Radana Shanahan was sleeping when she received a frantic phone call last year on the eve of Valentine’s Day. A customer from her chocolate shop, La Maison de Bonbon, was desperate for five boxes of specialty sweets and needed them delivered overnight to be enjoyed on this most romantic of holidays.
But Tim Shanahan, Radana’s husband and business partner, doesn’t remember the request as being particularly heartfelt.
“Five different [boxes] for five different girlfriends,” Tim Shanahan said. The treats were mailed to all corners of the U.S., including Florida, New York, Texas and California. He never got the full story, but Shanahan suspects the guy may have been an airline pilot.
“They were girlfriends. He made it very clear they were for his women,” Shanahan said.
Regardless of the sincerity in the gesture, chocolates and candy sell on Valentine’s Day and La Maison de Bonbon expects some 20 percent of its yearly revenue to float through the door on fluttering hearts this week. Behind the winter holiday season, said Shanahan, cupid’s arrow brings in the largest single portion of the store’s sales.
Other specialty shops also look to Feb. 14 to perk up the winter doldrums, florists and greeting card retailers among them. Nationwide, spending on Valentine’s Day this year is projected to top $17 billion, according to a survey conducted by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation. Between flowers, dinner and other holiday staples, the average person will spend $123 celebrating Valentine’s Day this year, up slightly from the $120 average of 2007, according to the survey.
Dixie Paugh, a third-generation owner of the flower shop Quitsch Florist on Madison Street, said Valentine’s Day seems to get bigger and bigger each year. Marketing and peer pressure likely play a big role in that growth, she said, because people try and outdo one another. Women like the attention, and men are starting to catch on that Feb. 14 rolls around every year.
“I have to say, I think men are getting better,” Paugh said.
Roses are always in demand on Valentine’s Day, but consumers are buying other flowers, as well. Paugh said she no longer sells thousands of roses like she did seven or eight years ago and at Moss Modern Flowers, also on Madison Street, customers rarely look for roses.
“I gotta tell you, I do a minimal amount of roses here,” Moss owner Chris Deoghegan said. “We do more fun, funky flowers.”
Deoghegan will order only 50 to 75 roses for the Valentine’s Day rush. Her customers have embraced the store’s non-traditional style, which has a heavy Asian influence, and look for customized arrangements that will last longer than roses might.
“The more unusual, the better,” Deoghegan said.
On the more unusual side of Valentine’s Day gifts, Jim Nadeau was once paid $1,000 to freeze a fur coat in an 800-pound block of ice and deliver it to a woman’s front yard. At Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures on Roosevelt Road, Nadeau typically gets a few requests each year for small boxes as a creative touch to a hopeful suitor’s marriage proposal. A ring box can be carved in 30 minutes for about $50, said Nadeau, which is ideal for late shoppers.
“Guys are notorious last minute creatures,” Nadeau said.