How much do flowers really cost (to a florist)?

So how much do flowers really cost a florist?

This article is meant to inform and hopefully entertain any reader interested in retail side of what the true economics are to this business. Herein lie all the competitive goodies, the gossip, the answer to the question of “why do flowers cost that much at a florist when I can just buy them for $20 at a grocery store?”

Foremost, let us take a look at a grocery store. They sell (wait for it) groceries. That means that what you are buying, in all, are basic ingredients for you to go home and make yourself a beautiful dinner tonight for your loved one. Or maybe you pop in a fresh booger or two if you are breaking up with him or her after finding out they’ve cheated on you (we don’t judge).

Back up – as I can already tell I’ve lost some of you. (It’s ok for the rest of you who have been following along, I’ll be brief).

Let’s pretend you meet a very nice person at work.. lets say her name is Bertha. You send Bertha a nice little text message asking her to stop by your apartment next time she’s in your area – you are going to hook her up some chatter over some Italian food (we’re Italian florists, so we think carbs are a good thing. )

“Ok,” says Bertha. “Sounds groovy.”

One day, you just got done with work. “Hey self!” (you say to yourself). “After I’m working out those awesome muscles of mine at the gym, I should go home, and instead of taking a shower, I will take my sweaty mess of flesh and go lay on the couch to see if Febreeze really does work when you stink up a room. ” After you’ve impressed the gym members with your enthusiastic ability to look great while wearing workout clothes you bought for the occasion (and rarely wear), you beeline straight to your apartment. “Ahh,” you say to yourself, as you throw on some Netflix – skip the shower – and head straight to the couch in your perspiration-ridden outfit (which looks cute by the way) and hang out with your friend, Mr. Chips & Salsa, during a good binge-watching session with Mr. Sony Television.

Mr. Chips & Salsa – Mr. Sony Television – and your stinky existence of a human are happy, until..

“Hey! I’m around the block from your apartment and thought I’d take you up on that italian food that you offered,” you read from a phone number peculiarly looking like Bertha’s. (You hadn’t added her into your contacts yet and you don’t believe this story has any serial killers in it, so we’re good so far.)

“Groovy, give me 10 minutes and I’ll meet you downstairs!” you quickly tap back to Bertha (on your iPhone 6S that you refuse to upgrade because you don’t want to be labelled as a “Apple fanboi.”)

Unless you happen to be the son of Gordon Ramsey, or a distant nephew of the late Anthony Bourdain, you are unlikely going to shower and cook her a nice plate of spaghetti with that store-bought ramen and leftover Ragu sauce in your refrigerator. Instead, you run through a quick shower, Febreeze your couch (just in case dinner goes better than expected and you find yourself back to there after dinner), throw on some nice outerwear from Abercrombie and Fitch that don’t quite fit you but you really think that Bertha will make some correlation in your mind that you are at least 1990s fashionable.

You meet up with her downstairs – as promised – walk her to up the best Italian joint down the street for the best gnocchi she’s ever had, and find yourself engaged the next morning. That Italian joint ran you $100 for a gnocchi and a nice bottle of wine, but hey – now you have a partner for life and you didn’t have to work very hard to hide your inadequacy in the kitchen and your unrelenting laziness found after you work out. In fact, Bertha finds out about all of this in a later blog article called “Marriage,” but that somehow exceeds the database capacity of this website for now, so we’ll cut to the chase.

The $100 at a restaurant was paid for the service, the food (prepared by a chef with an Italian accent) and for that chef’s knowledge (lets call him Chef Luigi) of how to accurately use 71 ingredients to impress Bertha with gnocchi.

You could have bought those ingredients at Whole Foods for about $8.00 and another $10 for a bottle of wine (hey – you go to those high end joints like BevMo – so you are a connoisseur). So lets round it up and say that the ingredients cost $20 on a $100 meal… a 5 times markup to improve your life – hopefully – by leveraging Luigi’s knowledge, skill, experience and talent which exceeds that of your own in this area. It’s ok though, you reason, Luigi had to go to school, learn his craft for years before he could open up his restaurant and serve that savory gnocchi to Bertha. In fact, he’s still paying off his student debt from the graduating class of 1964’s Italiano Expertiso Collegeio di Foodio (see, that sounded Italian!).

