BY MARY GARRISON
Flowers and chocolates and bears, oh my! Stuffed bears, that is — chances are residents of West Point will see more than their share dotting the landscape of work and school as Valentine’s Day rapidly approaches. For local florists, however, the big day requires more than just a cooler stuffed to the brim with flowers and balloons at the ready. It requires careful planning, stocking and staffing to meet the demand with success.
Scott Reed, owner of Petal Pushers in West Point, said he’s been in business independently for the last 12 years. In that time, he’s seen more than his share of Valentine’s Day trends and said this year, his shop looks on track to accommodate about the same volume of traffic his store usually sees, despite a slower than normal start.
“It’s definitely our busiest day of the year,” Reed said. “Christmas and the holidays are busy, but it’s spread out over three or four weeks. This is that same level of volume all in one day. … Things this week have really picked up and we’re back on schedule now, so we’re in line to do what we’ve done in the past.”
Reed said he felt threat of inclement weather had thrown a wrench in operations at first, delaying some product delivery to Petal Pushers for arrangement. Many residents who would typically place early orders, he said, had not been out and about for the same reason. However, as the day approaches, Reed said everything had fallen into line and staff had hit the gas on production and delivery.
Trends have changed somewhat throughout the years though, Reed said. While roses remain Petal Pushers’ best seller for the day “because they are traditional,” he said many had begun to opt for mixed arrangements. Residents have gotten more savvy about when they choose to have their gifts delivered, as well.
“We do a lot more deliveries the day before Valentine’s Day now than we used to,” Reed said. “A lot of people will send them ahead so they can enjoy them at work or home just a little longer.”
While the deliveries are perhaps a little more spread out, Reed said it still took more than a full crew to get the job done. Petal Pushers brings in about 12 additional hands to help assemble and deliver on the day, in addition to regular crew working every evening for about a week in advance. Reed said he begins fully stocking on non-perishable items such as stuffed animals, bags of candy and balloons about two weeks ahead.
Though balloons have been somewhat harder to come by in the last two years, Reed said. A helium shortage has put a slight kink in operations, particularly around Valentine’s Day. Petal Pushers used to obtain it’s helium locally, but Reed said many smaller distributors no longer carried the product, forcing many to seek it elsewhere and prices to near double.
It was a close call for Petal Pushers, which could not obtain the amount needed for the holiday until about a week ago. Reed said he managed to secure helium from a wholesaler in Tupelo.
Shirley Miller, owner of Flowers By Shirley in West Point, has managed to have better luck as far as obtaining helium for the holiday, and fortunately for Miller, the shortage has not previously affected her business.
Miller said she managed to secure a steady carrier in Columbus, and thus far the arrangement has worked out well.
“They’re strict on it, anymore,” Miller said. “You have to sign and go through a lot of steps to get it, but we haven’t had any trouble.”
It’s fortunate for Miller, as like Reed, she said Valentine’s traffic remains the busiest single holiday of the year for her establishment. However, while order volume is high for the day, she said most often sales revenue for Mother’s Day often prove larger, and volume of items ordered has steadily come to rival that of Valentine’s.
“When you’ve got someone with five grandchildren and they’re all ordering things to send, you may see quite a bit more than what lovers will send each other,” Miller said. “So far, I think we’re doing a little better (for Valentine’s Day sales) than we have in previous years.”
Miller attributed the growth to a slightly better outlook on the economy and the shift in the industry as far as to goods and services floral shops provide in the last few years.
To subscribe to the E-edition, please click here .