Next week sweethearts of all ages will exchange cards, flowers, candy, and gifts in the name of St. Valentine. According to the latest National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, consumers are expected to spend $25.9 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, up from $23.9 billion in 2022 and one of the highest spending years on record. More than half (52%) of consumers plan to celebrate and spend an average of $192.80. This is up from $175.41 in 2022 and the second-highest figure since NRF and Prosper started tracking Valentine’s Day spending in 2004.
The top gifts include candy (57%), greeting cards (40%), flowers (37%), an evening out (32%), jewelry (21%), gift cards (20%), and clothing (19%). Americans plan to spend more than $5.5 billion on jewelry and nearly $4.4 billion on a special evening out.
It’s all hand unloaded and takes forever.
Except for last-minute retail store deliveries and flowers, a lot of freight has already been pre-positioned in freight markets, leaving a massive volume of fresh cut flowers arriving in Miami this week the most time-sensitive. According to one trucker DAT spoke to, “floral loads are all driver unloads as some places don’t even have docks. They’re very unpopular loads as they’re all time-sensitive, so you must haul butt because it takes so long to unload box by box. My last load had 2,500 boxes spread over four stops”.
To compensate, some large flora carriers have already imposed a temporary 10% holiday surcharge to all products shipped outbound from Florida with a ship date of January 19, 2023, through February 6, 2023. A 20% surcharge applies to all outbound California shipments over the same timeframe. Carriers also demand shippers package and label flowers in boxes not exceeding 50 lbs per box, submit shipment tenders before 11:00 am each Tuesday and Friday, and ensure the product is at most 55 degrees at the pick-up time.
All eyes are on Miami this week.
Miami is the epicenter of dozens of 747 Jumbo jets arriving each Day from South America, including Colombia and Ecuador. According to the USDA, 97% of roses and carnations arrive from these flower powerhouses, just 3.5 hours from Miami by air freighter. Colombia produces the largest volume, accounting for 67% of annual imports, with Ecuador second at 31% and Mexico at 1%. For brokers and carriers, this is peak floral season, with 91% of the annual volume of roses and carnations landing in Miami in the first six weeks of the year.
Why Miami and why South America?
Global floral supply chains follow a south-to-north pattern – fresh-cut flowers in Europe arrive from Kenya (the largest producer of roses in the world) and are shipped mainly to the largest flower market in the world in Amsterdam. Meanwhile, in North America, flowers mostly come from South America. All growing markets are close to the equator, where growers have natural light all year round, reducing the need for artificial illumination.
Why Miami when you can fly direct to most major capital cities, then?
Miami has a sizeable perishables-handling infrastructure and is ideally located to handle domestic air-to-truck logistics and international air-to-air transfers. MIA also has an efficient consolidation center for both the US and Europe/Asia for southbound traffic of all kinds. According to international air freight expert Jesse Cohen, “the freighters that provide the big lift in the market need high volumes of good two-way traffic to be profitable, so it is safer and more efficient for them to schedule MIA schedules vs. other airports. There are a lot of other traffic opportunities in MIA for non-flower traffic in MIA as well (to/from Central America and the Deep South), and many freighters fly multi-stop schedules to maximize their loads across all seasons. Bottom line — economies of scale and overall efficiency”.
In the seven weeks to February 14, an average of 500 truckloads per Day will head north out of Miami, where just three carriers handle 80% of all flora volume. They typically rely on many company-owned trucks and independent contractors to handle this week’s surging volume of flowers.
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