Maria Oliphant, owner of Howdens Florist on Musgrave. Photo Zanele Zulu/ African News Agency (ANA)
Maria Oliphant, owner of Howdens Florist on Musgrave. Photo Zanele Zulu/ African News Agency (ANA)

Florists suffer heavy losses ahead of Valentine’s Day

By Lethu Nxumalo Time of article published Feb 14, 2021

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Durban - Florists across KwaZulu-Natal are feeling the Covid-19 financial pinch and Valentine’s Day will do little to bring back the sweet scent.

Over the past few months, grieving families whose loved ones died of the virus, have partially sustained the industry.

Maria Oliphant, owner of the 40-year-old Howdens Florist on Musgrave, said they were hard hit with decreasing foot traffic due to the lockdown and the inability to deliver flowers in hospitals, retirement and some private homes. However, they have diversified their offering from only flowers.

“Our regular customers that don’t go anywhere else have supported us during this difficult time,” she said. “We now also sell accessories such as vases, balloons, teddy bears and chocolates because with fresh flowers alone we are going to sink.”

Maria Oliphant, owner of Howdens Florist on Musgrave. Photo Zanele Zulu, ANA.

Oliphant said Valentine’s day sales were slow compared to previous years when the day fell on a weekend, prompting florists to cut down on their orders.

“Durban is a city that loves flowers but it’s also about affordability. Due to Covid-19, prices have gone up and Valentine’s prices are horrific, they have doubled in price. It has not been easy for business.”

Maria Oliphant, owner of Howdens Florist on Musgrave. Photo Zanele Zulu, ANA.

Thalissa Pillay, head of marketing at Netflorist said the business usually saw a 1000% growth in profit over the Valentine’s day period compared to a normal day.

She said Netflorist had endured strain during the level five lockdown period, as did many other businesses.

“Following that though, we saw lots of loved ones using our service to send special sentiments and bridge the distance between each other while social visits were prohibited and while they tried to keep each other safe,”she said.

“During the second wave we saw a 145% increase in the amount of sympathy related orders that were fulfilled.”

Majority of those orders were lilies and white roses.

Even though Valentine’s day sales were slow, Pillay said based on the amount of gifts or flowers generally delivered, KZN came second to Gauteng.

“It is our second most romantic province, there’s lots of love in that coastal air,”she said. Flowers are the most beautiful and thoughtful gesture one could receive or send. Nothing brightens up a smile, a day or a home more than flowers.”

Kamaani Jangali of Izimbali Florist said flowers convey messages that words sometimes fail to. Photo supplied.

Kaamani Jangali, owner of Izimbali Florist in Pietermaritzburg said she had two branches but had to close one. However, the pandemic had led to an increase in her online sales as customers chose a safer way to shop.

Jangali said Valentine’s day sales had also been slow this year because it fell on a Sunday which from her experience is hardly busy.

“We also suspect it's due to consumers going away for the weekend or lunch planned on the day. This year in particular, many will be spending it at home due to lack of income to splurge on luxuries like flowers.”

Izimbali Florist arrangement for Valentine’s Day. Photo supplied.

Jangali’s business also saw a rise in sales during the second wave in January.

“Many families struggled to deal with not being there for their loved ones who had passed away. So flowers were sent to provide some comfort in their absence,” she said.

“Flowers were also ordered for funerals and we did struggle to keep up with the demand of white flowers. Due to this demand prices of white flowers increased tremendously.”

Jangali said flowers conveyed a message when words failed.

“The best part of our job is when we deliver a beautiful bunch of flowers to someone and see them smile, it's priceless. Sending flowers is a simple and easy gesture but leaves an everlasting memory.”

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