Florists are among the many local establishments that have been affected by concerns surrounding the new coronavirus outbreak and related guidelines surrounding business and social gatherings.
In The Woodlands, some flower shops remain open to service smaller events and are offering delivery options to avoid face-to-face interactions. Florists said current disruptions and future concerns associated with COVID-19 have effectively ended their event services while forcing them to adjust some of their store operations.
“A lot of our business is weddings and galas, and unfortunately a lot of those have been postponed,” said Cullen Handfelt, owner of Piney Rose Flowers & Decor. “It’s tough on our customers to have to postpone the weddings. It’s very sad. ... It’s going to be a busy fall once things get back.”
Mary McCarthy, owner of The Blooming Idea, said the cancellation or postponement in weddings—which she said make up around 25% of her business—has dropped off over the past week due to venue closures and health concerns. One of McCarthy’s clients with a wedding scheduled at a Conroe venue for March 21 was forced to cancel and hold the ceremony at home March 20.
“Beginning this week, I’ve just been on the phone with brides that had to cancel all their events. Cancel their wedding or postpone it to later in the summer. So that’s been a little bit stressful,” she said. “Every weekend we’re doing weddings. And all that business is gone through May.”
Ann Engelbrecht, owner of Sprout Fine Floral Concepts, said she has also experienced a decline in event orders over the past week as officials have imposed closures and occupancy limits throughout the country.
“The shutdown of all of the dining and things like that has had a domino effect on the flower business,” she said. “Besides just weddings and corporate events, luncheons and things like that, all of those have been cancelled, which is huge. ... If there’s no contract or no retainer or they don’t want to postpone it, they just want to cancel it. Florists have to refund the money, or they have to discuss how that’s going to happen. And that’s a huge burden for florists.”
Engelbrecht also said Sprout has taken a hit on some of its business in The Woodlands area after the store halted hospital delivery services due to health concerns for patients at local care centers.
“It’s hurtful to clients because they want to visit their friend in the hospital, and they’re not allowed either. ... So the poor person in the hospital, there’s nothing there to pick them up, cheer them up. There’s not a visitor, not a flower to look at, nothing,” she said. “It’s not that they’re not allowed to accept them, it’s just it’s too high-risk for us to even visit to deliver.”
Handfelt said Piney Rose, which opened in early December on Research Forest Drive, has closed its storefront but is still offering curbside pickup and free delivery service throughout The Woodlands.
“A lot of people in these dreary times have really enjoyed sending a bit of cheer to their friends and family members. ... They get a beautiful bouquet to cheer them up,” he said.
The Blooming Idea is still getting smaller orders and remains open under shorter hours, with both curbside pickup and a contactless delivery option available for its customers.
“People are still ordering flowers because they want to keep in touch with family. And at this time, flowers seem even more valuable in a sense to let people connect and reduce their social distancing to let people know that they’re still thinking about them,” McCarthy said. “People are home now. And certainly the benefits of having flowers and plants in your home; it cleans the air and just makes people happy. So we’re hoping that people do support us and continue buying flowers.”
Sprout is filling individual pickup order and delivering, including a no-touch option. Engelbrecht said the effects of such services, and customers’ new reliance on impersonal ordering, could linger for florists even after coronavirus concerns subside in the future.
“This epidemic is going to change the floral industry in a big way because it’s going to be even more virtual and online. It’s going to force it that way, and it might not come back from that,” she said.
Engelbrecht also noted that florists often rely on larger vendors with an international reach, and said supply concerns will likely limit stock in the near future due to declining sales and the temporary closure of some regional vendors. Once her current supply of flowers is exhausted, she said she plans to shift to offering only longer-lasting plants and other nonperishable items such as balloon bouquets, gift baskets and home fragrance products.
“The inventory I have now won’t be worth selling, and then I won’t be able to get replacement fresh flowers because the vendors are closed,” she said. “Out of Holland, The Netherlands and Ecuador, they're throwing away 50% of the crops. ... The growers are even saying, ‘We’re not doing this. We’re not going to spend all the money to harvest, package, ship and then throw it away.’”
McCarthy said her store is well-stocked for now after receiving a shipment this week, but she is also planning to reduce The Blooming Idea's offerings soon due to the constraints of her suppliers.
“One of our wholesalers has ceased operations, and the others are limiting deliveries,” she said. “They’re not getting any flowers from Holland. ... And I think the growers are just cutting back. They’re not cutting as many flowers. So I think in the weeks to follow, our product is going to be limited.”
Handfelt said Piney Rose does business with local suppliers, which should allow the store to continue many of its traditional offerings even as some regional vendors wind down their business.
“We have shored up our supply routes to ensure that we have a steady supply of flowers. One of our goals is to try to source from local farms,” he said. “We have a lot of connections with local farms. So even if they shut the borders, we may not be able to get the same variety and be able to offer all the products that we typically do, but we should be able to offer beautiful bouquets hand-arranged and hand-delivered to your home.”
Despite some product limitations, the florists encouraged those interested in ordering flowers and other gifts to call their stores or visit their websites over the coming weeks to continue supporting their businesses.
“Birthdays still happen. Unfortunately, ‘get well soons’ are going to go up. Anniversaries still happen,” Engelbrecht said. “I would love for people to think of us as a resource to help them still celebrate in their lives.”