A couple days ago, I started to answer Lisa’s question on the cost of peonies, writing about Perceived Value and Pricing.
Today’s issue centers around why local grocery stores and warehouse stores are able to carry flowers at or below wholesale. For the answer, I have consulted the wonderfully talented, Amy Marella of Hidden Garden, for insight. There are several issues going on:
1) Bulk Quantities - Flushing
It is not uncommon to find Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Costco with a wide assortment of flowers. These wholesale warehouses and grocery chains buy their flowers in “bulk” and/or buy flowers that are “flushing” from the growers. I had never heard this term before Amy used it. Amy was kind enough to help define the term. “Flushing” occurs when flowers are coming in great abundance and the grower is willing to get rid of them quickly/cheaply because they have a very large quantity.
Amy states, “this is not to say that the flowers at these locations might not be perfect, but they are not hand picked by the buyers”. Given that - each week these outlets have differing stock. There is never a guarantee of what you might see at your local grocery store like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Safeway. These large corporations have the buying power to purchase in “bulk” therefore offering consumers much lower prices than a local floral shop who doesn’t buy in the quantities that a large, national grocery store could.
2) Precision - Pre Orders
As a floral designer who specializes in weddings, often a proposal is set months, weeks in advance. I don’t have the luxury to “randomly” select flowers for my wedding clients. Amy and I both realize that we have to “pre order” our flowers. And we assume the florist in this question probably pre ordered the peonies way in advance. I prefer to write my orders with about 2 weeks. Sometimes I have to give a month notice. Pre ordering ensures that the “exact” flower to the color and to the stem count is ordered. Floral designers all want the right amount of flowers and the best blooms, though often there is no guarantee because flowers are natural and perishable products. You can’t just go get a peony whenever you want.
Given that floral designers are ordering in advance, you don’t get a price break. In many instances, a florist actually pays a slightly higher premium to guarantee that the flowers they need for a wedding are EXACTLY what they want.
Amy’s company, The Hidden Garden, does exactly the same thing. She says, they ” might cost a little more across the board, but with that comes peace of mind for the bride”. Obviously, considering floral designers want to deliver what a client ordered, you can’t just take a chance that the right quantity, color or flower will just “show” up at the market. So banking on a Whole Foods for your wedding flowers is not a good way to go. I don’t think it’s fair to compare the peonies that a floral designer can get with the price of flowers at a local grocery store bcause you can’t get it consistently in the color, quantities and quality.
A floral designer, especially one who is doing a bridal bouquet, cannot afford to put their hopes into finding a random “special”. I also agree with Amy and many other floral designers that you want to select the best. You want to find the best “bunch” amongst the entire bulk order.
3) Hand Crafted
Finally, and probably the most important thing. I can’t imagine comparing a finished beautiful hand crafted bouquet with a bunch of peonies. They just aren’t the same. One is a work of art. One is just a bunch of flowers.
Would you go to a restaurant like Florio (see their lovely menu below - yummy) which has a wonderful Rib Eye steak and frites for $62 for two, and expect to pay $11.99 a pound as sold at Whole Foods for a rib eye?
Totten Inlet Mediterranean Mussels steamed in White Wine, Garlic,
Thyme & Mirepoix, Lemon Aioli 13.50
House Ground Chuck served open faced on Grilled Batard
with Caramelized Onions 14.
Fulton Valley Roasted Chicken,
Caramelized Summer Squash, Spring Onions & Garlic,
Roasted Poultry Jus
for one/ 24 or two/ 46.25
Hanger Steak Frites, Sauce Bearnaise 27.25
Bone-in Rib Eye Steak a la Bearnaise for Two,
Pommes Frites & Sauteed Spinach 65.25
You can go to Whole Foods and get all the ingredients for a cake or you can buy a beautiful one in their bakery. A finished, hand made item is not the price of its parts.
Bottom line: Higher costs come with being selective. It’s part of the artistry of floral designers. If you want to deliver the best, you order the best ingredients from the get go. And you simply cannot compare a commodity with something that is a finished, hand crafted, and custom made design.