Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Mothers will get a muted celebration

WITHERING FLOWERS The usually profitable Mothers' Day holiday will give little solace to florists, hoteliers and restaurateurs as sales and reservations hit the floor

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

A mother holding carnations waits at a Taipei bus stop yesterday with her daughters. Carnation prices have dropped by up to 60 percent due to weak demand as the public opts to spend more time at home because of SARS fears.

PHOTO: SHIH CHI-HONG, TAIPEI TIMES

Businesses catering to Mothers' Day celebrations are expecting torpid sales as the public chooses to stay home due to fears over severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Bearing the brunt of the slowdown will be restaurants and flower shops. But some restaurants are pushing home deliveries to keep busy.

Restaurants in five-star hotels are reporting that reservations for Mothers' Day meals have dropped nearly 40 percent from last year.

Weak market demand has dragged retail prices of a dozen carnations down nearly 60 percent to NT$300 from NT$480 last year.

No hotels have been spared.

"Currently, our Mothers' Day dinner reservations are about 60 percent full," Paulina Lin (林婉君), a deputy manager at the Sherwood Taipei said yesterday. "But normally over the last few years, our restaurants were always fully booked one week prior to Mothers' Day," she added.

At the Howard Plaza Hotel (福華飯店), SARS concerns are also keeping most people at home.

By yesterday, the hotel's Mothers' Day reservations had slid nearly 30 percent from last year.

Yet hoteliers have back-up plans.

Sherwood Taipei, Howard Plaza, Landis Taipei and Far Eastern Plaza Hotel (遠東飯店) all plan to deliver meals to their clients. Takeout is also an option.

"Earlier this week, after noticing the sluggish reservation report, we decided to take the food to our customers," Wu said.

For two days, May 20 and 21, the hotelier will deliver meals from either its Italian or Chinese restaurants for about NT$4,800 for a four person meal.

As of yesterday Sherwood Taipei received 300 Mothers' Day meal orders, Wu said.

Free delivery from Sherwood Taipei is available for customers in Taipei's Chungshan, Chungcheng, Ta-an and Sungshan districts.

The Landis Taipei Hotel is offering a low-fat, low-calorie Mothers' Day menu at NT$1,800 per person. The hotel has reportedly received 150 orders as of yesterday.

The hotel offers home delivery services for NT$200 for customers in the Greater Taipei area.

Florists, who were hoping to profit from the holiday, have become the newest SARS victims.

"Business is terribly slow," said Jessica Chang (張瑋容), owner of Jessica Florist in Taipei. "We expect sales to drop 40 percent over the same period last year."

She added that retail flower prices usually surge 30 percent during Mothers' Day, while this year many Mothers' Day celebrations were canceled because of SARS, killing demand for flowers.

Virtual florists have fared better.

"Mothers' Day sales this year are expected to double [over last year]," said Lee Hsin-Chuan (李幸娟), marketing manager at FlowerDJ.com (花道家), an online florist with ties to 80 flower shops throughout Taiwan.

The company says it received 500 orders per day this week.

"Several customers canceled trips home to southern Taiwan and have opted to send flowers to their mothers via us instead," Lee said.

Mothers' Day is tomorrow.

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