On a warm Friday afternoon in April, business inside Roxie’s Florist was in full bloom. Within the store’s gray walls, the entire staff snipped a colorful array of flowers, greenery, and bows. Sherri Pass, a Roxie’s employee, hurriedly assembled a funeral arrangement, hoping to finish up before nightfall.
“We were just thinking this week that maybe things were starting to slow down a bit, but then the weekend hit,” Pass said. “We have two casket sprays and a small wedding on top of the funeral work, so that makes it even busier.”
Local florists in the Burlington area, including Roxie’s, are experiencing an increase in demand as events resume. However, the surge in business has left the florist industry facing a major supply shortage. Longtime Roxie’s employee Wendy Grady said the pandemic didn’t decrease the demand, but it did decrease the supply.
“We’ve had more and more difficulty getting all the flowers that we want, getting the plants that we want, and getting materials like vases and baskets,” Grady said. “COVID has affected the floral industry because there weren’t as many people planting flowers, there weren’t as many people to harvest the flowers and they planted fewer flowers.”
Local florists order their flowers, plants, and other materials mostly from wholesalers or farmers. Carolyn Renfrow, secretary, and treasurer of Cyn-Mar Wholesale Florist & Greenhouse located in Pine Level, NC said many of their flowers and supplies come from outside of the United States. Fresh-cut flowers and plants are grown in South America, while baskets and pots are imported from China.
Renfrow said the industry’s reliance on imported floral materials has made acquiring these items now harder than in the pre-pandemic past.
“With Ecuador and these other countries where things were shut down for so long, people were out of work and they weren’t able to replant,” Renfrow said. “We are seeing a big shortage right now on cut flowers. It’s really hard to get, and the prices have really gone up.”
The shortage impacts the florists at the local level, Renfrow said, as wholesalers may no longer be able to provide every flower or material florists might need.
“You order something, and it may be six weeks before you get it, or it may be two months — you just never know,” Renfrow said. “And if I don’t have it, there’s a good chance another wholesaler isn’t going to have it. There’s just a shortage across the board.”
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