Valentine’s timing may help sales

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Valentine’s Day falls on Sunday this year, but restaurants and florists expect lovebirds to start celebrating Friday.
Florists in Northeast Mississippi say they are preparing for their busiest day of the year. Rita Suchanick, owner of West Heights Flowers and Gift Shop in Tupelo, has five delivery drivers scheduled for Friday, compared to one driver on a typical day.
Even though the actual holiday is Sunday, she expects florists will see the rush Friday.
“Men like to have their flowers delivered to their wives at work,” Suchanick said.
But for the men who don’t plan ahead, the later holiday gives them an opportunity to redeem themselves with their women, said Brenda Shumpert, owner of Bishop’s Flowers and Gifts in Tupelo.
If the men forget to send flowers Friday, they can do it Saturday or Sunday, Shumpert said.
“It gives the man a second chance to fix it,” Shumpert said.
Bishop’s and West Heights both will open on Sunday to help out any stragglers.
Many restaurants also will open Sunday.
The Downtown Grill in Oxford is booked solid Saturday and Sunday nights. The Chocolate Bar in Oxford also is getting reservations for chocolate fondue dates on Sunday. And in Tupelo, Woody’s Steakhouse is filling up for dinner on Saturday and Sunday.
“Valentine’s Day is the highest traffic day we have,” said Feather Burns, owner of Woody’s. “It beats New Year’s Eve.”
She said the timing this year will help her business because diners spread out their celebrating during the weekend.
“It used to be that everybody had to go on Valentine’s Day, but people got smarter,” Burns said.

Which day is better?
As far as Valentine’s Day falling on a weekday or a weekend, different businesses have their preferences.
Burns said her restaurant typically does better with the holiday on the weekend.
“It’s easier to go out on a Friday than on a Wednesday because they don’t have to go to work the next morning,” Burns said.
But the sales at the restaurants may come at the expense of florists, some say.
“Valentine’s Day is ideal on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,” Suchanick said. “If it falls on a weekend, they will order on Fridays, but we always say they would rather take their wives out to dinner.”
Added Shumpert, “A lot of folks are more concerned when it’s on a weekend.”
Shumpert acknowledged that many of her colleagues would prefer a weekday holiday, but for her business, she thinks she makes more money with a weekend holiday because she gets the Friday deliveries, plus walk-in business on Saturday and Sunday.
“I want it on Friday … You want it the day they have money,” she said.
And this year, Bishop’s has added a drive-through tent with “recession ready” gifts such as a $10 rose in a box. She hopes the lower price points and added convenience will help drum up businesses.
Doris Moffitt, owner of House of Flowers in Ripley, also said she likes the weekend timing of the holiday.
“It’s better,” she said. “It’s three days instead of all in one day.”
The timing of Valentine’s Day doesn’t matter for jewelry sales, said Patti Thompson, owner of Way-Fil Jewelry in Tupelo.
She expects Saturday will be the busiest day of the week, but so far, “sales have been great.”
Valentine’s Day is the store’s third busiest time of the year, behind Christmas and Mother’s Day. She said she sells a lot of engagement rings and pearls for Valentine’s Day.
She’s also been seeing customers adjust to spending constraints.
“They still want to do something that’s personal and special,” she said. “They may not be able to afford a $5,000 diamond ring, but they can afford a $15 charm.”
The spending trends from this year to last year, she said, have done a 180-degree turn.
“This time last year, there just wasn’t anything I could think of to motivate people,” she said. “(Now), people are resigned to the economy downturn and want to do something or things are just better. … It’s a happy time. I like Valentine’s Day.”

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

Can’t buy love
According to the National Retail Federation, couples will spend an average of $63.34 on gifts for their significant other, compared to $67.22 last year.
The average person will shell out $103 on traditional Valentine’s Day merchandise, similar to last year’s $102.50.
Total holiday spending is expected to reach $14.1 billion, according to NRF.
The most popular ways to celebrate, according to NRF, are an evening out or through giving gifts.
Traditional gifts such as cards, candy and flowers are the most popular items for Valentine’s Day. Other popular gifts include jewelry and practical items such as winter clothing.
As in previous years, men will spend nearly twice the amount women spend on the holiday. The average man plans to spend $135.35 to impress the people in his life while women expect to spend $72.28.