Valentines looking at record spending

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Dutch Hill Chocolates used more than 400 pounds of strawberries to make their best-selling chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day this year.

Spending is expected to reach $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year. The numbers are the second highest in the 15-year history of the annual survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, topped only by the record $146.84 and $19.7 billion seen in 2016.

“Americans are looking forward to pampering and indulging their loved ones with flowers, candy, dinner and all of the other Valentine’s Day stops,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “With the holidays behind them and the winter months dragging along, consumers are looking for something to celebrate this time of year.”

Valentine’s Day 2018 has an unusual twist — it falls on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Catholics are prohibited from eating meat on Ash Wednesday.

“I’ve been here 40 years, and I don’t ever remember Valentine’s Day falling on Ash Wednesday,” said Dan Taddei, owner of the Allegro Restaurant, 3926 Broad Ave. “That may change things. It may push people into a different day.”

Nevertheless, Taddei expects to be busy.

02/06/18 By Gary M. Baranec Dutch Hill Chocolates used more than 400 lbs of strawberries to prepare for Valentine's Day.

“It is a busy night: Young lovers go out, old lovers, too, no matter what. We already have a lot of seafood items on our menu. We just have to make sure we are ready for it. We may sell more seafood and less meat, but not everyone is Catholic.”

Finelli’s Italian Villa, 1808 Fourth Ave., expects to take in a part of the $3.7 billion that’s predicted will be spent on dining out this year.

“Valentine’s Day is all about lovers. Nothing can stop them, even if it snows 2 feet. Ash Wednesday (based on the number of reservations) hasn’t seemed to deter anyone. We have a special Valentine’s Day menu featuring more romantic dinners. We will romance your appetite. There will be dishes to accommodate Catholics,” owner Frank Finelli said.

Consumers are expected to spend $4.7 billion on jewelry.

Don Beerbower, president of Beerbower Jewelers, Hollidaysburg, is optimistic.

“I expect the consuming public may be getting a little extra money from the federal government. That could improve consumer confidence. I expect business to be at least as good as in the past, if not a little better. There are fewer players in the market now,” Beerbower said.

Beerbower’s hot items include 24 karat and platinum roses, as well as heartbeat necklaces, bracelets, rings and pendants.

Sales have also been strong at Dorman’s Jewelry, 712 Pleasant Valley Blvd.

“We had a great Christmas. January was above average. Valentine’s Day is a short window for sales. This week it falls on a Wednesday, so the five or six days leading up to the holiday will be crazy,” owner Mike Dorman said. “We sell a lot of pendants, rings and earrings. Heart-shaped jewelry is popular.”

Kranich’s Jewelers in the Logan Valley Mall expects to be busy, as well.

“We are pushing a diamond heart pendant for $99. We are looking for brisk engagement ring sales, heart pendants and necklaces. We have high expectations — we had a very good Christmas season,” President Michael Kranich Jr. said.

Consumers are expected to spend about $2 billion on flowers for Valentine’s Day.

“Valentine’s Day is my number-one holiday for the entire year. I look at Valentine’s Day the way the mall looks at December,” said Debbie Arnsparger, owner of Creative Expressions Florist, 3977 Sixth Ave. “I have already had a lot of people placing orders. When I get a lot of pre-orders, I know it is going to be good.”

“Valentine’s Day is our busiest single day of the year,” said Andrea Hammel, owner of Peterman’s Flower Shop, 608 N. Fourth Ave. “I think it will be very busy because this year, it’s on a Wednesday. We should get a lot of business both the weekend before and the weekend after. It is always good for us when it falls on a weekday: People want to have flowers delivered to the workplace.”

Kerr Kreations Floral and Gift Shoppe, 1417 11th Ave., also expects to be quite busy.

“I believe it will be very busy this year. When it falls in the middle of the week, people are at work and have flowers delivered to the workplace. It is best for us when it is in the middle of the week,” manager Chelsea Kerr said.

There is no question as to what flower is most popular for Valentine’s Day:

“Roses,” Arnsparger said. “You can’t say anything about them not being number one. Red are the biggest. I sell thousands of red in comparison to hundreds of other colors.”

Consumers also are expected to spend about $1.8 billion on Valentine’s Day candy.

However, Valentine’s Day’s falling on Ash Wednesday may have an impact on candy sales.

“When Easter is early, it affects Valentine’s Day sales. Those who observe Lent often give up sweets,” said Sam Phillips, president of Tyrone-based Gardners Candies.

However, Gardners Candies will still be busy on Valentine’s Day.

“Weather permitting, and even if the weather is bad, those who have a true love will find it in their hearts to go out and buy their candy,” Phillips said.

Adam Wiley, co-owner of Bedford Candies, agrees that the timing of the holiday may have an impact on business.

“Some people may give up chocolate for Lent. We are trying to encourage people to celebrate on the 13th, Fat Tuesday,” Wiley said.

Bedford Candies sells several chocolate-covered berries.

“We do a lot of chocolate-covered strawberries, peanut butter items and melty pretzels that are covered in chocolate and peanut butter. We also do blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, but we sell more strawberries. This is just a little twist,” Wiley said.

Chocolate-covered strawberries are the big seller at Dutch Hill Chocolates, 1624 First Ave.

“Chocolate-covered strawberries are number-one for us for Valentine’s Day. We will be making them Monday through Saturday. We probably sell about 400 pounds of chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day,” owner Jerry Moore said. “We have to make them daily because they are fresh fruit. The days we make them, we come in at 1:30 a.m.”