Business is blooming for florists and could scarcely be sweeter for chocolate makers ahead of a Valentine’s Day like no other. It is not only roses that have been in demand this year, as people appear keen to send expressions of love to family and friends who have been cut adrift by Covid-19 restrictions.
"It has been our busiest ever run-up to Valentine's Day," says Anna Finlay of Blooming Amazing in Ranelagh. "It has been exceptionally good with people sending flowers who would never normally do it."
Finlay expected to sell 30 or so bunches of roses by the dozen this year because people were increasingly looking for alternative ways to declare their love, she says. “It has been totally different this year and the messages people are sending with their flowers are much longer as people are trying to keep their loved ones’ spirits up with messages of hope.”
The days leading up to February 14th were “as busy as a normal Valentine’s Day” with men proving to be significantly more organised than before. “Usually men don’t place orders in advance and wait until a couple of days before February 14th, but we have been getting orders since the end of January.”
Blooming Amazing used the first lockdown in the spring and early summer to redesign its website which proved essential in subsequent lockdowns, Finlay says. “The site has been a huge bonus but it is still hard because we can’t do click and collect and 50 per cent of our business is normally by drop-in.”
Journalist, broadcaster and farmer Darragh McCullough was pleasantly surprised by a bumper week at his Elm Grove farm between Balbriggan and Drogheda.
“Typically Valentine’s is a sleepy week for us,” he said. “Normally no one wants daffodils because they are not red, but this year has been the polar opposite in every sense.”
Wholesalers were “buying them like they are going out of fashion and the online and direct [sales] from the farm business has gone bonkers,” McCullough says.
Some of his team were working until midnight this week processing orders and ensuring deliveries were on time. “We did over €8,000 worth of business online this week and for a small business that is a big, big deal. We are thrilled skinny with it.”
He said until a couple of years ago he “didn’t know anything beyond daffodils, we were a one-trick pony”, but he has since diversified the business and grows tulips, lilies as well as wild flowers.
This week 25 pickers have been working in the field and five in the packing house. “One of our pickers can pick 10,000 stems a day at peak,” McCullough says. “They are like Olympic athletes. You or I would keel over after 30 minutes.”
Gráinne Mullins set up her chocolate business in Galway less than six months ago. This is her first Valentine’s Day and she was thrilled by “the madness of it all”.
“You wouldn’t believe the week I have had,” she says. First the packaging for her handmade chocolates was delayed due to problems at UK ports and again because of snow, so “plan A became plan B which became plan C”, she says with a laugh.
Plan C saw Mullins calling on friends and family members to help with the packaging and she managed to get most of her deliveries out on time. The ones that missed courier company deadlines will be delivered by her small team on Saturday and Sunday.
“I can’t believe the desire amongst Irish people to support local businesses,” she says. “And I can’t believe the amount of grannies and granddads and mams and dads who have been buying things for their children. It is really beautiful.
“We handwrite all the notes and they have been for such a broad spectrum. We always have a smile on our faces when writing the notes. One was nearly a full A4-page declaration of love. It was just such a lovely thing.”