The last year or two several of my friends have asked me why we don’t sell Valentines roses as cheap as the supermarkets. I guess to anyone not in the flower industry a rose is a rose but there is so much more to it than that.
The Supermarkets will again be full of cheap offers this valentines and its no secret they will beat the prices in flower shops hands down but how do they do it? The majority of Supermarket roses are what’s called ‘Sweetheart’ Roses, they are mass produced short stemmed small headed roses grown in Africa in countries such as Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia & Kenya who alone produces approximately 70% of them. The biggest rose growing region in Kenya is at Lake Naivasha, 60 miles north of Nairobi. There are more than 30 flower farms there feeding off the once pristine lake employing thousands of workers who work long days for as little as 10p an hour according to the charity ‘War on Want’. In a single year the region exports 88 million tons of roses worth some £170million pounds, meanwhile the country has been near the top of the ‘World Food Programmes’ list for food donations since the 2011 drought crisis. Doesn’t seem right does it?
So Supermarkets can buy massive amounts of cheap roses at little cost, why can’t we? Quite simply we can’t all do the same thing, Supermarkets buy all of the cheap roses because they have the buying power. For them it doesn’t matter if a rose only lasts a few days, it’s a quick hit once a year and quite often Valentines Roses are a loss leader aimed at getting customers into stores to buy other gifts.
In our industry we even though we do offer a range of prices we mostly have to provide quality over price year round which is what we do by using two of the best rose producers in South America year round. By going to a florist you’re more likely to be buying a rose grown at much more expense in Holland, Colombia or Ecuador. Rather than 40 or 50cm stems they’ll be 60,70 or 80cm stems with much larger heads that will last a lot longer. Last year one of our customers told us that someone popped into her shop four weeks after Valentines to tell her that the Freedom roses she was given were still in her vase, that’s at least four weeks of the year her partner has been in her good books!!
But how can I moan about Supermarkets importing cheap roses when as a wholesaler I’m also importing roses often over thousands of miles too? Well I wish I could tell you there were roses commercially grown here in the UK but there aren’t. We used to be very proud to sell English roses grown in the Isle of Man some 15 years ago but like the vast majority of English growers they went out of business unable to compete with the cheap Supermarket prices.
So if you’re looking for cheap Valentines roses this year, don’t just think of the financial cost, think about what you want your gesture to mean. We’ve already lost most of our growers in the UK, it would be a shame if we lost more florists too.