Counting on Cupid

Local merchants hope a California industry research firm is correct that spending on Valentine’s Day will increase 3.2 percent over last year.

Los Angeles-based IBISWorld forecasts spending on expensive gifts like jewelry and dining out will rise but more traditional items like candy and flowers will be the real winners.

“Although overall spending will increase slightly, consumers are still watching their wallets, and spending on expensive items will suffer as a consequence,” said IBISWorld analyst Lauren Setar. “Valentine’s Day purchases are expected to trend toward conventional gifts giving candy and flowers an edge this year.”

Flower sales are expected to increase about 5.7 percent.

“The one thing I have learned by being in business for 15, 16 or 17 years is how the economy goes up and down and regardless of how much people complain when it comes to flowers and holidays, and this being the most important holiday, they find a way to deal with it,” said Debbie Arnsparger, owner of Creative Expressions Florist, Altoona.

Arnsparger said Valentine’s Day is her top holiday of the year for sales.

She said arrangements are her best seller, but roses are the biggest volume seller because they are typically sold in multiples.

Other florists also expect to sell plenty of roses.

“We have about 4,500 roses on reserve from our growers. Roses are always the biggest seller for Valentine’s Day. They are the age old symbol of love,” said Andrea Hammel, owner of Peterman’s Flower Shop, Altoona.

Dawn Amrhein, owner of Sunrise Floral and Gifts, Altoona, also is expecting to sell a lot of roses.

“Girls really look forward to their roses. It is the one time of the year that they expect them,” Amrhein said.

IBISWorld also predicts that candy sales will increase 4.3 percent over last year.

Don Ruggery Jr., operator of McIntyre’s Candies, Altoona, said he has a lot of pre-orders for chocolate-covered strawberries but isn’t sure that will translate into a 4.3 percent increase.

“The largest percent of our sales for chocolate-covered strawberries will be on the 12th through the 14th,” he said. “The vast majority of our Valentine’s Day sales will happen then.”

Dutch Hill Chocolates, Altoona, also expects to sell a lot of chocolate-covered strawberries.

Owner Jerry Moore said the company will make a lot of them on Feb. 13 and 14.

“We will start at 3 or 4 a.m. and be busy until seven o’clock at night. You don’t have to order in advance, but it makes it easier for us,” Moore said. “People really like them for Valentine’s Day. They are what people want – that special item.”

Gardner’s Candies, Tyrone, also expects a busy Valentine’s Day season.

President Sam Phillips said Gardner’s is coming off its best season ever, and he expects it to continue through Valentine’s Day and Easter.

“Easter and Christmas make up about 70 percent of our sales. We live for those holidays. Valentine’s Day is a very busy one or two days, a nice bump,” he said.

Local restaurants are expecting good crowds.

Frank Finelli, owner of Finelli’s Italian Villa, Altoona, said he is expecting close to a record this year.

“I am expecting to fill up pretty good. We celebrate it all week. Not everyone wants to go out on Valentine’s Day,” Finelli said. “The weather has nothing to do with turnout. We had a lot of snow on Feb. 14 a few years ago and no one canceled. It is hard to stop lovers when they want to get out. Our restaurant says romance.”

Owner Dan Taddei of The Allegro Restaurant, Altoona, said the restaurant is always filled on Valentine’s Day and he is expecting with the holiday falling on a Thursday, that Friday and Saturday night will fill up too.

“It is always great. Thank God for Valentine’s Day,” he said. “This is my 35th year here, and I know what to expect.”

Local jewelry stores are also looking for lots of sales.

Jewelry is always a good Valentine’s Day gift.

Don Beerbower, co-owner of Beerbower’s Jewelry, Hollidaysburg, said one of the benefits of jewelry is the good feelings it elicits every time you wear it.

“Diamond earrings are always popular,” he said. “Sterling silver is more popular than ever. Most people spend in the $100, $125 and $150 range. People do not break the bank for Valentine’s Day.”

Kranich’s Jewelers also expects to have a successful Valentine’s Day. Michael Kranich Jr., president, said the stores sell a lot of engagement rings for the holiday, and diamond heart pendants are also popular.

“We look at it as a two-week season, but the busiest days are the last couple of days before the holiday, just like at Christmas,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.