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Valentine’s Day heartbreak for florists avoided in nick of time

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A Valentine’s Day transport crisis meant frantic florists were almost left empty-handed before on their biggest sales day of the year.

But disaster was avoided after the blooms arrived and shops were stocked with flowers after two no-shows this week by the island’s only jet service for perishable goods.

Gary Saltus, of Flowers by GiMi in Hamilton, sounded the alarm on Wednesday.

Gary Saltus, owner of Flowers by GiMi, takes collection of a shipment of flowers that arrived just in time for Valentine's Day (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

He said: “We have hundreds of Valentine’s Day orders, and all the florists in Bermuda are in the same boat.

“Something is not right here. What conditions are these flowers going to be in by the time we get them?”

The Cargojet 247 from Newark was grounded on Tuesday and Wednesday because of a mechanical problem.

Florists, with full order books for Valentine’s Day next Monday, faced a nail-biting wait to see if the plane would arrive on time.

Mr Saltus, however, said yesterday the flower consignment had arrived late on Thursday in “pristine” condition.

But his wife Gita Blakeney, the co-owner of the business, said the monopoly of the Cargojet service had the potential to cause huge problems.

Supply problems with Cargojet this week had put Gary Saltus’s business seriously behind on flower deliveries for Valentine's Day (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

She added: “I believe I will be the voice for many when I say there’s real fatigue with this – especially with all this anxiety leading up to one of the biggest days of the year for us.

“You’re talking about perishable goods. There has been an abundance of frustration with regard to Cargojet and getting our products.

“The impact of something like this could be crippling to small businesses. We spend a lot of overtime catching up and, of course, we’re losing money sometimes having to refund clients.”

Ms Blakeney said two days without fresh flowers touching down at the airport meant two days of trade lost.

She added: “Small businesses can ill afford that. When it becomes a pattern, that makes it really intolerable.

“You know you’re losing money – especially after going through two years of Covid-19 with the lack of weddings and events.”

Ms Blakeney said that “there have always been issues with Cargojet”.

She added the introduction of the cargo service seemed “an answer to our prayers” because imports were bumped from commercial flights from the US if planes were full with passengers.

But Ms Blakeney explained: “There have been issues with delays and cancellations, mostly caused by mechanical issues.

“There’s been no courtesy in terms of an explanation.”

Courier services apologised to customers this week over delayed packages, but highlighted that cancellations and delays had hit earlier flights as well.

Carmen Phillips, of Demco Florists in Devonshire, said it was “all hands on deck” after a shipment of flowers landed on Thursday.

She added: “We had a full cargo plane finally arrive yesterday and we were able to get them off and inspected.

“Still, it was a long day and a late night. It’s not like this is clothing – these items are very time-sensitive.”

Ms Phillips said: “It’s very trying for us and it was hard not to get annoyed. We understand things happen.

“My personal aggravation is we’re so isolated and we only have one option.

“Unfortunately, this happened at one of the busiest times of our year.

“Not having another option is frustrating. We’re held at the mercy of one service.”

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Published February 12, 2022 at 7:31 am (Updated February 12, 2022 at 8:15 am)

Valentine’s Day heartbreak for florists avoided in nick of time

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