Barcelona’s florists rosy regarding return of Sant Jordi
After a dire year, historic flower stalls on the Rambla re-open as new online sellers also continue to grow
Bursting with bouquets, Barcelona’s florists are optimistic as the Sant Jordi celebration approaches. If anything can make up for missing the most lucrative day of the year in 2020, they say, is their hope that Catalonia’s festival of books and roses will be slightly more normal this time around.
Saint Jordi (or George) is the patron saint of Catalonia, and the day is one of the biggest celebrations of romance and literature in Catalonia, with people usually gifting each other roses and books. Go to any town or city in the country on April 23 and you will find the main streets and squares bustling with crowds of people browsing stalls selling books and flowers.
Last year, however, due to the confinement, people were not able to celebrate and the day was postponed. Once restrictions began to relax in the summer of 2020, some delayed celebrations took place on July 23, with 200 to 300 stalls allowed to open in Barcelona, a fourth of the usual 1,000.
This year’s Sant Jordi plans to look a lot more like the traditional festival, booksellers being allowed to set up their stalls for five days, complying with appropriate safety measures.
Optimism about a more in-person Sant Jordi
As a result, Barcelona’s florists, the newest and most established, have shown optimism in the lead-up to the celebrations.
For the city’s most traditional flower stalls situated on the historic road the Rambla, Carolina Pallés, the fourth-generation owner of historic flower shop Flors Carolina de la Rambla that has sold to some of the most renowned Catalan writers, such as Josep Carner or even to the Andalusian Federico García Lorca, has said that she is confident that the day “will go well”.
While it is unlikely that sales will match those of 2019, with Flors Carolina de la Rambla alone selling approximately 4,000 roses, Pallés has said that this year she believes that people will be “eager to walk around, and buy once again”.
Sharing the same optimism, but with a business model that proved more successful in pandemic times, is the online florist Rosistirem. Named after a play on words combining the words 'rose' and 'resistirem' (Catalan for 'we will resist'), the company was launched last year to 'save Sant Jordi' despite the lockdown, selling 30,000 roses online and completing over 4,000 home deliveries.
Their founder, Pau Culillas, has said that “people want to celebrate Sant Jordi”, especially after what he has called “a very hard year”.
Pallès also lamented that as “Barcelona lives off tourism”, the lack of visitors during the pandemic, combined with the lack of gatherings such as weddings and communions, has meant that her business has suffered over the last year.
In contrast to Rosistirem, who have gone from online to in-person, Pallés refuses to launch an online store to adapt to pandemic times. She underlines the importance of face-to-face service and having a physical store which "forms part of the history of the city of Barcelona". “This business has to be in person”, she concludes, hoping for a return to the traditional Sant Jordi.