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With flowers in short supply, Mother’s Day bouquets are pricier this year

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Those planning to celebrate Mother’s Day with flowers will find their options costlier and more limited this year.

The ripple effects of COVID-19 through the global economy and the airline industry — recently coupled with national strikes in Colombia and trucker shortages in the U.S. — have resulted in delayed and canceled shipments of cut hyacinths and other flowers from South America, Holland, Ireland and Israel, according to florists.

Growers had nowhere to ship flowers when the public health crisis first hit, causing some to go out of business and others to plant far less, not knowing what was ahead. As with other industries, the coronavirus also led to shortages of workers not only needed to grow and harvest flowers but to sell them.

“It’s a story that goes back to the beginning of the pandemic,” Seth Goldman, CEO of UrbanStems, a national plant and flower delivery company, told CBS MoneyWatch. 

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Some varieties of roses and accent flowers including delphinium were impacted by a rainy spring in Ecuador and Colombia, where many of the blossoms sold in the U.S. are sourced. The reduced availability prompted UrbanStems last month to charter a large commercial jetliner to bring flowers to Miami from Quito, the executive said.

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“There’s a big, big shortage of flowers, and unfortunately the demand for Mother’s Day is the highest it is all year,” said Larry Gramith, owner of the Chicago Flower Exchange, a wholesale distributor. 

Flowers are available, but buyers should be ready to accept substitutes and pay as much as 25% more than in 2020, he advised. “If you want red roses, you might have to substitute red carnations,” Gramith said. “A bouquet of roses that last year cost $35 will now run $45 to $50.” 

Pricier blossoms and shipping

The pricier blossoms also cost more to transport around the country, with shipping costs up 10% to 15% in recent weeks, according to Gramith. As he put it: “It’s not only the shortage of flowers increasing the price, it’s the costs of getting them.”

As with some other products and services, the pandemic not only reduced supply but ultimately increased demand. “During COVID, people learned they could send flowers and express emotions,” said Red Kennicott, chairman of Kennicott Brothers, a Chicago-based wholesaler, which has seen the public appetite for flowers increase 20% over the past year. 

“It’s a mental health benefit,” Bob Palmer, a florist with two shops, one in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the other in Salisbury, Connecticut, said. People who could not travel to see relatives due to the pandemic turned instead to floral arrangements to reach out, with customers sending “eight to 10 arrangements to different family members because they couldn’t get together” for Thanksgiving and other holidays, he said. “The Hallmark card just doesn’t rise to the occasion today.”  

Given the heavy demand, UrbanStems expects inventory to be running low by Thursday and Friday and likely to be sold out by Saturday. “Your choice is going to be very limited,” Goldman said.

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