Catalonia’s Sant Jordi celebrations fuel a boom in rose sales

Left to right Joan Guillem, president of Catalonia’s industry body for retail trade; Rosa Valls, director of floral art school Floral RosaValls, Miquel Batlle, president of Mercabarna-flor’s wholesale organisation and Montserrat Ballarín, president of Mercabarna.

The inhabitants of Spain’s autonomous region, Catalonia, experienced their most important floral holiday of the year – La Diada de Sant Jordi on 23 April, with more selling points, a broader range of roses, stable demand and pricing fuelled a boom in rose sales.

The Catalonian hearts-and-flowers celebration of Sant Jordi fell on a Sunday this year, offering consumers more time to shop. On the downside: Sant Jordi on a Sunday means fewer employers offering their workers a floral gift of time off. However, in the run-up to the holiday, florists noted how employers pre-ordered their roses to ensure that workers did not walk away empty-handed.

Five days ahead of the holiday, Mercabarna-flor provided a state of the trading address during a press luncheon in San Boi de Llobregat, near Barcelona.

According to Mercabarna-flor, the floral division of the giant Mercabarna wholesale market, the outlook was literally rosy, predicting some six million roses to be sold across the region in celebration of Sant Jordi (also known as Saint George’s Day), more or less the same amount of San Jordi roses traded last year.

The president of Mercabarna and councillor for Trade, Markets, Consumption, Local Regime and Finance, Ms Montserrat Ballarín, provided more context to these figures. She explained that Sant Jordi was to be celebrated over three days between 21-23 April this year, with florists and non-flower professionals selling roses.

The good news was that rising inflation did not impact rose prices too much. Contrary to the globally celebrated Valentine’s Day, San Jordi is celebrated in Catalonia only. The result is a much better balance between supply and demand, with roses exchanging hands for an average €4 per stem.

The 2023 Sant Jordi celebrations saw the emergence of many rose stalls run by charities. These occasional sales points increased rose sales as they drove impulse purchases.

Of the total number of roses sold in Catalonia, Mercabarna wholesalers sold a third (2,000,000 roses). Up to 62 per cent of roses at Mercabarna originate from Colombia, 20 per cent from Ecuador, 15 per cent from Holland and three per cent from Spain, with Tarragona and Valencia being the nation’s last epicentres of rose growing.

Occupying pride of place at Mercabarna is the red ‘Freedom’ rose grown in Colombia and Ecuador – accounting for 80 per cent of rose sales and Dutch grown ‘Red Naomi’  accounting for 10 per cent of rose sales. Rosa ‘Explorer’, grown in Colombia and Ecuador, stands out for its excellent shelf life and therefore is gaining a slow but steady market share. With an 80 per cent market share, red continues to be the colour of choice for Sant Jordi, but there is also room for different hues. Generation Z, for example, goes wild for fuchsia pink, golden yellow and deep purple.

There continued to be a tendency to give roses that we could call ‘garden roses’, with a giant bud, velvety petals and colours with a vintage feel, and miniature roses. Longer-lasting freeze-dried roses also took up a small part of the market.

La Diada de Sant Jordi on 23 April celebrates Saint George or Sant Jordi in Catalan. Sant Jordi was a romantic and chivalrous guy. He also happens to be the patron saint of the six million inhabitants of Catalonia.

Known as ‘The Day of Lovers’, La Diada de Sant Jordi is often compared to Valentine’s Day, with some uniquely Latin twist. The main event is exchanging gifts between lovers; men give their ‘novias’ roses while women give their ‘novios’ a book to celebrate the occasion. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times.

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