Vancovuer Island’s retailers of romance are setting the mood for Valentine’s Day shoppers.
Shelves are stocked with sweet and spice in time for Feb. 14, a busy time of year for local retailers of dessert, flowers and adult novelties.
This year U.S. consumers are expected to spend $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year, with the most spent on jewelry, followed by an evening out, flowers, candy and clothing, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.
It’s a day Jim Turley, owner of Nanaimo’s Turley’s Florist, says the store has to be ready for and it’s the third busiest time of the year next to Mother’s Day and Christmas.
Most people who buy flowers are getting a gift for spouses and significant others, but siblings and mothers are also getting bouquets and while roses remain an occasion favourite, the florist shop also finds other flowers are gaining in popularity.
“We’ve heard from different surveys that have been done that fellows like to send red roses but not all ladies prefer the red roses, it’s not their No. 1 favourite flower and so we often try to suggest they do a mixed boutique to include one or two red roses if they so wish. That way the odds of getting something she likes is better,” he said.
Heart-shaped danishes, cupcakes, chocolate strawberries and cookies with puns like “my butter half” and “I love you berry much” are ready to satisfy sweet tooths at the Hearthstone Artisan Bakery.
Co-owner Hailey Mannynvali says the bakery comes up with ideas, has fun and gets to see customers’ reaction, and the pun cookies have gone over really well.
“Valentine’s for a bakery, for us, is quite a push,” she said.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory stores in Nanaimo are also dressed up for Feb. 14, offering everything from long-stemmed chocolate-dipped strawberries to heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and face and body paint.
“It’s one of our busiest times of the year, of course,” said Annette Chantree, franchise owner, who finds purchases are not always in the name of romance. The store aims to make the day a family and friend event and is seeing people buy for their children, siblings and friends.
What the shop has learned is people like their traditions.
“Last year we introduced a rose-gold diamond-shaped box, we completely ignored the traditional heart-shaped box of chocolate…and it took a lot of people aback. They were looking for the heart box. So we learned and we have both: don’t mess with tradition,” said Chantree with a chuckle.
Whispers Adult Superstore also finds Valentine’s is one of its busiest times of the year, but its clientele are less traditional.
“We have a really kinky community in Nanaimo, let’s say, so usually it’s real high-ticket items that go this time, stuff that’s $150 or more,” said store manager Julie Browett, who expects some customers to spend $500-600 for gifts for Valentine’s.
The Fifty Shades of Grey books and movies have made people curious, and Browett said her store has products from Island company Bound2Please, which made props for the movie like the cuffs and whips and the store sells a lot. There are also mini kits, with items like massage oil, that come in Valentine’s-themed boxes that people can take to a hotel room.
People are spending, but it’s not $5,000 on a romantic getaway, Browett said – they are creating their getaway at home.
“Either that or they’re doing little getaways like going to Tofino … so they are going to grab some new lingerie and maybe some new toys and maybe some massage oils and stuff to take on a mini trip.”