Flower customers in St. Louis may see a slight spike in pricing in the coming weeks because flower shops and distributors are short on supplies. The delay in flower imports to St. Louis is being caused by the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Maria.
Eighty-five percent of the flowers imported into the U.S. come from South America by way of Miami. After Hurricane Irma hit the southern tip of Florida it shut down the Miami Airport temporarily causing flight cancellations and delays. This caused the initial slow down of imports to St. Louis.
After Hurricane Maria destroyed so much of Puerto Rico, the limited cargo planes that are normally used to go between South America and Miami are now being used by FEMA to send down supplies and water, says St. Louis flower wholesaler Craig Steffens, CFO of "Basich & Skinner."
St. Louis is one of three cities in the country to still have a flower district, meaning all the local wholesalers are grouped together in the same area. LaSalle St., near Lafayette Square, is where these flower wholesalers reside. They are seeing the largest impact from the hurricanes.
"There's quite a bit less lift out of South America, so there are a lot of delays getting product," said Steffens.
"Baisch & Skinner" is taking matters into their own hands. They've sent three employees down to South America, which is the main source of fresh cut roses and hydrangeas. While they are down there, they're hoping to come up with an alternative way to transport roses and hydrangeas back to the U.S.
"When somebody gets married, they want a specific flower. You can't blame them for wanting that, and we take that very personally. So it's important to us to do what we can to take care of our customers," said Steffens.
It's not just wholesalers feeling the slowdown, but actual flower shops and florists as well. Kim Brannan and her daughter, Jenny, co-own "Stems" in Florissant. They are not feeling the effects as much, but are still low in stock on roses, hydrangeas and ferns. Brannan says after Hurricane Irma, 20% of the fields growing ferns and greens in Florida were flooded and ruined.
"So it might be months before we see those ferns and those greens returning to the market here in St. Louis," said Brannan.
"Stems" primarily does weddings and said some of their brides had to be flexible on floral arrangements if their weddings happened near the time of the Hurricanes. Brannan and her daughter had to get creative to come up with new flower combination options for these brides.
"My daughter is a master of substitutions and all of our brides were just absolutely thrilled," said Brannan.
Both "Stems" and "Baisch & Skinner" have been affected financially by having to pay more to get the imports to them. Flower prices are staying the same for now, but if import transportation doesn't improve soon, the customer could experience the spike in price as well.
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