Despite an icy winter storm headed toward the area, local merchants are still seeing Valentine’s Day shoppers sharing the love.
In the days preceding Friday’s holiday, stores have been attracting consumers in search of the perfect gift for their significant other, whether it is something sparkly, sweet or in full bloom.
Susan Bone, the owner of Ladybug’s Flowers and Gifts in Evans, started prepping for Valentine’s Day two weeks ago and hired about 20 extra staffers to help her process orders, make deliveries and design floral arrangements.
Some bouquets, however, are set for early delivery Wednesday and Thursday, leaving Bone to fear that weather could play a factor.
“Naturally, I worry, but there’s not anything I can do to change it,” she said. “We will do the best we can, and our customers usually understand if something like this happens.”
Bone said customer traffic inside the store and by phone Tuesday afternoon were good. A dozen roses, in a variety of colors, and boxes of chocolate and teddy bears have been popular choices, she said.
“We do a lot of roses, but we do a lot of mixed arrangements, too,” Bone said.
At Bush’s Flower Shop in North Augusta, manager Larry Anderson has hired eight extra drivers to meet the surge in floral deliveries Friday. Anderson acknowledged that he’s slightly disconcerted by the weather forecast, which calls for treacherous traveling, but feels the brunt of the hazardous weather will be over in time for Valentine’s Day.
The cold temperatures also have a built-in benefit for Anderson.
“It’s good for it to be cool,” Anderson said. “The flowers last longer. When it gets too hot, they bow out too quick and don’t last as long. When it’s nice and cool, it’s an advantage to the florist.”
Floral bouquets, candy and greeting cards will continue to top the list as the most popular Valentine’s Day purchases this year, according to a holiday survey by the National Retail Federation.
The federation predicts, on average, that shoppers will spend about $133.91 on presents, with men spending twice as much as women on their loved ones.
Anderson said he expects his proceeds from Valentine’s Day to increase tenfold. Red roses are still the biggest driver at the shop, but he also sells gift and fruit baskets, candy arrangements and personal monogrammed items.
Anderson started placing orders with his distributors in November and said he’s got about a month’s worth of flowers stored in coolers specifically for Valentine’s Day. He expects his biggest rush to come Thursday and Friday, but he said he sees more people making their purchases days early.
“All the retailers put the stuff out so early now,” Anderson said. “People are just aware of it so they have started ordering earlier, which is good for me. I can have a plan in advance.”
According to the retail federation, jewelry purchases will make up about $3.9 billion of the $17.3 billion total spending.
“It’s fairly evenly split among a pendant and a ring,” said Don MacNeil, the marketing director of Windsor Fine Jewelers in Augusta.
MacNeil said a good portion of ring purchases are made by men planning to pop the question to their girlfriends.
Valentine’s Day, he said, ranks third behind Christmas and Mother’s Day as the busiest holidays for the jewelry store on Washington Road.
“It’s a procrastinator’s paradise,” MacNeil said. “What we traditionally have seen is that the extraordinary spender has thought a lot about this and is in, in plenty of time. As you get closer and closer to the average guy, the closer to the day you get.”
Chocolatier Bebette Smith agreed with MacNeil that many men wait until the last minute to pick up their Valentine’s Day gifts.
“Men don’t prepare,” said Smith, who runs the handcrafted Belgian chocolate store La Bonbonniere. “They’re going to realize that Friday is the 14th. That is when we’re going to have a line outside the door.”
Most of the orders that have been made in advance are for chocolate-dipped strawberries and chocolate heart boxes filled with assorted chocolate candies, she said.
Smith also predicted that many couples will wait until the weekend to celebrate.
“I expect Saturday to be a good day as well,” she said.