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Published: Sunday, 2/13/2005

Lower Valentine spending expected in Midwest

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Laurie Peraino prepares gift baskets at Ken s Flower Shop in Perrysburg. The chain hopes Valentine sales this year at least match last year s. Laurie Peraino prepares gift baskets at Ken s Flower Shop in Perrysburg. The chain hopes Valentine sales this year at least match last year s.
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Glittering gems, red roses, and other tantalizing tokens are wedged among the arrows in Cupid s quiver, but in an economy that continues to suffer the blues, few may be aimed at local targets this Valentine s Day, some local retailers say.

Fewer Midwesterners will celebrate Valentine s Day this year than last, and those who do will spend nearly $23 less on average for gifts, probably because higher energy prices and unemployment rates are hampering holiday spending, a National Retail Federation spokesman said.

At Monroe s Diamond Designs, Valentine s Day doesn t draw customers as it used to, and overall business has fallen at least 35 percent in the last 3 years, said John Tartarian, owner.

It s getting worse and worse every day, he said.

Midwesterners on average expect to spend $80 for Valentine s Day gifts, down from $103 last year and below what those in other regions will dole out, according to a retail federation survey.

The average American will spend $97 down from $99 last year as those in the Northeast lead the way with $113 on average, it said.

About 62 percent of Americans expect to celebrate tomorrow s holiday, according to the retail group. About 59 percent of Midwesterners plan to, down from 62 percent last year.

Overall, though, Valentine s Day sales are expected to reach nearly $13.2 billion nationwide this year, up from $12.8 billion, the trade group said.

Some Meijer shoppers last week said they will spend about the same this year as last, including Toledoan Celeste Oliver, who was in the chain s Maumee store looking for Valentine cards for her daughters.

Allison Riedeman of Toledo said she usually buys her sweetheart, Toledoan Gregory Durham, some candy and a Valentine. This year, she might add another item to his gift.

I might spend a little bit more since we re engaged, she said.

John Dauernheim said he is spending more on his wife, although this year s main gift is a shared one. The Delta couple are taking a week-long trip to Atlantic City. Mr. Dauernheim also plans to buy something special for his wife, Julianna, who received a heart necklace and earrings last year.

Billie Smith puts the finishing touches on chocolates at Dietsch Brothers. Billie Smith puts the finishing touches on chocolates at Dietsch Brothers.
ALLAN DETRICH Enlarge

Valentine s Day sales at Meijer s Maumee store are looking good this year as cards, candy, flowers, teddy bears, intimate apparel, and other holiday items are added to shoppers carts, said Tom Irwin, general merchandise manager.

Sales have been pretty good. Of course, this weekend will be huge for us, he said. It s really turned into a last-minute holiday.

This weekend also will be key for Perrysburg-based Ken s Flower Shops. Final sales for the holiday depend on whether customers realize the floral shops are open over the weekend so they can place traditional flower orders for women and buy the food baskets that are popular for men, said Fred Moor, co-owner.

Valentine s Day sales haven t been particularly rosy at Ken s since the late 1990s because of the local economy, he said.

We re hoping sales this year at least match last year, Mr. Moor said.

Among Midwesterners celebrating Valentine s Day, cards are the most common gift item, with 66 percent expecting to give them. Next is candy, an evening out, and flowers, according to the retail federation. Jewelry is low on the list at just 10 percent of Midwesterners celebrating.

Valentine s Day used to be the biggest holiday for Dietsch Brothers Inc. chocolates, but Christmas and Easter now are bigger for the Findlay firm s candy business, said Tom Dietsch, one of the owners.

About 20 of Dietsch s 56 employees are devoted to making candy, which can be packed in heart-shaped boxes ranging from 2 ounces to 8 pounds and contain an array that meets each recipient s tastes, Mr. Dietsch said.

Much of the business s Valentine s Day sales depend on how much candy gets made, he said.

I make everything I can until Valentine s Day, he said. I just kind of keep of keep working until I get to Valentine s, then I start on Easter.

Northwest Ohio s largest candy maker, Spangler Candy Co. of Bryan, is best known for Dum Dum Pops and other hard candies.

But Spangler started putting a bigger emphasis on its Gold Leaf chocolates nationwide about a year ago, said spokesman Diana Moore Eschhofen.

Halloween and Christmas are the biggest holidays for Spangler, but Valentine s Day is important too, Ms. Eschhofen said. This year, Spangler introduced a Dum Dum Pops Valentine Kit, which has cards and lollipops as well as stickers and a box that can be decorated for delivering and receiving Valentines, she said.

Early last week, Fifi s Restaurant in Toledo was pretty much booked for Valentine s Day, when diners will choose a five-course meal from a special menu, said owner Fifi Berry.

The roses, candy, and dining featured as part of Valentine s Day packages at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg were not popular this year, however.

Although the hotel was sold out for this weekend more than a week ago, few people opted for Valentine s Day packages, and some guests are part of convention center-related groups, a manager said.

The day on which the holiday falls plays a big part in what type of retailer will capture the hearts and wallets of Valentine s Day shoppers, some retailers said.

Ms. Berry of Fifi s said she prefers the holiday on Wednesday so overflow diners can opt for either weekend and still feel like they are celebrating.

Mr. Dietsch of Dietsch Brothers said he prefers Valentine s Day fall during the week, so consumer budgets are not drained by weekend spending.

Weekends are the worst for Ken s Flowers, although Monday is a little iffy because of the last-minute-shopping factor, Mr. Moor said.

Most people prefer sending Valentine s Day flowers to their sweethearts at work, he said.

Said Mr. Dietsch: What s good for one is not always good for another one. Everybody gets their turn.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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