(Updated 11:30 A.M. ET, weather events and Costco)
Add flowers to the list of items that have grown in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.
The economic downturn and large-scale unemployment have not dampened interest in celebrating Valentine’s Day on Sunday with flowers. In fact, flower orders were blossoming before the holiday because they brighten people’s mood in dark times and offer a way to connect with family and loved ones, according to flower distributors.
COVID has turned consumption patterns upside down. Exercise and sports equipment, home office products, bicycles, hot tubs, furniture and electronic devices are flying off digital shelves and filling ocean containers and cargo planes because people are looking for things they can enjoy while confined at home or safely distanced outdoors.
And airlines have stepped up to meet the increased demand, especially for flowers. More than 30 million pounds of flower were shipped this season by air cargo, according to the Cargo Airline Association. As FreightWaves detailed last year, the logistics supply chain for flowers involves many handoffs between parties, but they all have the same requirement to preserve freshness by maintaining temperatures between 0 and 2 degrees Celsius.
Some people may not get their flowers on time. The wicked winter weather hammering large sections of the U.S., however, is making parcel deliveries difficult. UPS and FedEx (NYSE: FDX) are warning customers to expect some delays, while airlines have canceled many flights and stopped accepting cargo at many airports. Costco (NASDQ: COST) notified people who made online purchases that flower shipments not delivered by Saturday, Feb. 13, would receive a full refund along with a $20 Costco Shop Card.
“We regret to inform you that due to inclement weather throughout the U.S. your floral order may have been delayed. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused,” the retailer said in an email to customers.
UPS (NYSE: UPS) estimates it will deliver more than 850,000 boxes of flowers this season, a 48% spike from 2020. The total amount of flowers delivered via air and direct-to-consumer express shipments grew 30% in 2021 from about 70 million fresh stems to 91 million stems. The Atlanta-based parcel delivery giant also said it expects to make more than 125 flights from South America to Miami to support the Valentine’s Day rush, up nearly 20% from 106 flights last year.
In Miami, flowers are stored in refrigerated warehouses for a few hours until they are loaded on a flight to their final destination.
The Society of American florists says the industry has experienced an uptick in demand for fresh flowers and plants during the past several months, which they attribute to feelings of isolation.
LATAM Airlines, based in Chile, says it has transported 7% more flowers so far this year than in 2020. The company operated about 225 flights from Colombia and Ecuador to Miami. with roses, spray roses, alstroemeria, gerberas,and gypsophila. From Miami, flowers are distributed throughout North America and to Europe.
International Airlines Group, which includes British Airways, said it transported about 18 million stems ahead of Valentine’s Day. The company has been operating four flights per week from Nairobi, Kenya, to London Heathrow Airport and the U.S. to support producers, freight forwarders and distributors.
Since the pandemic began, many passenger airlines have put planes to use as pure freighters.
Air Canada has been transporting flowers from Bogota, Colombia, and Amsterdam.
Major carriers moving flower exports from South America to the U.S. include American Airlines, Avianca, Atlas Air, Centurion, FedEx and DHL.