ABUNDANT FLOWER SUPPLIES PROMISE A ROSY VALENTINE'S

Despite potentially tight supplies of Colombian flowers, roses should be plentiful for retailers this Valentine's Day, according to industry representatives and floral executives.Terry Humfeld, director of floral programs for the Floral Marketing Association, Newark, Del., said he anticipates a strong season for retailers."From what I know, the rose supply is going to be there," he said. "We're expecting

Despite potentially tight supplies of Colombian flowers, roses should be plentiful for retailers this Valentine's Day, according to industry representatives and floral executives.

Terry Humfeld, director of floral programs for the Floral Marketing Association, Newark, Del., said he anticipates a strong season for retailers.

"From what I know, the rose supply is going to be there," he said. "We're expecting a real good holiday."

Jennifer Sparks, assistant director of the American Floral Marketing Council, a division of the Alexandria, Va.-based Society of American Florists, agreed. "We're not anticipating any shortages," she said. "We have a plentiful supply."

While there may be some shortages of Colombian roses, they should be more abundant this Valentine's Day than they were last year, when a severe frost damaged about 30% of Colombia's rose crop, said Helena DelaConcha, a spokeswoman for the Colombia Flower Council in Miami.

Colombia may be facing some tight supplies this season, partly because Christmas sales were so strong, said Barbara Hann, industry representative for the Colombia Flower Council.

"I just talked to a lot of our farms, and I'm not sure the supply is going to be there," Hann said, several weeks before Valentine's Day.

"It takes 90 days for a rose to bloom," she said. "Flower sales in general were very good at Christmas. And there aren't 90 days between Christmas and Valentine's Day" to allow the roses to bloom again, Hann said.

Hann said there is some good news for retailers who rely on Colombian flowers for Valentine's Day. She said the roses that are available will be very fresh.

Last year, about 55% of the 136 million roses sold on Valentine's Day were imported, according to the American Floral Marketing Council. In addition to Colombia, roses are imported from the Netherlands, Ecuador and other South and Central American countries.

Humfeld said the timing of this Valentine's Day should work in retailers' favor. Feb. 14 falls on a Tuesday this year. Since many floral purchases are impulse items, consumers are more likely to stop by the supermarket floral department on their way home from work than they would on a weekend, he said.

Humfeld said roses and carnations will probably remain the perennial favorites this Valentine's Day. "Far and away, people look for roses, but supermarkets also sell a large number of carnations," he said. "Red in general is the favorite color."

Two retailers surveyed by SN said they are not worried about short supplies for Valentine's Day.

Charles Sealock, director of produce for Homeland Stores, a 111-unit retailer based in Oklahoma City, said he ordered early and from a variety of sources.

"If our roses arrive in good shape, we're all set," he said.

Debbie Ricks, floral buyer and merchandiser for J.H. Harvey, a 38-unit retailer based in Nashville, Ga., said she also placed her orders with several different suppliers weeks before Valentine's Day.

Ricks and Sealock said they predict their best-selling item will be the classic Valentine's Day bouquet, a dozen red roses. Both said that, at this time of year, they are targeting a different consumer than normal -- men.

According to the Society of American Florists, men account for 70% of all floral sales on Valentine's Day.

Sealock said selling to men is a little different than selling to women. "Men are my No. 1 customers at Valentine's Day. Men know what they want, and they don't want to wait for it," he said. "Women don't like to wait, but men really don't like to wait."