Belfast Telegraph

Consumer: Valentine's Day - Love is still big business

By Claire McNeilly

Are you planning anything special this Valentine's Day – or is that a thing of the past? Yes, where DID all the love go? Is February 14 now just the preserve of giggly teenagers or older generations seeking some twilight romance?

Or has the recession simply put paid to institutionalised gift-giving?

A poll conducted in Belfast Telegraph Towers produced varied results, with the cynical majority choosing to sit on the fence.

However, experts say the Feast of Saint Valentine – not to mention all its trimmings – is going from strength to strength.

University of Ulster retail analyst Donald McFetridge refutes any assertion that Cupid's festivities could be on on their last legs.

"Valentine's Day is extremely important for retailers and most people are as interested in it as ever," he said.

In fact, if anything, consumer spending ahead of the big day has been soaring, according to Magheralin businesswoman Imelda Truesdale.

The card and gift designer, based at Studio Souk in the newly opened Spires Mall in Belfast city centre, claims February 14 is getting bigger and bigger.

"It's no longer just a day for couples and people aren't just buying gifts for their partners anymore," the 38-year-old entrepreneur said.

"It's amazing how many parents buy Valentine's cards dedicated to their sons and daughters, while a lot of people buy presents and cards for their friends.

"I also quite often see some individuals buying cards for their wives or husbands, alongside others dedicated to 'The One I Love'..."

This year Northern Ireland is expected to spend over £45m on Valentine's Day (up by £8m in 2013), with the average spend per person hitting £55.70, according to new research by gift buying website AskHerFriends.com.

It said the surprise non-spenders in 2014 will be married couples, with 39% of those surveyed planning on not spending anything at all.

That compares with 29% for those living with their partner and 23% for those not living together.

But here's the good news: you don't need to spend a fortune if you feel like showing someone special how much you care on Friday (actually, you don't have to spend anything at all if you're taking a stand against schmaltz and commercialism).

But there are plenty of discounted cards, chocolates, flowers and meals on offer as eager retailers go all-out in their efforts to seek your custom.

Money can't buy you love, but a little effort in mid-February will always be appreciated and, if you're lucky, S.W.A.L.K.

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So, what's your story? Let us know if you have any consumer concerns. Contact: cmcneilly@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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