The business of romance: Florists, jewelers and bakers count on Valentine's Day to bolster bottom line
Monday, February 14, 2011
His big brown eyes were almost level with the top of the glass jewelry case, 6-year-old Jonathan Meeks peered into at the entrance to KAY Jewelers on Sunday afternoon.
He was helping his dad, Michael Meeks of Benton, Mo., pick out a Valentine's Day gift for his mom.
"Money's not an option," Michael Meeks said. "I don't even look at the price anymore. Whatever she wants, she gets," said Michael Meeks.
Retailers are hoping more shoppers are thinking like Michael this Valentine's Day.
The National Federation of Retailers is predicting a 12.8 percent increase in Valentine's Day spending this year after Americans cut back on spending for the holiday in recent years. The average person will shell out $116.21 on Valentine's gifts this year, according to a NFR consumer survey. Men will spend twice as much as women.
Locally, florists, jewelry store owners and bakers say they're counting on Valentine's Day sales to bolster otherwise dreary winter sales.
"It's a nice boost in the middle of winter," said Kent Zickfield, owner of Zickfield Jewlers & Gifts in downtown Cape Girardeau. "January is always our slowest month."
With Valentine's Day falling on a Monday this year, many local retailers, including Zickfield, have modified their hours. Zickfield normally isn't open on Mondays, but will be today for last-minute valentine shoppers.
Diamond heart pendants are always popular, but every February they always sell quite a few engagement rings too, Zickfield said.
"Flowers die, chocolate gets eaten, but jewelry lasts forever," said Regan Laiben of Jayson Jewelers in downtown Cape Girardeau. "Jewelry is a keepsake that can be passed on for years through the family."
Most Valentine's Day shoppers have come in with a $100 to $200 price range in mind, she said, but some have been willing to spend more.
"Right now it doesn't appear to be as big as last year," Jayson's owner Jayne Ervin said Saturday. "But we're supposed to have good weather [today]. Some years, if we've got rain or snow storms, it just kills our Valentine's Day. People just don't get out."
At My Daddy's Cheesecake, handmade truffles and chocolate-dipped strawberries have been flying out the door by the dozen, said owner Kevin Stanfield.
"It started about midweek," Stanfield said Saturday. "Some people celebrated early over the weekend. I think [today] will be a big day for a lot of retailers."
Sales on Valentine's Day are about triple a typical day at My Daddy's, Stanfield said.
"Our busiest time is always December," he said. "January is very quiet. It's cold and everybody's out of money. The next big thing that gives us a shot in the arm is Valentine's Day."
Florists are also counting on Valentine's sales, but with a recent increase in wholesale flower prices, they say their holiday profits aren't as big as most people think.
"It's the biggest single day of the year," said Robin King, owner of Dalton Florist in Jackson. "It's not like you make a lot. You have to work so much harder."
The challenge is putting together so many specific orders and making so many deliveries all in one day. Mother's Day is actually a bigger holiday for florists, King said, but those deliveries are made throughout the week leading up to Mother's Day.
Dalton Florist stayed open Sunday working on orders and continuing to take new ones from customers.
"One guy said he hasn't sent his wife flowers in 25 years, but she came home a couple of weeks ago talking about someone at her work that got flowers. He said he put that in the back of his mind and decided he'd send her flowers for the next occasion. She's probably really going to be shocked," King said.
Red roses continue to be the most requested flower on Valentine's Day, but Kathryn Landewee of Knaup Floral said she is doing more and more custom orders.
"There are a lot more design shows now and Martha Stewarts out there educating the public on individual varieties of flowers," Landewee said. "We have a lot more requests for things like tulips and Gerbera daisies."
The third generation in her family's floral business, Landewee has seen some pretty unusual requests for Valentine's Day over the years as well.
"We had one man who was sending flowers to his ex-girlfriend who wanted long stems in a vase with a bow and everything, just no flowers," she said. "He wanted the roses cut off."
No matter what the customer wants, Landewee is making sure they get it by calling in extra staff to help with customers, floral designs and delivery. Knapp was also open Sunday, when it is normally closed.
"We have a lot of the same people that help us year after year," Landewee said. "We've had people that want to come and help us deliver on Valentine's Day just to see people's faces brighten up."
According to a Southeast Missourian online poll, 60 percent of the 126 people who voted said they plan to buy something other than the traditional flowers, jewelry, chocolates or electronics. Chocolates were the gift of choice for 20 percent of people. Nearly 9 percent planned to purchase flowers, 6 percent electronics and 4 percent jewelry.
According to the NFR, nationwide, 34.3 percent of shoppers will be buying flowers, 17.8 percent jewelry and 47.5 percent candy.
Lovers will spend $1.7 billion on flowers, $1.5 billion on candy and $1.1 billion on greeting cards this Valentine's Day the NFR survey said.
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