Love and money

Thursday, February 14, 2002

The deepest confines of the human heart know no recession.

At least that's how a Valentine's Day card writer might sum up the situation.

In regular speak, that just means people will be shelling out the big bucks for their sweeties today despite the firm grip the recession holds on the country.

A recent National Retail Federation survey claims that consumers plan to spend an average of $95 on Valentine's Day gifts this year, up from $83 last year.

"I do it for love and tradition," said Cape Girardeau resident Robert Hente, who bought a dozen roses for his girlfriend Wednesday. "I don't want to let her down, recession or not."

Businesses are banking on similar sentiments from others.

Valentine's Day is a big deal for both the floral and candy industries. This year in the U.S., candy sales alone should top $1 billion -- including 36 million boxes of chocolate. Another 110 million roses will be bought today.

"It's the biggest day of the year for us," said Kathy Brauss, owner of Bloomin' Balloons & Flowers in Cape Girardeau. "We're on the phone all the time, there are people in here all the time. What day's bigger?"

Fewer weekday options

That the holiday falls on a weekday will also help, said Joyce Kuntze, who owns Arrangements by Joyce.

"That's when our really good Valentine's Days are," she said. "When it's on the weekend, there are too many other options. They can go to a dinner or a movie. But no matter what, it's certainly a tremendous boost."

Kuntze said she does more business on Valentine's Day than she typically does in a month. She brings in six extra delivery people and two others to help out in the shop.

Carlton Cards at Westfield Shoppingtown West Park said that they sold 277 Valentine's Day cards on Tuesday alone. Valentine's Day will more than double the week's business, said manager Tammy Fluegge.

"People will be in here looking for cards and gifts until we close on Valentine's night," she said.

Some couples are a little more adventurous. Victoria's Secret, which specializes in lingerie, sees increased business around Feb. 14.

"We definitely do," said store manager Carol Burford. "A lot of men come in and have a good idea of what they're shopping for, but a lot of men come in clueless. We have to help them out."

How about dinner?

The more sheepish might just be thinking about a nice dinner. But they might want to call ahead, as many upscale restaurants might be booked already.

That's the case at Mollie's and the Royal N'Orleans, both owned by John and Jerri Wyman. Jerri Wyman said there is a waiting list, but she noted that 99 percent of those who made reservations likely will show up.

Jerri Wyman said that restaurants don't live and die by Valentine's Day like some businesses, but she said it's a big day for them, too.

"It is second only to New Year's Eve as for as the number of people and the importance of the event," she said. "Tons of people will be going out to eat."

They will be giving out chocolate-covered strawberries at the N'Orleans and long-stemmed roses to the female customers at Mollie's.

"For us, it's not just about getting people in the door," she said. "We think it's a special holiday."

So does Eric Krauss, who bought flowers for his wife and 7-year-old daughter Wednesday. Krauss met his wife on Valentine's Day more than 11 years ago.

"It's always been a special day for me and my wife," he said. "And I like to get my daughter something, too, so she doesn't feel left out."

But not everyone feels so sentimental, saying Valentine's Day has fallen victim to the same disease that has plagued Christmas for years: commercialism.

"It's pointless," said Summer Smith, a 19-year-old from Thebes, Ill. "But we feel obligated to participate because people expect it."

Smith was shopping for a Valentine card for her boyfriend of two months.

"I'm just falling into the tradition like everybody else," she said with a sigh.

Tonya Stanton of Murphysboro, Ill., doesn't consider herself a fan of Valentine's Day either, even though she works for Beautiful Roses.

That Murphyboro-based business sets up a mobile shop -- a truck loaded with roses -- on William Street. It picks up markedly around Valentine's Day and had men lined up at one point Wednesday.

By early Wednesday afternoon, they had already sold 114 dozen roses at $20 a dozen. But it's not a day Stanton dwells on, other than how it affects her work.

"It's a nice day, a sweet day, but I'm not a flower kind of girl," she said in between sales. "But don't you think every day should be love day? Why is it just one day of the year we tell people how we feel?"

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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