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Why a Milan florist won't pass rose inflation down to customers

This Valentines season, love is in the air and the wallet, with inflation hitting wholesale roses. But Milan Flower Shop says it won't raise prices for customers.

MILAN, Ill. — This Valentine's season, love may be in the air, but it's really being felt in some people's wallets. Rising costs of fertilizer, transportation and labor have inflated the price of wholesale roses. But at Milan Flower Shop, the store's owners say they won't pass those rising rates down to their customers. 

Over in the delivery truck, employee Rusty Morehead knows there's no time to stop and smell the roses on Feb. 14. During the 2023 holiday, he made roughly 100 flower deliveries in one day, but he doesn't mind it. 

"That's the nice part of this job, is nobody's ever upset when you walk in with a bouquet of flowers for them," Morehead said. 

And there was certainly no shortage of bouquets to choose from. At the shop, co-owner Roger Krueger was busy juggling order after order when News 8 caught up with him. 

"It's our time of year to shine," Krueger laughed. "It's our number one season, followed by Mother's Day, of course." 

Typically, the shop sells about 200 roses a week. But on Feb. 13-14 alone, more than 1,000 roses went out the door. About 90% of them were bright red. 

"It seems to be a rose-type of year here at Milan Flower Shop," Krueger said. "Roses have done better this year than any other year. I would say our rose-based arrangements have probably doubled compared to last year, whereas other types of flowers have decreased." 

But not everything comes up smelling like roses. Inflation has been hitting the rose industry since COVID-19 hit in 2020. Now, Krueger is paying his wholesalers $0.15 more per rose stem than he was three years ago. 

For customers, a pre-Covid $50 bouquet will now cost anywhere from $65-75. But Krueger is trying to ease some of that burden by still charging his customers with last year's prices. 

"We've kind of absorbed a lot of that cost and don't pass it on to the customer. You know, it's tough times. And we want everybody to enjoy flowers," he said. "Of course, our profit margins are different compared to where they were three years ago. But then again, our big thing here is we want everybody to enjoy some flowers." 

It's that type of service that keeps customers like Steve Wilson coming back. 

"This is my wife's favorite flower shop!" he said.

When we caught up with him, Wilson had driven all the way from Bettendorf to pick his wife up some Stargazer Lilies - her favorites. 

"I'd rate it a 10. What's more important is that my wife rates it and she's always been happy with the flowers I bring her," Wilson said. 

They say every rose has its thorn. The same is true at Milan Flower Shop, where cutting customer costs has brought the shop's profits as low as it can handle. But even without rose-colored glasses, Krueger is staying positive. 

"I want everybody to be able to enjoy some flowers. So we keep it very affordable," he said. 

It keeps customers happy and Morehead very, very busy. 

"Flowers are feel-good," Morehead smiled. "So with the economy tough, everybody wants to feel good!"

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