updated 02/14/2013 8:05AM
Flower sales bloom for Valentine's Day
Korie Mulleady is getting very little sleep this week. She and her mother, along with a small army of family members and friends, are working round the clock at their flower shop, The Enchanted Florist, to fill hundreds of orders for Valentine's Day.
To survive, she's drinking up to three large soy lattes each day from the nearby Starbucks instead of her usual single serving and fueling up with sweets.
"What we sell for Valentine's Day is roughly what we usually sell in a month," said Mulleady, who began pitching in at the family's business when her mom bought the Old Towne Orange shop in 1995.
The two generations of Mulleadys are ready for the mad rush. They've filled the shop's usually spacious back room with buckets overflowing with long-stemmed roses, myrtle and seeded eucalyptus, lined hallways with rows of glass vases and decorated the windows with touches of red and teddy bears.
The Mulleadys and other florists across Orange County are anticipating a modest bump in the number of Valentine's Day flower orders for this year's midweek holiday.
Nationwide, flowers are expected to bring in $1.92 billion this year, up from $1.88 billion last year, according to a BIGinsight survey for the National Retail Federation.
The number of orders may rise, but many shoppers say they aren't spending more per arrangement. Adults are planning to spend an average of $36.77 on flowers – a slight decrease from $37.44 last year, the survey showed. Two years ago, they spent $36.78.
With Valentine's Day falling on a Thursday this year, Mulleady anticipates more orders. Historically, people plan Valentine's Day weekend activities or trips and are less likely to buy flowers on years when Valentine's Day falls on a Friday or Monday, she said.
The impact of Valentine's Day on total sales for the year varies greatly from one florist to the next. In Seal Beach, Devynn's Garden attributes 60 percent of its annual sales to Valentine's Day. At Wildflower Florist in San Clemente, Valentine's Day sales make up 40 percent of yearly sales.
The holiday also generates temporary jobs across the county.
Visser's Florist and Greenhouses in Anaheim is staffing up, with 25 drivers working on Thursday and double the number of floral designers this week, said Vice President Dennis Robinson.
Here, four top trends at local florists for Valentine's Day:
1. Roses still rule.
Long-stemmed red roses, especially those from Ecuador and other South American growers, are in high demand, said Scott Yamabe, executive vice president of the Southern California Flower Market, one of two major wholesale floral marts in Los Angeles that Orange County florists frequent.
"Ecuadorean roses are a lot bigger and a lot taller, and their stems are thicker," he said.
The general rule of thumb: The longer the stem, the more expensive the rose. The length of stems varies from 18 inches to 28 inches.
At Botanica Floral in Newport Beach, owner Kari McGowan chose the Freedom rose from Ecuador and Colombia as the staple of her Valentine's Day arrangements. "It's a bright red, with a stem from (20 inches to 28 inches) long, with the petals opening to a large 'show,'" McGowan said.
Local florists also stock roses from Mexico and California, but those usually have shorter stems.
As for color, customers often favor pink, white and lavender as alternatives to red.
2. Classic arrangements are tops, but contemporary arrangements are on the rise.
Men overwhelmingly favor large and traditional arrangements versus smaller and modern creations, local florists say. "Large and in charge," is how McGowan put it. "Men want the flowers that are worth their hard-earned money," she said. Her shop, Botanica Floral, offers both styles.
Garden roses are being used in shorter, more compact and more contemporary arrangements, said Alyssa McMannes, floral designer at Wildflower Florist in San Clemente. These styles, some of which florists have dubbed "European" arrangements, are becoming more popular.
3. Peonies are coming up.
More florists are featuring peonies for Valentine's Day, Yamabe said.
With multiple layers of petals that give them a look slightly similar to that of roses, peonies are being used for the European-style arrangements, Mulleady said. One bonus is that some peony varieties are fragrant.
Other popular Valentine's Day blooms this year include tulips, lilies and gerbera daisies.
4. Many ways to buy.
More people are preordering flowers this year, local florists said. Some place orders online, but most early shoppers prefer to discuss details with a floral designer, Mulleady said.
There will be more walk-in orders in the countdown to Valentine's Day, but most orders come from men mobbing the floral shops on Thursday.
Florists said that's the one thing that remains the same on Valentine's Day from year to year.
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