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Second Only to Christmas for Some Merchants : Valentine's Day Means Big Business

February 13, 1986|GREG LUCAS | Times Staff Writer

For most people, Valentine's Day means a bouquet of long-stemmed roses, a box of chocolates, a tender greeting card or maybe something lacey, red and silky to slip into after dinner.

For Orange County florists, chocolatiers, card shops and lingerie outlets, Valentine's Day and the week before it mean big business. Valentine Day's sales volume generally comes in second only to Christmas for many merchants.

And this Valentine's Day, most merchants say, more shoppers will spend more money than last year.

Godiva Chocolatiers in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa does 16% of its annual sales in the three days up to and including Valentine's Day, says Mark Ratcliffe, the store's manager. Christmas shopping accounts for 25% of the store's yearly revenues.

Eilene Fletcher, owner of Sweet Sensations chocolatiers in Santa Ana, says Valentine's Day is the store's single best day of business. Volume this year is running ahead of 1985, Fletcher said, with a 300% increase over the store's average weekly sales.

At Irvine Florists Ltd., 30 temporary delivery truck drivers and two more floral designers have been hired to handle the 1,000 orders anticipated for Friday alone. The seasonal hiring binge has increased the company's normal work force to almost 60 from 19 regular employees, owner Ralph Yack said. The company is also pitching a tent to serve as a temporary dispatch center for its truck drivers.

"For the week as a whole, we'll probably handle 1,600 orders," Yack said. "That's about a 30% increase over last year."

Like Yack, Linda Visser-Nath, owner of Visser's Florist and Greenhouse in Anaheim, has hired more drivers and floral designers to meet the 1,500 to 2,000 orders she says she will handle this week. She says that she has more customers this year and that those customers are spending more money.

"Roses are very heavy," Visser-Nath said. "Valentine's Day is a rose holiday. Next in volume would be arrangements with stuffed animals. But nothing means love more than red roses."

April Kisela, manager of Lynn's Hallmark card shop in South Coast Plaza, said that while customer traffic is down, the average sale is up 15% over last Valentine's Day.

"What's selling is strictly seasonal merchandise like stuffed animals and red heart-shaped items," Kisela said. "Things geared towards a more carefree, whimsical age. Impractical stuff seems to be moving."

Customer Traffic Up

Images Hallmark owner Julian Solomons says customer traffic in his Newport Beach store is up for the week. "I had nearly 500 customers in the store Tuesday," Solomons said. "On a regular day I see 160, 170 customers."

Lingerie stores like Victoria's Secret and the Intimate Collection, both at South Coast Plaza, have experienced an increase in male customers over the last two weeks and both stores have experienced a run on red silk boxers or briefs for men.

"Business is well up from last year," said Robin Boyd, regional manager for Victoria's Secret. "We're very much a gift business and more customers seem to be discovering how special lingerie is as a gift."

While other merchants are seeing a rise in sales, See's Candy Shops Inc. will stay about even in sales compared to last Valentine's Day, said Pat Phillips, assistant general manager for the company's southern division.

"This is a different holiday than most," Phillips said, "because 80% of the buying is done by men, which means it's all last-minute shopping."

Phillips said he anticipates See's will sell about 200,000 pounds of candy in Orange County this Valentine's Day week, generating approximately $1.25 million in revenue. Increased competition for consumer dollars by florists and other specialty stores accounts for the static sales level, Phillips said.

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