Belfast Telegraph

Why Valentine's Day gives troubled retailers heart

In 2012's stormy economic climate, a little love can go a very long way for businesses, says Donald C McFetridge

It appears, from recent reports and trade statistics, that retailers this year are set for good sales on an otherwise bleak horizon with the arrival of Valentine's Day.

This spells good news for retailers here and in other parts of the UK and Ireland, who have been struggling for survival after a mediocre Christmas and a difficult January.

Rosalind David, a retail performance analyst at Land Securities, has reported that sales are well up on last year and has commented that: "Restaurants are fully booked with growing waiting lists for the day."

She has also pointed out that sales of jewellery, health and beauty products and spa days are selling well, demonstrating growth on 2011.

That pattern is also being borne out here. Soundings taken from retailers across a wide variety of sectors throughout the province have shown that there has been a perceptible "rise in interest" over the past week or so and many are hoping this will herald the start of consumers coming back to the high street to spend their hard-earned cash.

While Hallowe'en now outstrips Valentine's Day in terms of sales figures for retailers such as Tesco, it is not to be under-estimated as an important date in the calendar.

Last year, Tesco took more than £55m in sales from Hallowe'en products compared with £28m for Valentine's Day, £37m for Mother's Day and £20m for Father's Day.

Christmas is traditionally a £320m event for the company while Easter normally yields sales in excess of £110m with vast amounts of chocolate and Easter eggs contributing to this statistic. Still, £28m for one company alone is not to be sniffed at!

Valentine's Day, I predict, will be the first sign of any serious spending since Christmas and retailers globally are keen to take advantage. It will, of course, be followed next month by St Patrick's Day, Mother's Day on March 18 and Easter.

Hopefully this will spell the start of some good news for our retail sector after a difficult 2011. No wonder many are feeling slightly perkier!

Retailers I've spoken to over the past weekend have reported increased interest - and sales - in jewellery, restaurant meals and hotel bookings with some saying they are booked out on the night.

Nationally jewellers, florists, chocolatiers, greetings card retailers, restaurants and hotels have all been reporting an unexpectedly welcome surge in trade over the past weekend and many are hopeful that it will peak today which traditionally sees a last-minute rush.

Fragrance counters have also reported increased sales nationally and locally during the past week - with the arrival (specially for the day) of many new lines in both male and female fragrance products and heavy advertising campaigns.

What is very apparent this year is that it's not just the jewellers, florists and chocolatiers who are keen to cash in on Valentine's Day. Pizza companies, insurance companies and telephone companies are also trying to get their share of the prize.

Pizzas are being promised in heart shapes with special messages in toppings; insurance companies are urging us to ensure that we've insured our loved ones well for the day and mobile telephone companies are encouraging us to be in contact with our Valentine's lovers.

It appears that just about every retail sector is trying to get in on the act and many have asked the question: is this a case of us finally embracing the romantic idyll? I very much doubt it. It's much more likely that it's merely a result of retailers trying to take advantage of every 'special' day between now and Christmas 2012.

Sadly, I've been a victim of the upsurge. I was planning a romantic dinner for two but unfortunately the restaurant was booked out. Sorry darling! Next weekend perhaps?

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