KUALA LUMPUR: Hopes for a more properous year ahead seem to have taken out some of the romance in the air.
From florists to restaurateurs, the refrain is that Valentine’s Day comes too soon after the Chinese New Year celebration and, for many, spending more money on flowers and candlelight dinners will be too taxing on their budget.
The Chinese New Year celebration starts tomorrow while Valentine’s Day is on Wednesday.
With prices rising for most items that are considered a must for the lunar new year, there is little left to spend on romantic gestures.
Lee Seng Fong, the manager of Lee Wah Florist Sdn Bhd in Kuala Lumpur, said the demand for roses has been slow to pick up this year.
As of yesterday, he said, orders for roses was as low as 50% of last year’s just days to Cupid’s arrival.
However, Lee is keeping his fingers crossed. “It’s still a few days more to Valentine’s Day. People are still making purchases for Chinese New Year,” he told FMT Business, expressing hope that business will pick up in a few days.
Lee, who runs a wholesale business, said orders have already been received from retail florists but “it is not overwhelming” like in the past.
R Logan, 25, an accountant at Weng How Flower Boutique, said customers were spending more on bonsai bamboo and cherry blossoms, which are a must for the Chinese New Year celebration.
But he remains confident that demand for flowers will pick up. “We can expect orders to come in on Sunday and Monday when people are done making purchases for Chinese New Year,” he told FMT Business.
“Then, you will see the youngsters come out to buy flowers for Valentine’s Day,” he added.
Cameron Highlands no longer the main supplier
The market for flowers has also changed. Lee said florists no longer rely on local growers to fulfil their orders given that their output is too low.
“We have other options in China and India,” he said.
Lee said weather conditions have made it difficult for growers in Cameron Highlands to meet the demand for blooms.
Price and quality are also a factor. “Imported flowers are better and 5% to 10% cheaper, even accounting for logistics cost,” he added.
Lee said foreign suppliers are able to fulfil orders without any problem but supply from local growers is “unpredictable”.
Many farmers in Cameron Highlands also stopped cultivating flowers in favour of vegetables during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cameron Highlands Farmers Association president Ng Tien Khuan said that unpredictable weather and outbreak of fungal infection led to the change.
“Many have given up … no more cultivating roses. They prefer other crops that fetch higher prices, such as vegetables. The harvests are better and returns are higher too,” he told FMT Business.
Retailers also see lower demand
Sungai Wang Plaza general manager Joseph Teo said there has been a 30% surge in demand for items such as flowers, chocolates, bags and watches in the past few weeks.
However, he said, more were buying for the Chinese New Year than for Valentine’s Day.
There will be fewer candlelight dinners too this year.
Secret of Louisiana At The Lake Restaurant assistant manager Forkhan Abdul Shukor said as of yesterday, the number of reservations came up to only 40% of last year’s orders despite the reasonable price for a romantic candlelight dinner.
“It’s become a challenge to get more bookings,” he told FMT Business.