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Valentine’s expenses: Jewelry, a night out get most Valentine’s Day dollars

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Most consumers buy candy and cards, but that’s a small portion of the $17 billion.

By Todd Martin

Flowers, cards and candy have been keeping men out of trouble on Valentine’s Day since Charles, Duke of Orleans, penned the first note to his wife in 1420 – “I am already sick of love my very gentle Valentine…”

It’s not exactly Hallmark material these days, but that note kicked off a holiday that today is a nearly $17 billion industry, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2014 Valentine’s Day spending survey.

“Valentine’s Day will continue to be a popular gift-giving event, even when consumers are frugal with their budgets,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Consumers can expect Cupid’s holiday to resemble the promotional holiday season we saw just a few months ago, as retailers recognize that their customers are still looking for the biggest bang for their buck.”

The survey notes that the average person plans to spend almost $134 on candy, cards, dinner and gifts, up slightly from about $131 last year.

And although the old standbys of candy, cards and flowers will garner the most attention, the most money will be spent on jewelry and evenings out.

Jewelry dominates the dollar figures, with nearly $4 billion in sales for the holiday this year, the NRF predicts.

“Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are the biggest behind Christmas,” said Carol Lucas Strickland, with Carol & Company Fine Jewelry on Midland Trail in Shelbyville. “We like to say that flowers die, and chocolate just goes to your hips, but jewelry creates memories and heirlooms that can be passed down.”

The percentage of those purchasing jewelry for Valentine’s Day has outpaced other traditional gifts, with almost 19 percent of those buying gifts finding something with sparkles, up almost 3.5 percent from 2006. And what their spending has increased almost 15 percent, with an average of $162.

“Pandora [rings, bracelets, necklaces and earings] has made it very easy for men, and it leaves a very good impression,” Strickland said.

But she said that her store tries to help shoppers find exactly what their special person wants.

“We have a wish list, so women can come in and look around, and when they see something they like, we add it to their list,” she said. “That way you can chose from a few things that you know she wants. It makes it a no-brainer, and we’ll even wrap it for you.”

And it’s not just shopping for wives and mothers.

“We have several items for men, too,” Strickland said. “Mostly we’ll sell watches, but we do quite a bit of bracelets and chains, as well. And for those that dress up, we have several tie-tacks and cuff links.”

Along with jewelry. an evening out, including dinner, continues to gain popularity.

“Holidays in general are big for us, and we’re totally booked up [on Friday],” said Bob Andriot, owner of Bell House Restaurant on Main Street in Shelbyville. “It’s always special for us, and I think this will be our biggest [Valentine’s Day] yet.”

And there’s good reason to think that.

According to the NRF, the percentage of people planning to go out has increased almost every year from 2006, with 37 percent of people planning to go out this year. And the amount they expect to spend has increased as well. Consumers plan to spend almost 10 percent more this year, for an average of $74.19, than in 2006. And much of that can be because of the extra effort being put out by restaurants.

“We try make holidays special, and for Valentine’s Day we put together a special menu, put out the white table clothes, have a lot of candles – we try to dress the restaurant up,” Andriot said. “For those people that want to stay in Shelbyville and have a nice dinner, we want to show them how much we appreciate it.”

This year’s menu combines classics like prime rib with more exotic fare like sea bass, and desserts like chocolate silk pavlova and lemon raspberry sorbet.

“I think this is our busiest night, even more so than New Year’s Eve,” Andriot said. “Mother’s Day brunch may have the biggest numbers, but this is the biggest night. It’s a special night for what we like to do.”