BEND, Ore. -- Who needs roses for Valentine's Day? For Valentine's weekend this year, the floral director at Rudy's Newport Market has tripled her order for three different varieties of miniature orchids, a signature item in the retailer's floral department.
Unlike roses this time of year, the delicate-looking dendrobium, mokara and onicidius are an excellent quality and are quite hearty, representing a good value for customers, floral director Judy Shaw told SN. Shoppers, it seems, love the price points. Rudy's loves the profits.
"They're long-lasting, easily beautiful up to two weeks, and we tell our customers that. We put that on signs and our associates talk to people about how long these will last," Shaw said.
While most customers still look for red roses for their sweethearts on Valentine's Day, Rudy's has developed a following for the miniature orchids that come in white, purple, green, rusty red and fuchsia. The flowers are flown in from Singapore.
"We sell five stems for $12.99, but the best seller last Valentine's Day was two stems in little, clear glass vases I bought," Shaw said. "I use all purple in those. They're tall stems, eight or nine inches high, and they're very elegant-looking. We put a retail on those of $9.99."
Shaw said she'll build an end base display 12 feet high and four feet wide, and display the vases of deep purple, vased sprays against a white backdrop.
"It's very eye-catching. The guys loved those last year. They were surprised that they could get something so nice, those royal purple mokaras in a glass vase, for a price like that. It was especially attractive to them because roses are so expensive in the winter. We were having to charge $1.50 a stem for roses and not get much margin either," Shaw said.
By contrast, the orchids, whether it's two sprays in a vase for $9.99, five stems in a bundle for $12.99, or a single stem for $2.99, have a margin well over twice what Rudy's takes on roses this time of year. On some, the margin is 75%, Shaw said.
"We fly them in every week, 18 to 20 five-stem bunches and sell them out every week. I take some of the bunches apart, and sell some as singles or two in a spray. For Valentine's weekend, I have 60 bundles of five stems coming in. I'll split most of them up," Shaw said.
What's most important is no other supermarket in the area has the orchids. Owner of the single-unit, upscale market, Rudy Dory, and his wife, Debbie, discovered them when they visited a grower in Singapore a few years ago. They then made a deal with a distributor in California to source a regular supply, though a relatively small one, each week.
"We like to think this sets us apart," Dory said. "These are especially good to have this time of year when usually foul weather and demand push the prices of roses through the roof."