Heartbreak in store if you're looking for roses

·3 min read

Manitoba lovebirds might get lucky with loosened restrictions this weekend, but good luck snagging any last-minute roses before Valentine’s Day.

A mix of pandemic-fuelled supply chain issues and a significant rise in demand for flowers means a bouquet of red roses is probably out of the question, especially for those hoping to purchase the classic gift at the 11th hour.

Forget the red — several Winnipeg florists told the Free Press even pink, yellow, white and orange roses are out of stock, days earlier than ever before.

But exactly why this shortage has occurred is open to speculation.

Given that Canada’s roses are mostly imported from South-American countries, the temporary or permanent closures of many local and international farms amid COVID-19 has been cited as one reason for the lagging supply by industry insiders. Other factors like transportation could also be contributing to the shortage, with a drop in commercial flights and truck shipments that are typically used to haul flowers.

“The pandemic can be blamed for a lot of these things,” said leading supply chain expert Sylvain Charlebois in an interview.

“At the same time though,” he said Thursday, “it’s quite the human-induced problem as well — certainly wouldn’t be happening if people weren’t going unexpectedly crazy for roses, causing orders to be backlogged.”

Charlebois said there’s been a “considerably consistent disconnect throughout COVID-19” between storefronts and customers, particularly when it comes to planning for demand.

“This is exactly what happened with Christmas trees,” he said. “The industry thought people weren’t ready, so they planned for less. And when the actual demand came around, it was mostly the opposite — people started buying things weeks in advance.”

At Floral Fixx in Winnipeg, owner Julie Myers said she ordered the same number of flowers this year as she usually would. “I didn’t expect the shop would be open in time, so I wasn’t planning for anything bigger than normal,” she said.

“Definitely not the demand like this.”

Deb Woloshyn and Gloria Sawatzky, who co-own Beyond Flowers on Corydon Avenue, said that’s something their store’s been experiencing as well. The two ordered their roses in November, but ran out of them almost a week before Feb. 14.

“That rarely — if ever — happens at all,” said Woloshyn. “It’s why we’re telling everyone to wait it out or recommending other beautiful selections that might fit the bill for their Valentine’s purchase.”

Woloshyn said they’ve been avoiding international sourcing as much as possible. “We’re trying to get things locally and even there, you have limited supplies and costs shooting through the roof,” she said.

Irene Seaman, who’s owned Academy Florist in Winnipeg since 1980, said she’s never seen availability problems like this before. It’s also been harder to manage because of fewer staff and a crunch on resources, she added.

“Demand aside, we’re all working with less — from florists, farmers to everyone,” she said. “At my store, we’ve had to let people go because of the pandemic. And while we’ve hired some of them back, it’s pretty hard hiring someone and telling them it’s just for a week and we won’t be needing you after that.”

Woloshyn said, while these are difficult problems to manage during an already uncertain time, they’re good problems to have.

“For better or for worse, but mostly just better, flower sales haven’t stopped,” she said. “Our customers have shown up to support us and we’re so glad they have.”

Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press