists these days rely more on other aspects of the flower industry, such as landscape gardening and flower arrangements for weddings. Mrs Martin added, “Valentine’s Day is a nice busy day for us, but as a local small shop it is not so important.”

Flowers remain the traditional Valentine’s Day gift, with £22m being spent each year on the holiday. Mrs Hyson said: “Flowers are still a main gift for Valentine’s Day because there is a luxury to flowers, there is nothing quite like them. I always have ladies coming into the shop wishing they were given some, the size doesn’t particularly matter.”

Kingston florists are still cautiously optimistic that Valentine’s Day will draw in more customers. Mrs Hyson said: “I suppose it benefits florists as it encourages people, particularly men, to buy flowers and to come into the shop.”

Yet with all the hype surrounding Valentine’s Day, its effect on florists’ sales remains a mystery until the day itself. Mrs Hyson concluded: “Nobody knows for sure as people often don’t buy anything until the day. We can’t gauge it all really, we’re just hopeful.”

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