Feb.13 - The financial crisis of 2008 has changed many industries but the cut flower market may not be the most obvious. As flower sellers gear up for Valentine's Day Reuters looks at how supermarkets and online have changed the way we buy flowers and even what countries grow them. Hayley Platt reports.
They only last a few days but flowers are a growth industry worth an estimated 40 billion dollars. Europe accounts for more than 60 percent of the market - and it's worth $2.7bln in the UK alone. But the financial crisis of 2008 has changed the way it operates. Helen Evans is from New Covent Garden Market, London's biggest wholesale supplier of cut flowers. SOUNDBITE: Helen Evans, Director of Business support and Development, New Covent Garden Market, saying (English): "Ten year's ago in the UK we were the second lowest in Europe per capital spend in flowers and today we're about half way up that league table and a lot of that growth has been delivered by supermarkets and flowers have now become much more of a part of their weekly shop." Supermarkets now reportedly supply half the cut flower market in the UK and while sales have quadrupled since the 1990s prices have not. The rise of online has also favoured supermarkets - and traditional high street florists are suffering. One in three have gone out of business over the past 8 years as shoppers are lured by convenience and cheaper prices. SOUNDBITE: Kieran, (consumer) saying, (English): "You have a big choice in the supermarket same as anywhere else." SOUNDBITE: Sam Toomey, (consumer) saying, (English): "I think some of them are jolly lovely in the supermarket now aren't they, it depends on what sort of mixture they are." SOUNDBITE: David, (consumer) saying (English): "I suppose if it's convenient and it suits people with their shopping." Valentine's day is a florist's busiest time. Nikki Tibbles - owner of Wild at Heart in London, expects to deliver 500 orders on February 14th. SOUNDBITE: Nikki Tibbles, Owner of Wild at Heart Florist, saying (English): "It's incredibly important in that maybe 10 percent of our turnover actually takes place over those few days in the build up to Valentines Day. It helps in that January is historically not a great month for buying flowers so Valentines day does make a really big difference to our year." The Netherlands is still the largest flower shop. But more and more parts of the world are supplying them. African countries like Ethiopia are now growing flowers. And even war-torn Gaza relies heavily on its flower crop. But the growing influence of supermarkets could also hit suppliers. Some in the industry fear they may not be able to afford supermarket prices either.