How you buy Valentine's flowers makes a difference to your wallet and the local economy

Valentine's is the busiest holiday for florists, but because more of us buy online, it is not a big moneymaker for local businesses. Buying online may also be costing you more.

Florists usually put on extra staff the week before Valentine's because of the hundreds of extra flower orders, but just because they're more busy does not mean they're making more money. It's because of the way we buy our flowers.

'When you go to the internet and go on to the telemarketers,' says Jini Cerio, who owns downtown Syracuse's Markowitz Florist, 'that money stays in their state, in their town. We need it to stay in our town. It's our money.'

Cerio, and other florists, say that the big, popular online sites are not florists, but telemarketers who then order from local businesses, but 'with these wire services it is close to almost 50% that we lose with it.'

It's a business development that strikes a chord with Syracuse First's Chris Fowler, who is running a Buy Local campaign. 'It does a real disservice to the local businesses because there's a big markup and a lot of that money goes to the broker and not to the business.'

Cerio points out that the customer who orders through telemarketers (not necessarily the florists' cooperatives like FTD or Teleflora) loses two ways: money--because there's a processing surcharge, usually $20 more to order online, and also in quality.

She says if a customer calls or walks in, the local florist can advise which flowers look (and smell!) better. Cerio tells us many of the pictures on online ads are photoshopped, that arrangements may look different because all the flowers are fresher and not completely open. She says if you specify an amount to spend, rather than picking out a model, you cold do better locally.

"It comes down to just picking up the phone and finding the number or going to your local florist and making that same order," says Fowler, and you have that personal service and a relationship with a person."

Cerio says it's not a matter of stopping all internet or smartphone use to order, just being careful that you're working with an actual florist--one with a local address (you can order online with many locals' store websites)

Fowler says Valentines is the perfect time to make a personal commitment, not only to your sweetheart, but to also doing something to do something for the local economy. His Syracuse First website has a directory of local stores and businesses.