Valentine’s Day is a financial boost for some retail businesses, but for others, it’s a surprising bust.
During the Middle Ages, Europeans believed that birds chose their mates each year on Feb. 14.
Legend has it that Europeans began to emulate the ornithological practice. For whatever reason,
Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day — the day for lovers.
It’s a boon to some retailers, and not so much for others.
So how will these difficult economic times affect the holiday for lovers? Here’s a look at some of the businesses that usually benefit the most from Valentine’s Day.
YOU DIDN'T EVEN GET A CARD?
The Greeting Card Association expects consumers to purchase an estimated 190 million Valentine’s Day cards, making it second after Christmas. If you add in the kids’ classroom-exchange cards, it’s an estimated 1 billion.
Dawn Johnson opened DJ’s Cards & Gifts at Massillon Marketplace in December 2007 after working for a national greeting card chain store that closed.
For Valentine’s merchandise, she carries cards, jewelry, stuffed animals, candy, candles and “lots of American-made glass products.”
Things were just starting to sell in the middle of last week, but that’s typical, she said, “because (people) don’t want to buy stuff too early.”
The economy is having an effect. “I would say it’s a little sluggish.”
But there’s no telling what it will be like until Valentine’s Day itself.
“It’s the most exciting day of the year because of the men,” she said. “They will scramble until closing to get what they forgot.”
The card association says women purchase more than 80 percent of Valentine’s Day cards, typically buying early for family members and friends as well as their significant other, while men generally purchase one Valentine’s Day card and tend to shop at the last minute.
It’s still the No. 1 holiday for greeting card purchases by American men.
The best career if you want to receive Valentine’s Day cards? Elementary school teacher.
SAY IT WITH FLOWERS
Ronald “Rick” Forbes Jr., president of Canton Wholesale Floral, has 11 vans and a refrigerated truck to deliver what often amounts to more than $10,000 worth of flowers a day.
The cost of roses usually makes Valentine’s Day the single biggest monetary day, but this year it’s likely Mother’s Day will win.
“This year it’s on a Saturday, and that doesn’t help the industry a whole lot,” Forbes said, suggesting that flowers aren’t usually sent to a workplace on a weekend.
Saturday doesn’t give someone a chance to send flowers to a spouse’s workplace.
“And you’ve got the economy on top of it,” Forbes said.
Florists are being conservative and not ordering a whole lot. Plus consumers have other ways to order flowers now, including the Internet.
“Nobody seems really hopeful. Nobody’s looking for a real great (season),” he said.
With orders down, he figures to do 20 percent to 30 percent less than last Valentine’s Day.
“I think overall the floral industry is down like everybody else is,” he said. “Who knows? We may get surprised.”
WATCH THE SPARKLE
A National Retail Association survey says 16 percent of consumers plan to buy jewelry for a Valentine’s gift.
Lurene Gasser, president of Gasser Jewelers, has her doubts it will be that high.
“Maybe last year,” she said. “I’m not so sure about this year.”
Gasser said her industry has slowed, like everyone else.
“We have been steady since Christmas,” she said. A sale that’s running through Feb. 18 is keeping general merchandise customers coming in.
Affordable sterling silver heart pendants probably are the most popular Valentine’s gift, but engagement rings also pick up some steam.
And, yes, men will be coming in at the last minute.
“We will be open to help those men make a final decision,” Gasser said.
“At one o’clock they’re scrambling, ‘We need to do something.’ ”
Almost half the people surveyed by the retail association plan to dine out for Valentine’s Day, but it’s not necessarily a bonanza for the restaurant industry.
John Shaheen Sr. is executive director of the Tri-County Restaurant Association and board member of the Desert Inn, which he used to run, so he has a good handle on the business for Valentine’s Day.
“You get a lot of people going out and dining, but 70 percent of it is twos. No fours, sixes or eights,” he said.
That cuts down on sales for the restaurant and tips for the servers.
“You only get two at a table. People want to be at a table with their sweetie all alone.”
He recalls the days of the old Desert Inn.
“We only had 16 tables, and they were all filled with twos.”
Nevertheless, the weekend will be busy for restaurants.
“On Saturday, we’re always filled. People are dining out more on weekends than they are during the week because of this strange economy we’re in,” Shaheen said.
It seems as though the candy business has been fairly recession-proof.
“So far, it’s been pretty good for us,” said Dick Wollenberg, part owner of Ben Heggy’s Candy Co. at 743 Cleveland Ave. NW. “We can’t complain that much with the economy the way it is.
“We had a good Christmas, and we’re looking forward to a good Valentine’s Day and Easter.”
Heggy’s sells retail on Cleveland Avenue, but they also wholesale to others. Wholesale ordering is “about the same. It might be down a little bit,” he said.
“Chocolate’s not affected too much.”
LOVE AND ECONOMICS
Love may not conquer the economy this year, according to a National Retail Federation survey, which found that consumers plan to spend an average of $102.50 on Valentine’s gifts and merchandise, down from last year’s $122.98 per person.
Total Valentine’s Day spending is expected to reach $14.7 billion.
More than a third will buy flowers, nearly the same as last year, and 16 percent will buy jewelry, compared to 16.6 percent in 2008.
More people are expected to send greeting cards this year (58 percent vs. 56.8 percent in 2008). Others will head to their favorite restaurant (47 percent), purchase clothing (10 percent) or a gift card (11 percent).
More than 90 percent will spend the most on their spouse ($67.22), with other family members such as children getting about one-fifth of their budget ($20.95). Consumers also will spend on friends ($4.74), children’s classmates/teachers ($3.59), co-workers ($1.94) and pets ($2.17).
The 35- to 44-year-old age group will spend the most this year, with the average person planning to shell out $119.19. Young adults 18-24 will be the second biggest spenders at an average of $113.68 per person, followed by 45-54 year olds ($108.82), 25-34 year olds ($105.59), and 55-64 year olds ($83.76).
Source: National Retail Federation’s 2009 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey
GIMME THE SWEET STUFF
More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day. A survey showed that 50 percent of women will likely give a gift of chocolate to a guy.
Valentine’s Day is the fourth biggest holiday of the year for confectionery purchases (after Halloween, Easter and Christmas).
American men say they’d rather receive chocolate than flowers on Valentine’s Day, especially those over the age of 50. Sixty-eight percent of men age 50 or older say they’d prefer receiving chocolate over flowers from their sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, while just 22 percent said they’d rather have the flowers.
Source: Chocolate Manufacturers Association