profit planning – roses coming up everywhere

Brian J. McCarthyby Brian J. McCarthy

For many years, I have encouraged retail florists to increase their use of roses — and to not just sell them by the dozen. Roses today are not as fragile as they were in the past. Vast improvements in flower opening and longevity are making roses harder to ignore as a staple. In addition, the Chain of Life program has added more value to roses, and breeders have produced more vivid and unusual colors than we could have dreamed of (see Pages 33-38). And we can thank growers in California, Colombia, Ecuador and even Kenya for making roses of  all types, head sizes and stem lengths more available on a daily basis, not just sporadically.

two ideas to try

Two decades ago, I introduced a “three rose add on” for just $5. I thought, “Why not offer an option to affordably ‘upscale’ a mixed arrangement with roses?” The results were astronomical, and the recipient feedback was even better. Some customers asked if they could add six roses for $10 extra. Of course!

We have also promoted $9.95 cash-and-carry rose bouquets in our stores for decades. The naysayers said it would diminish our full-price rose sales. To my delight, that didn’t happen. If anything, we became thought of as the “rose king,” so whenever people thought of roses, they knew we’d have loads of options.

My father warned me constantly not to “diminish” roses’ perceived value. I argued that our rose bouquet program created activity where there was none, and I didn’t want to let the supermarkets have the exclusive on cash-and-carry rose bouquets.

We know that customers love roses and that young lovers must have them, but they often don’t have the resources to go to a “full-service florist.” With our cash-and-carry bouquets, they can afford them, and they do come in — many twice or more a month. Talk about cash flow and an easy sell!

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I know there will be as much resistance to this article as there was from my own smart father, but I urge you to give it a try. If you are worried about receiving too many complaints, keep track carefully. It wasn’t long ago I wouldn’t consider using Hydrangeas or stocks in daily arrangements because of my concern about their durability. I have been proved wrong.

With the continued improvements in the Chain of Life, the surge in shipping efficiency and the improved flower foods at our disposal, I assert the same is true for roses. Let your wholesaler know that you will take any of his rose cancellations or overruns if he makes you a great deal, and you can move them quickly out of his cooler and into yours — and out your front door, at a significant profit.

Brian J. McCarthy is president and CEO of The 
McCarthy Group of Florists, the largest chain of traditional retail flower shops in the United States, comprising more than 25 stores in 12 states. He grew up working in his father’s flower shop in Dunmore, Pa., and by age 23, he owned seven flower shops of his own and a wholesale flower company. Email Brian at, or call him at (770) 777-1167.

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