Florists, garden centers stuck with thousands of unsold Easter flowers
Sarah Munson has been preparing for Easter since the fall. His preparations included planting more than 1,000 bulb flowers in the fall and then 1,000 lilies in January.
Munson is the fourth generation of his family to operate Beck’s Flower Shop and Gardens in Jackson. She is among hundreds of florists and growers across the state who are stranded with thousands of unsold Easter flowers as orders dwindle with the cancellation of church services and families are reluctant to allow things from there outside in their homes.
âMorally, we say, ‘OK, the governor is trying to do what’s best for all of us,’ and we are doing our part in trying to respect that,â Munson said. âBut we still have products to sell, if we can’t sell them, we have to throw them away. It’s not like we just brought them in, we’ve been growing them for months. It’s not like I had any idea this was going to happen, I would have cut back if I had known it was going to happen.
Garden centers, nurseries and florists are among the many businesses in Michigan that were deemed non-essential by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, forcing them to close their doors to customers.
âPeople want to have fresh cut flowers for Easter, but they can’t get them,â Munson said. “It’s going to put the brakes on because you’re not going to have that spring feeling, everyone wants the rebirth of life, and you can’t have that.” It’s the rebirth symbol for spring, and that’s what spring is and that’s what Easter is. “
Easter is typically one of the busiest days of the year for flower retailers, kicking off what is typically the busy season for the industry starting in April and continuing through June.
As of April, the store grossed around $ 200,000, Munson said. She predicts they won’t come close this year, with earnings for the month ranging between $ 15,000 and $ 20,000.
âIt has been devastating for us,â she said. “It’s our busy season and we haven’t been able to get any help from the state for the small businesses because they have allocated such a small amount of money for grants and loans.”
Beck’s Flower Shop and Gardens, which spans 55,000 square feet, typically delivers Easter flowers to 55 churches in Jackson alone. This year, only 15 churches have ordered flowers, Munson said. And those who have placed orders have declined significantly, as churches only decorate parts that will appear on camera during live broadcast services.
A church that typically orders around 100 flowers for the holidays has ordered 22 this year, Munson said.
An obvious solution to the excess flowers – donation – is hardly an option anymore, as retirement homes, hospitals, and police and fire departments refuse donations for fear of infection.
“I don’t even know at this point when we’re done and we have some leftovers we’re going to almost kill them and we’re going to put them away and wait until next year and keep the bulbs as good as we can and hopefully let this not continue, âMunson said.
Closing the store door isn’t as easy as with other businesses, Munson said.
âIt doesn’t stop, it goes on, we can’t turn off the light and say, ‘You’re alone,’ Munson said.â It’s a perishable item, you can’t turn it off. They’re gonna grow, it’s not an “on-off” switch.
Beck’s is far from the only one. Karen Hessell of Hessell’s Greenhouse in Shelby Township said the store typically sells three to four times what it has sold so far.
âThe whole crop that grew was focused on Easter, so it’s very difficult for the growers,â Hessell said. âEveryone is fighting, everyone is trying to do what they can; we’re going to get out of it.
From mid-April to mid-June, the greenhouse does 75 to 80% of its activity for the whole year, Hessell said. She’s hoping Whitmer’s “stay at home” order won’t be extended again, in time for what’s considered the biggest day of the year for florists and growers: Mother’s Day.
âWe just hope and pray that something will change by the end of the month,â Hessell said.
The novel coronavirus outbreak is the worst thing that has happened to the industry and to the Hessell greenhouse, Hessell said. The only incident that compares even slightly is that of a road closure near the facility 15 years ago.
âNo one has seen this in their lifetime and I hope we never see it again, but it was very difficult to work with,â Hessell said.
The whole situation is a mess, Patricia York of Jim’s Florist told Warren.
âYou are dealing with a perishable product that has to be moved every few days, so if no one buys anything, everything will be wasted,â York said.
After closing the store doors at the end of March, York packed the remaining stock into around 30 small bouquets and left them behind the door for people to pick up for free.
This time of the month is usually when York would strategize for ordering the store for Mother’s Day, but she says she’s hesitant to commit.
âYou’re stuck in a Catch-22. You can’t sell if you don’t have it, but if you buy it and don’t sell it, then you’re really stuck, âshe said.
Even though the store’s sales have stagnated, York said planning for an opening in May was not a safe plan as people will likely still be reluctant to let items into their homes. All of this left her without hope.
âYou don’t know how to make decisions because you don’t have enough information,â she said. âWhen everything is a question mark, you have nothing to base your decisions on.
“In the future, I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Contact Miriam Marini at [email protected]