Home Business Here's why this red rose bouquet costs $72 in New York.

Here's why this red rose bouquet costs $72 in New York.

by SuperiorInvest

To gather every last stem and ribbon, Mr. Patrikis is constantly on the phone, negotiating with 15 distributors to get the best deals.

“If you don't know how to buy from wholesalers, the wholesalers will buy from you,” he said.

Depending on stem length, flower size and nation of origin, a dozen roses in New York City can cost a customer anywhere from $10 at a street vendor to more than $120 at a high-end florist. Patrikis prefers the Explorer variety of red roses, which he says tend to have larger flowers and stay fresh longer than other varieties.

Sales in the flower industry, where same-day local deliveries are common, soared early during the pandemic. So has the price of doing business, with rising fuel costs, flower shortages and supply chain problems.

The high prices put pressure on longtime florists like Mr. Patrikis, whose shop was one of five on his block around 2010. Ditmars Flower Shop is now the last one left.

“We have never been busier in our lives,” Patrikis, 37, said of reopening in time for Mother's Day in 2020, after early closures during the pandemic. “We didn't sleep for a week.”

Americans spent nearly $73 billion on flowers, seeds and potted plants last year, up 48 percent from 2019 after adjusting for inflation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

But there are signs of instability in the industry.

Troy Conner, president of Kendall Farms, a large flower farm in Fallbrook, California, that sells to supermarket chains and wholesalers, said many of its costs had also skyrocketed.

Starting last year, he said, demand for flowers began to stabilize. He said he could repurpose some land reserved for growing sunflowers, once a profitable crop, to raise goats.

At Ditmars Flower Shop, Patrikis said, the profit margin has dropped since the start of the pandemic, from 20 to 30 percent, to 10 to 20 percent. The store could have sales of $150,000 and $300,000 a month.

He said higher sales volume had allowed him to make up the difference so far. This year, he expects to sell more than 100,000 red roses, his most popular item, up from 70,000 in 2019. On Valentine's Day, his busiest holiday, he sells 15,000 roses.

The Society of American Florists, a trade group, predicts that the number of florists in the country will fall to 11,000 by 2026, partly due to retirements and consolidation. There were 11,600 in 2021.

In the third quarter of last year, there were 398 florists in New York City, up from 432 in the same period in 2019, according to James Parrott, director of the New School's Center for New York City Affairs.

Patrikis' father, John, a Greek immigrant from the island of Nisyros, sold flowers on the subway and eventually opened his first flower shop in Astoria in 1983 before moving to the current 1,500-square-foot store in 2008.

Patrikis said he felt obligated to stay in the family business. Sales remain brisk, largely because he has a wide range of clients: weddings, funerals, Greek Orthodox churches. Still, he worries about consumers' spending habits now that most pandemic-era government benefits have dried up.

However, he is optimistic about his own future because his family bought the building in 2003.

“The only ones left will be the owners of their buildings,” he said.

Ben Casselman contributed reports.

Produced by Eden Weingart, Andrew Hinderaker and Dagny Salas. Development by Gabriel Gianordoli and Aliza Aufrichtig.

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