There’s comfort in selecting a plant or floral arrangement when you’re working with a local florist in your community, where you can literally smell the flowers. But what about buying for someone in another place?
Note that companies like FTD, 1-800-flowers and Teleflora are not florists and have no flowers. They are order-takers that take your payment and — after pocketing a sizable portion — pass on the remainder of your money to a real florist to have an arrangement delivered.
There’s nothing inherently bad about those businesses; they provide convenience in return for a large “finders fee.” But many people aren’t aware how much their service adds to the cost (or detracts from what your recipient receives, depending on which way you look at it).
Independent florists naturally first will ensure their direct customers get the best quality product and service — especially at popular holidays. Remy Brault of Labellum in Bozeman, Montana notes, “When you choose a local florist, you get someone who can learn about your specific wishes and the recipient to create something they’ll love, rather than a cookie-cutter arrangement.”
Tips for Maximizing Value
So you may take to the internet or Yellow Pages to search for a florist in the area of your recipient, but beware: those listings are rife with order-taking operations adept at making themselves appear to be shops in the city or town where you want the gift delivered. When searching online, look past the paid ads, which usually are dominated by national order services or businesses fraudulently posing as local.
In your search results, look for businesses with a listed street address (a phone number alone is not reliable evidence, as order-taking companies often buy numbers with local area codes). Or simply call to ask when and where you can visit, suggests Betsy Hall of Hall’s Flower Shop and Garden Center in Stone Mountain, Georgia. “If the person is vague in answering any of these questions, try elsewhere.”
By the way, don’t worry about offending the florist—those we interviewed believed any independent florist will appreciate your effort.
Remy Brault says independent florists not only provide a higher quality product, but often generate local and environmental benefits compared to mail-order companies and chain supermarkets with a floral department. “I work hard to buy from local suppliers…a woman who lives just one mile from our store grows for us much of the year.”
Those in colder climates wanting eco-friendly choices might seek advice on flowering plants from their local independent garden center (many of which also sell flowers).
Lastly, order ahead for holidays! “We go from a norm of 40 orders a day to 1200 for Valentine’s Day,” said one florist. Brault notes, “The sooner you get your order in, the more likely you’ll get exactly what you’re seeking.”
* ProFlowers operates differently than other national companies mentioned here. They ship boxed flowers from their warehouses via third-party delivery services for the recipient to assemble into a bouquet.
This article was first published February 5, 2013
See examples from those who didn’t heed our advice: Flower Deliveries: Advertising vs Reality.
One reporter directly compared actual delivered bouquets from the online order-takers to local florists. She concludes the local florist’s bouquet offered “was by far the most impressive!”
Another such comparison shopping report, concludes “We think the best value for your money – with the least frustration — is to call a local florist and order your flowers directly.”
In 2016, Consumer Reports ignored indie florists, but compared various order-takers against their advertising and each other.
Consider reasons to look local first for jewelry purchases.
Farm-to-Vase? (free NY Times registration required)
RealLocalFlorists.com is an online search tool for independent florists
The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are 13,765 florist establishments in the U.S., employing a total of 61, 170 people.
Tips from Florists on Keeping Bouquets in Top Shape
- Use sharp scissors to cut 1/2″ or more off the stems immediately before submerging them in room-temperature water (err on side of cool).
- Remove leaves below water level (helps prevent bacteria)
- Avoid direct heat or sun
- Remove stems that are decaying and those with flowers already passed