Area florists are preparing for their busiest day of the year. For these business owners, Valentine's Day translates to an increase in deliveries, longer hours, a frantic week and an onslaught of last-minute shoppers."Valentine's Day means a lot of work," said Sharon Hoke, owner of Botanical Flowers said.Trisha Hurley, owner of Antique Rose Florist, has been in the business for 20 years and said she still has to brace herself for the holiday."The phones will be ringing off the hook," she said.The Blooming Idea owner Mary McCarthy agreed. "It's a pretty hectic time of year," she said.McCarthy explained that people usually forget to think about flowers until the night before or on Valentine's Day itself."Guys order at the last minute. So we like to be prepared," McCarthy said. Flower shop owners have several factors to consider – how much to order, how many people to employ and what to offer that will set their arrangements apart from the rest."It's all about being organized," Hoke said. The Blooming Idea will add an extra staff member, and all the regular staff plan on working extra hours. The shop will also stay open the Sunday before Valentine's Day. Antique Rose Florist will add four or five extra people to their staff and all plan on working overtime. "We want to encourage people to order early," McCarthy said.
Red roses are still the most popular item, followed by mixes including tulips and stargazer lilies, McCarthy said. The roses are typically imported from Ecuador and Columbia. The Blooming Idea starts receiving shipments the Thursday before Valentine's Day, and they go directly into a cooler. This year, McCarthy is ordering a special item – extremely long-stem roses. The featured rose will have a four-foot long stem. "We're always looking to bring in something different," she said. "These roses are enormous and beautiful. They'll be pretty spectacular." Botanical Flowers will offer a Hershey's Hug Bouquet, an arrangement that comes in a ceramic Hershey's kiss vase. The special item at Antique Rose this year will be a more compact and shorter mixed arrangement. The tight cylinder of roses and tulips fits a more contemporary style house, Hurley said. "Traditional arrangements are light, tall and airy," Hurley said. "This compact design is more popular now. A lot of people like a more contemporary look." Hurley said red roses are still their most popular flower. She explained that yellow roses and pink roses are good options for less serious relationships. "Red means love, always," Hurley said. "If you don't want to say the 'L word' yet, you might want to go with pink."
While grocery store flowers may be convenient, the florists said their arrangements are fresher, longer-lasting and more unusual. "People who aren't used to buying flowers go for the cheapest and easiest thing they can find," she said. Hoke said she believes that the personal attention of a floral shop sets them apart from grocery stores. "Our designs are more original, and the service we provide is more personal," she said. McCarthy agreed, explaining that retail florists carry higher quality flowers and unique arrangements. She feels that internet shopping is their biggest competition. Hurley said sometimes they get caught in the middle. "We can be really busy the day after a holiday. People are trying to makeup for online ordering mistakes and lost internet orders," she said. The florists agree that once a customer shops at their stores, they tend to come back. "We do have clientele that repeat year after year," McCarthy said. "A lot of times, guys buy flowers only once a year. We want to make a good impression so they'll come back year after year." For Hoke, the repeat customers are what make her job rewarding. She said several of her customers have become her friends. "Owning this store, I get to meet a lot of neat people," she said. "Everyone is very nice and understanding on Valentine's Day." Hoke opened her shop in August 2010 after working for the same florist for 17 years. "People thought I was crazy to start a business in this economy," she said.Hoke, however, just thought it was an interesting challenge. "It makes me work twice as hard to build the business," she said. "And there's nothing wrong with that." Hoke said the economy forces business owners to pay extra attention to what they are spending. On Valentine's Day, florists have to forecast the amount of shoppers they will have, so they can order enough inventory. Hurley said the slower economy has definitely affected her shop. She estimates that her business is down about 20 percent. "During the holidays, people still splurge," she said. "But when they used to send flowers just-because, now they don't." Hurley said she is good at estimating what she will need. Still, she ordered fewer flowers last year and ended up selling out of roses. McCarthy, however, said her business has been fairly consistent. "I'm optimistic about getting out of the slump. People do seem to be buying more," she said. "Valentine's Day is our biggest day of the year. We're looking forward to being busy and selling a lot of flowers," McCarthy said.