Florists fear triple tribulations will stunt lunar fortunes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2007, 12:00am

Three factors are conspiring to cast a pall over the hopes of florists in the lead up to the lucrative Lunar New Year festive season.

Mong Kok flower market retailers expect less profit next month because the strong yuan has pushed up the cost of imports. They also believe sales will be down because of an increase in the number of Hongkongers spending the holiday overseas. And then there's the arrival of Valentine's Day just days before the New Year, limiting their ability to fully exploit both markets.

Sun Kee Trading owner Li Kwok-sun said that while mainland suppliers were not charging more this year, their flowers cost more because of the exchange rate. 'The strong renminbi means we have to pay about 5 per cent more. But we can't charge more for our plants as competition is already keen.'

Mr Li said that as the economy had improved in the past year, more people were opting to fly overseas for the festive season. As a result, demand for festive plants and flowers would be weaker.

'I think there will be even more people going on holiday this year,' he said. 'There is no point in people buying festive flowers and leaving them at home when they are going to be away for 10 days.'

Usually Valentine's Day comes after the New Year, so shops can concentrate on stocking up for New Year and then prepare for Valentine's Day. 'That way they get two full days of business,' a shop assistant at Sun Kee Yuen Plant Imports said.

But with Valentine's Day falling just days before New Year, shops selling cut flowers would have a difficult time, she said. 'They don't have the space to stock up for both occasions,' she said.

A few new species will be on offer this festive season. The pussy willow, traditionally sold as a cut flower, will also be sold as a potted plant. Fa Fat Trading Co is selling it from HK$538.

Two species of orchard new on the market are in high demand - the chain xen pearl - a light pink orchard with a white rim and hot-pink dots - and Hello Kitty, which is mainly white with splashes of hot pink around the edges.