Rising temperatures, melting snow a relief to area florists

Rising temperatures, melting snow a relief to area florists

February 14th, 2014 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

Floral designer Jay Borton works on an order for a customer Thursday on the eve of Valentine's Day at Ensign Florist on South Crest Road in Rossville.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

TOP VALENTINE'S DAY GIFTS 2014

Gift - Percent of Americans who will buy it

Greeting cards - 51.2 percent

Candy - 48.7 percent

Flowers - 37.3 percent

An evening out - 37 percent

Jewelry - 18.9 percent

Source: National Retail Federation

The snow wasn't the only thing melting away when temperatures soared to 45 degrees Thursday - so did the worries of area florists as they hit one of the busiest times of the year: Valentine's Day.

Florists hope to play catch up today after the snow that blanketed the region Tuesday and Wednesday cut down on orders and forced many flower companies to juggle deliveries on slick roads and slushy driveways.

"Hopefully now with the sun coming out it'll be OK," said Amy Holcombe, owner of Covenant Flowers in Dalton, Ga. "I've been doing a lot of praying."

Temperatures could rise as high as 48 degrees today, according to the National Weather Service, and rain is expected. And for the many delivery drivers crisscrossing the region with vans full of flowers, rain is better than snow.

When the thick, wet snow started falling earlier this week, some florists, like Bill Ensign at Ensign the Florist, pushed deliveries out early, aiming to beat the snow. Others, like Jo Perry at Perry's Petals, hunkered down to wait it out.

"We're calling people and asking for patience and understanding," Perry said Thursday. "We're waiting a bit longer for it to clear up."

Hannah Tuggy, an employee at Chattanooga Florist on East Main Street, said her company offered perks like extra roses per bundle to encourage customers to be flexible with their delivery times.

"Now with the weather, it's kind of thrown things for a loop," she said. "We are trying to figure out when we can deliver. Now we are just trying to ask people to be understanding and flexible. We'll get out what we can today -- and Friday will just be crazy."

The week before Valentine's Day is one of the busiest of the year for florists, right up there with Mother's Day. It's a week that florists can't afford to miss, especially since fewer people are celebrating Valentine's Day this year than last, according to the National Retail Federation. While 60 percent of Americans celebrated last year, that dropped to 54 percent this year.

Each person who is celebrating will spend, on average, $133, the National Retail Federation found. That's a smidgen higher than last year's average, with consumers dishing out for cards, candy, flowers and jewelry.

At Debbi's Flowers in LaFayette, Ga., owner Debbi Hix is hoping a influx of last-minute shoppers will boost her Valentine Day sales, which she estimates are about 20 percent less than normal because of the weather.

"It's affected us dramatically," she said. "Orders are down and with some of the businesses being closed and the schools being closed, that has cut out our school and business deliveries."

She typically aims to spread out deliveries throughout the week so that Valentine's Day itself is not as crazy, but said she had to throw that strategy out the window this year.

Instead, she's bringing in extra staff and will have four or five delivery vehicles running continuously today. She added she still as a ton of flowers in stock, ready to ship out.

"I'm looking for a lot of last-minute orders," she said. "We'll be ready."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.