Valentine's Day time to love for retailers
T S Eliot wrote of April as being "the cruellest month". Personally, I think it's February, as shopkeepers generally find it one of the quietest in the retail calendar.
But all that looks set to change because this Sunday is Valentine's Day and retailers are keen to cash in on the only retail opportunity between Christmas and Mother's Day.
While a recent survey found that many consumers have become jaded with the event, it has already been predicted that we will still spend in excess of £980m, which is £15m more than was spent in 2015.
Improved consumer confidence and the fact that the occasion falls on a Sunday this year provides a tremendous boost to the overall Valentine's Day spend - and retail sales in general.
This year partners and spouses are set to benefit from the uplift in consumer confidence, which is beginning to filter through in terms of consumer sentiment, with real wage growth outstripping inflation and consumers finding themselves with higher levels of disposable income.
It has to be borne in mind that retail prices will be slightly higher this year if chocolate is the gift of choice, as the price of cocoa has been rising steadily due to short supply as a result of the dry weather and production shortages in Ghana, where 17% of the world's crop is grown.
Red roses - another perennial favourite - have always traditionally been more expensive on Valentine's Day. Many florists complain that they have to participate in bidding wars in order to procure sufficient quantities of roses that lead to a rise in price, which (they say) leaves them with very little profit in real terms.
So, it appears that consumers will have to splash the cash in order to be able to purchase a gift that will appeal to their chosen one.
However, this year it's not just the 'Big Four' supermarkets who will be trying to get us to shop in their stores. Lidl, Poundland and B&M have all extended their Valentine's Day ranges in anticipation of coining in, in a month that tends to be a bit dull and dreary otherwise.
- Donald C McFetridge is a retail analyst at Ulster University