Josh Steele of Mesa said he plans to spend the whole day and possibly as much as $200 on his girlfriend for Valentine’s Day.
“I’m planning a gift and activity, probably dinner,” Steele said. “It’s our first Valentine’s Day. I have to make an impression.”
Steele is upping his Valentine’s Day budget this year, and his expected outlay for celebrating with his new girlfriend is more than twice the national average, according to a survey released Wednesday by the International Mass Retailers Association.
The Arlington, Va.-based retail trade organization, which has been polling U.S. consumers for four years about their attitudes about Valentine’s Day gift giving, said the average person plans to spend $71.50 on the heart-focused holiday, a drop of 25 percent from a year earlier.
Even men, traditionally the biggest Valentine’s Day spenders, said they will be more frugal this year, spending an average of $89.90, a huge drop from the $125.30 they budgeted last Feb. 14.
Although the economy has been on the downside for the last few years, Valentine’s Day spending plans continued to rise according to the retailer group’s surveys. Until this year.
International Mass Retailers Association president Sandra Kennedy said this year’s Valentine’s Day survey respondents are looking for more value for their purchases and convenience.
But while they are tightening their purse strings, gift-givers still said they’ll opt for traditional favorites, with cards, candy and flowers topping the list. “It’s our single busiest day,” said Kristina Dyrr, vice president of Scottsdale-based Cactus Flowers, which has stores in Scottsdale Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix. On a typical day, Cactus Flowers fills 350 flower orders, Dyrr said. On Valentine’s Day, she is expecting 3,000. Eighty-five percent of those orders will be for roses, she said.
Dyrr said she hires about 100 extra people — nearly doubling her staff — to help take orders, assist the floral designers and deliver flowers. Dyrr said she’s not expecting Valentine’s Day sales to sag this year, but she admitted it’s too early to say for sure. That’s because it is the only holiday when most of the orders are placed by men, she said, and men tend to wait until the last minute to shop.
“Our experience is that guys will be here waiting for the doors to open on Valentine’s Day,” said Sheila Hunter, marketing director for Fiesta Mall in Mesa. “They head for the jewelry stores, card stores and lingerie stores.”
“You see waves of guys coming in all day,” Hunter said. “There are the guys waiting for the stores to open. Another bunch comes in on their lunch hour. Then the third group leaves work early and comes in about 4 p.m. It’s an interesting day. The women are here four or five days in advance.”
At Broughton’s Hallmark store in Fiesta Mall, women have been trickling in to pick out cards and gifts, said owner Karen Broughton. Valentine’s Day is the second biggest holiday — after Christmas — for card sales, she said.
“It will really start this weekend, and our biggest days will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” Broughton said. “Thursday night will be huge. And on the last two days, it will be mostly men shopping. We are anticipating sales to be equal to last year, but right now it’s just too early to tell.”
Some East Valley shoppers said they will do their part to keep Valentine’s Day retail flourishing.
Steele said he’s cut back spending in other areas because of the economy, but he won’t scrimp on Valentine’s Day.
Najwa Madi of Mesa said the same. “You have to spend for this occasion,” she said. “Valentine’s Day is love day.”
Madi plans to buy a silver chain, a watch and a card for her husband. She’s expecting flowers and a gift in return.
And Judy Brandt of Chandler buys cards for her husband, son, daughter, mothers and aunts, plus a gift or two for her husband.
“I buy what I like,” Brandt said. “I’m not changing any purchasing habits.”
Brandt is bucking other national trends, too. Forget the flowers — she’s bought her husband socks for the romantic holiday. But she said she’ll probably opt for some chocolates as a more traditional accompaniment, with the expectation that she’ll get to share the goodies.