The tradition of giving a special someone flowers on Valentine’s Day dates back hundreds of years. While the perfect flower arrangement used to be handpicked by the giver, today, they rely on an intricate, global flower industry to share the best blooms.
Shipping flowers has its unique challenges any time of year. They’re fragile, need refrigeration and often come from afar. Given the volume of demand on Valentine’s Day, the stakes are even higher. Over 250 million roses alone are grown for Valentine’s Day and suppliers have the precarious task of ensuring the precious buds arrive to retailers and flower shops on time.
How do flowers get from farms to warehouses, to shops, and eventually, to their destinations?
Their journey—despite its complexity—is completed in mere days, making the feat that suppliers, shippers, and couriers undertake nothing short of magical. And, as shippers and retailers face an added challenge of pandemic-induced supply chain strains, this year’s deliveries will be even more impressive.
Before buyers can pick up roses from their local flower shop, those flowers make a trek across the globe. Most Valentine’s Day flowers are cultivated along the equator in Ecuador, Colombia or Kenya, where perfect growing conditions persist year-round. Once the blossoms are plucked and prepped, they’re packed by hand into refrigerated airplanes for the start of their journey.
Chilly charter planes give flowers a first-class flight to Miami, where most wholesalers in the U.S. operate. There, thousands of seasonal workers meticulously sort flowers into smaller boxes or gift packaging to be loaded onto planes, freight trucks, or delivery vans headed to destinations throughout the U.S. Once they arrive, it’s up to couriers to deliver flowers to local florists, retailers, or consumers’ doorsteps.
Since the blooms are fragile and perishable, the entire process takes less than a week to arrive fresh. And the timing of Valentine’s day matters too, since some shippers and couriers don’t work weekends. Because the holiday falls on a Monday this year, most retailers, florists, and other shops will receive flowers Friday and have the entire weekend to sort them.
Despite its intricacy and complicated supply chain, the fresh flowers business has functioned almost seamlessly for decades, persisting through snowstorms and supply shortages mostly without a hitch—until the pandemic.
A combination of poor growing conditions, truck driver shortages and supply chain backups have threatened to thwart the delicate process of getting Valentine’s Day flowers to recipients on time. Plus, a lower number of international flights, due to the pandemic, is another factor complicating the process. However, veteran distributors like 1-800-Flowers and Florists’ Transworld Delivery (FTD) are up to the challenge.
For example, they’re working closely with carriers and logistics providers to prepare for the blitz by adjusting shipments to take on a higher percentage of flower loads during the holiday. In other words, they’re asking shipping partners to prioritize flowers over other deliveries and extending shipping estimates for other orders.
Full-featured parcel transportation management systems (PTMS) can also increase shipping efficiency for shippers. It can determine whether there are enough shipments to justify a full truck or less-than-truckload (LTL) or whether those items would be better serviced through parcel delivery.
Though this level of preparation will help avoid delays, it’ll be costly. With the supply chain being so tight, flower distributors must pay a premium for priority on the planes and truckloads required to get those shipments there on time, driving up costs and prices for buyers.
Still, after a rush for blooms last Mother’s Day sparked a flower shortage and sky-high prices , the worst is likely over. Growers are producing more crops, florists are getting their orders in early, and thanks to careful preparation, supply chains are well-positioned to deliver everyone’s favorite florets—just in time for Cupid’s big day.
To learn more about Transplace’s Parcel Transportation Management Services, connect with a Transplace expert.