For love and for money

Valentine’s Day looking sweet for retailers: Holiday should spur sales in the billions

rburris@thestate.comFebruary 13, 2013 

Parenting Valentines Day

FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES** **FILE** This Jan. 9, 2008 file photo provided by NECCO shows sayings imprinted on traditional Valentine's Day heart candies at the NECCO company headquarters in Revere, Mass. Valentine's Day has become an all-out affair for kids, one that goes far beyond the two-faced cards exchanged in grade school with a red lollipop or box of conversation hearts. (AP Photo/NECCO, Greg M. Cooper, FILE) **NO SALES**

GREG M. COOPER — ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • By the numbers $5 Increase in spending by the average consumer over last year. Shoppers are expected to spend an average of $131 this year on gifts. 2 in 5 Customers will buy a Valentine’s present for their pet this year, spending a total of $815 million. 51% Percentage of consumers who will buy chocolates and other candy. $1.9 billion Amount shoppers nationwide will spend on flowers. $95 Score a dozen roses in Columbia for less than $100. SOURCES: National Retail Federation and local merchants

Valentine’s Day is Thursday and it looks like the whole household — even the dog — is going to get in on the action.

The average shopper is looking to drop $131 this year on Valentine’s Day for gifts, cards and candy, according to BIGinsight’s annual spending survey for the holiday. That’s a modest $5 increase over last year’s average, thanks in part to rising taxes and gas prices.

But at least it’s an increase, and nobody’s complaining.

Spouses and significant others should still expect chocolates. More than half of shoppers indicated in the survey say they plan to buy candy — dropping $1.6 billion collectively — for Valentine’s Day, topping the goodies list.

Flowers, of course, remain popular, too, as 36.6 percent of survey respondents said they plan to spend a total of $1.9 billion this year for roses and other petals.

Almost 60 percent of respondents told a CBS News survey they plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, and total spending for the holiday is expected to reach $18.6 billion.

“This Valentine’s season is looking really good,” said Karen Edwards, senior retail instructor at the University of South Carolina, noting Tuesday that several key factors are lining up for retailer success, including a rebounding economy, good weather and Feb. 14 falling on a weekday.

Valentine’s Day on a weekday means people aren’t likely to have as much time for dining out and going to the movies, she said, so they’re much more likely to put more of their dollars in traditional retailing — gift buying.

Consumers are expected to spend 5.7 percent more this year than last year, compared to a projected 4 percent retail spending increase for all of 2013, Edwards said, citing National Retail Federation statistics.

Unfavorable weather can sometimes favor online holiday sales, Edwards said, while good weather mostly favors traditional brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants.

If the average Valentine’s Day shopper spends $131 on gifts, Edwards said, then adds food and entertainment costs onto the holiday, the spending impact is $240, she noted.

“So, it looks like Valentine’s Day is going to be strong,” Edwards said.

Other popular gift items this Valentine’s Day include clothing, where more than $1.6 billion in spending is expected nationally, and while it may not be necessarily romantic, gift cards, will account for another $1.5 billion of spending.

Consumers are expected to drop $815 million this year on the four-legged pet in the house.

“Valentine’s Day remains one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year, and although consumers will be conscientious with their spending, it’s great to see that millions of Americans are still looking forward to celebrating with their loved ones,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Michael Shay said in a news release.

Flowers and chocolates all have their places at Valentine’s Day, the retail experts agree, but so does “the bling” — diamonds, gold and silver — said David Withers, co-owner of Something Special Florist, now located on Main Street downtown after 35 years in Irmo. The store brought in jewelry for the first time this year and it’s selling well, he said.

“The bling is in,” Withers said.

Nationally, consumers are expected to spend more than $4.4 billion on jewelry this Valentine’s Day, according to the retail federation.

“The traditional is still the roses; that seems to be the big-selling item,” Withers said.

In the downtown market, most people this year are going for the deluxe dozen roses arrangements, Withers said, which sell for $95.

“We’re seeing an increase (in sales) in those this year, we believe, as a sign the economy is getting better,” he said.

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