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Flower power

While delivery charge hikes stem from gas prices, business still blooms

As local gas prices range from $3.29 to $3.60 a gallon, the VBJ asked three florists how they’re dealing with the hike.

Gallery Florist

720 S.E. 160th Ave., Vancouver

Janet Books, owner

Worries consumers will have to choose groceries over flowers because they’re paying more at the pump

"We’ve been hugely affected," Books said.

The shop, now in its 21st year of business, raised its delivery prices earlier this year to a range of $6.95 to $14.95.

While its overhead has increased to handle the strain, Books worries customers paying more at the pump will have less expendable cash to buy flowers. But Mother’s Day – a good indicator of consumer confidence – was up 6 percent, she said.

Books hasn’t received any complaints from customers about the higher delivery charges, but the shop has had several out-of-state florists that handle Gallery’s call-out orders ask for more money to cover their delivery costs.

Books suspects gas prices will have a larger impact in the long-term, and said she and husband Larry have had many discussions about how to make flowers more affordable for customers.

They’ve discussed offering more cost-effective bouquet work and a promotion that allows clients to first buy a bouquet and vase and in the future buy only a hand-cut arrangement that can be placed in the vase for less money.

Petals

2413 Main St., Vancouver

Joel Padley, owner and designer

Offers free delivery to all of Vancouver

Padley said the spike in gas prices costs him $100 more each month. To compensate, he’s cut back on carrying certain exotic flowers unless they’re specially ordered.

He has no sympathy for other florists "crying" about paying more for gas.

"My philosophy is this: gas costs about $1 a gallon more than it did, and if your vehicle averages 28 miles per gallon, the cost of delivery has only gone up about $1. If you can’t absorb that cost, maybe you shouldn’t be in business."

Padley suspects some florists and wholesalers are using higher gas prices as an excuse to up delivery costs. But it’s a different story if the price tops $5 a gallon, he said.

He charges between $10 and $12 to deliver to outlying areas, such as Camas, Washougal and Battle Ground.

The shop, which has been in business for seven years, has a neon sign in its window advertising its no-charge delivery service. It regularly brings in customers, he said.

"Let’s put it this way," he said, "This is a small shop and we like to keep it simple, so we don’t advertise. But if I put an ad in the Yellow Pages saying we don’t charge to deliver, the phone would be ringing off the hook."

Luepke Florist Inc.

1300 Washington St., Vancouver

Alan and Maria Adler, owners

Would like to see an independent floral delivery service in Vancouver

The shop, which opened locally in 1909, raised its delivery prices $1 a year ago to handle the strain of rising gas costs and the Adlers are hesitant to do it again. They range from $4.95 to $9.95 for outlying areas and a Portland delivery service the company contracts with, which "barely covers what they charge us," said Alan Adler.

But the shop may be forced to raise prices again shortly or create another price zone for the furthest-away deliveries. Luepke makes an effort to group deliveries, and depending on how spread out they are, the shop isn’t losing money because of gas prices.

The shop’s monthly gas bill has doubled in the last three years.

Adler said it would be nice to be able to use smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles than the two mini-vans in use now, but even then, big orders would require more than one trip.

If delivery becomes too expensive, the shop may begin wiring orders to other shops in outlying areas. Luepke would keep a percentage of the order, but also wouldn’t have quality control over the product.

"I hope it doesn’t get too expensive where people aren’t willing to compensate for the personal service we provide,"
he said.

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