A 20% cost of goods is perhaps the staple figure in the restaurant industry. The floral industry operates similarly. In other words, for every dollar you spend at Luigi’s house of fine Gnocchi, he’s out only 20 cents in ingredients. But that’s also not his only cost.

  • Luigi had to go to school.
  • Luigi also had to have lots (and lots) of experience.
  • Luigi had to spend money on a sign.
  • Luigi has other cooks there – Luigi can’t make all the gnocchi himself.
  • Luigi hand-picks his ingredients, spending away his Saturdays ensuring that Bertha is in love with you.
  • Luigi does have to pay rent for someone, or Luigi is operating an illegal restaurant pop-up (which could be possible, but let’s say he’s a “good” Luigi)
  • Luigi pays taxes.
  • Luigi pays insurance.

You are programming one day on a hot new app (isn’t every app a hot new one?) that you and your buddies believe will make you into the next Mark Zuckerberg. Since you are still on your iPhone 6S (fanboi!) development on this app takes a long time, which takes you away from your precious Bertha.

“Honey, we should talk…” pings your phone with a text message with Bertha’s contact now assigned to her number in your phone.

You immediately Google that to find out that it means, since Bertha uses what’s called “female speak.” You translate that message to this : “you are always working and never see me anymore. I’ve fallen in love with Luigi and I’m going to live with him above his Italian Restaurant.”

Quick to correct this error, you’ve now got to do something. Are you going to the grocery store to buy her flowers – at $20 – and hand-deliver them to her? You could.. and just like any ingredient at the store, Bertha will be up all night on YouTube trying to figure out how to prep them, arrange them and (damn – did we mention keep them living for over 24 hours?).

You probably won’t do that. Instead, you’ll call Mario, Luigi’s brother, who is a florist. “Mario! You have to bail me out!” Mario ensures that everything will be ok, you’ll apologize nicely in a note with a dozen roses and he’ll make sure the driver takes extra care of them. After a few hours, Bertha texts you, “OMG! I can’t wait to marry you!” and she immediately breaks off her plans with Luigi and you end up happily ever after.

You spent $100 with Mario, the florist (something like our Heart’s Ablaze arrangement)- how did this break down? 20% were his cost of goods – that’s right – same as the supermarket. But lets look at some other things that Mario had to do to fix your romance with Bertha:

  • Mario had to go to school.
  • Mario also had to have lots (and lots) of experience.
  • Mario had to spend money on a sign.
  • Mario has other florists’ there – he can’t design every rose arrangement himself.
  • Mario hand-picks his ingredients, spending away his mornings ensuring that Bertha is in love with you.
  • Mario does have to pay rent for someone
  • Mario pays taxes.
  • Mario pays insurance.

The end cost shouldn’t ever be compared to a mail-order (or mail-delivered) florist service or the supermarket. The fact is, like a good chef, a good florist will spend countless hours to hand select the flowers – drive conversations with the growers or co-ops – and pick “the super most awesomeness flowers in the world” for their clients. The supermarket buys flowers in bulk, just like they bulk buy Velveeta, so the costs to a florist (for the flowers) is indeed the same to a florist in most cases than the retail price of those roses at the supermarket.

(Side note: did you ever pay attention to where the flowers are kept in the store? They are in the front. The idea is called a “turn-around,” in retail. You have to travel to pick those nice cheap roses up – then turn around finding yourself in need of gum & a bag of M&M’s. Time is precious for you – which is why they are upfront – but you’ve just given the store a lot more money than the flowers with high-margin items like candy and the National Enquirer. )

The florist will know the wholesaler and grower. They will know where the best flowers are at any given moment. They’ll prepare them with care, and be attentive to every detail. They’ll also ensure that they are prepped correctly – a critical step in making them last a long time and look their best. Lastly, they’ll have a driver on their staff or hire a courier, and his gas (nor his time) isn’t free.

Just like a restaurant, it’s that time that you are paying for – not just the product. Or to be even more specific – you are paying for quality and convenience when using a florist versus buying flowers at a supermarket. You are doing the exact same thing when you are buying dinner at your neighborhood restaurant.

And as florists, we’ll also be there when you and Bertha formalize your relationship in a ceremony, send the most exquisite pieces to the funeral of her brother Bert who passes away unexpectedly during a high speed motorcycle beer drinking contest, and we’ll even fix things after Bertha finds out that you’ve privately keeping the millions you’ve been making on cat videos a secret.

(We don’t judge.)