The Cold Chain
We all know how complicated love can be. But the complications Valentine’s Day brings to the supply chain might just rival it. The goods Valentine’s Day relies on (chocolate, flowers, etc.) are perishable and usually bought last minute. Florists, candy shops, and retailers all have to play a guessing game of demand, logistics, and inventory months in advance. Items such as flowers and perishables require special handling in the form of temperature-controlled facilities. The process of continuous refrigeration during transportation is called the cold chain. Just like love, the Valentine’s Day cold chain can be very fickle.
To illustrate just how many steps flowers traveling the cold chain to arrive at your local shop on time require, follow them on their journey:
Last-minute customers make up the majority of Valentine’s Day shoppers, meaning retailers have to rely on unplanned business instead of orders. But what if it rains? Or if it’s the day after the Super Bowl? Little things like this can cause sales to go down significantly for stores that rely on Valentine’s Day to help make their year.
As stores try to predict their demand, they also have to predict what inventory they’ll need. All purchasers know that this job can sometimes seem like solving a riddle, as overstocking and understocking are equally unhelpful. What lies between is the sweet spot, but the current supply chain crisis hardly makes finding it easy.
Where Are My Flowers?
The language of love on Valentine’s Day is a bouquet of roses (or, at least, that’s what my wife says). Though I’ll be buying her roses from the florist shop ten minutes from my home, the flowers will most likely be from Columbia. 90% of roses sold in the US originate from Colombia and Ecuador, and their international travel requires planning and carefully coordinated logistics as fresh flowers are the ultimate depreciating asset. Flying flowers first class may sound like it’s bad for the environment but it’s actually the best option. Countries that are known for growing flowers naturally have a warm climate conducive to plant growth. For northern states in the US to attempt mass flower planting, expensive greenhouses would have to be heated.
Current supply chain delays do not bode well for the time-sensitive deliveries Valentine’s Day relies upon. A shipment of flowers waiting to be loaded onto a truck is a much larger issue than most delayed cargos. Dead flowers will not sell and they might go as far as wrecking the reputation of the business stuck with them. Normally, in cases of inventory worries, I’d say to stock up in advance. But having flowers delivered a week early won’t save the day. Communication within every step of the cold chain is really the only solution here.
Whether you’re a couple deciding how you’d like to spend the day or a florist locating their next shipment of flowers, communication will be the key on Valentine’s Day. Just remember that if you’re in search of a Valentine, red roses will never let you down – if they get here on time.