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Retailers to See Some Flowering on Feb. 14

Valentine’s Day spending is not where San Diegans choose to pinch pennies, despite economic uncertainties, retailers say.

Jim Martin, owner of Windy’s Flowers on Genesee Avenue for 35 years, says about 20 percent of his annual sales are generated in February.

“I don’t think husbands and boyfriends are going to skimp on flowers for their significant others, if they know what’s best for them,” Martin said.

Still, Martin says, lagging winter holiday sales indicate a relatively flat year ahead.

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According to a recent National Retail Federation survey on consumer intentions, 36 percent of the respondents polled said they plan to buy flowers this year.

The survey found that respondents plan to spend an average of $122.98 on Valentine’s Day, similar to last year’s $119.67. Total U.S. spending is expected to reach $17.02 billion on Feb. 14.

However, Harold Krasner, of downtown’s Harold Stevens Jewelers, says his store doesn’t cater to the average Valentine’s Day shopper, so the date’s not as important to him as it is to other retailers.

“Our $100 to $200 price range is much more limited than more expensive pieces, so most people don’t seek us out since we’re a destination site away from the malls,” Krasner said.

However, he says one customer purchased a watch this month for $3,500 for the occasion.

Still, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that $2.5 billion worth of jewelry was sold in February 2007.

Kathy White, owner of Enhancery Jewelers in Mission Valley, says that 2008 is already proving to be a big engagement year, and she usually sees a spike in couples seeking rings in February.

“We had lots of engagements at the end of last year, and I sold five engagement rings in the first week of February,” said White, who says her sales are up 15 percent this year over last.

Some of Enhancery’s most popular items this season include chocolate pearls and 24-karat gold life-size roses, which sell for $69.

The spiraling price of gold bullion, which www.monex.com quoted at $909 an ounce on Feb. 7, may mean that some customers will be looking for more affordable alternatives, says Brian Madsen, general manager for Robbins Bros. in Mission Valley.


Go Palladium?

“If customers want quality that is similar to platinum but less expensive, a good alternative is palladium,” said Madsen. He says that palladium and platinum metals are in the same family, and palladium has grown in popularity in the past three years or so.

Robbins Bros.’ patented MSID (Mr. Smith’s Incredible Diamond) gems are cut so that their reflections give the illusion that each diamond is 15 percent larger.

“In today’s economy, people are looking for ways to stay within their budgets,” Madsen said.

Steve Davolt, a regional marketing executive for Ben Bridge Jeweler, says that if Christmas is a mountain, Valentine’s Day is a hill.

“It’s hard to say if February is a bigger month for us than say May or June, which are usually heavy engagement months,” Devolt said.

Carlos Arragan has been general manager at the Ben Bridge Jeweler store in Fashion Valley for more than 10 years and says one thing hasn’t changed; males shopping for their sweeties are procrastinators.

“The mostly male shoppers that we have during the month of February come flooding in during the three days before Valentine’s Day. Those are the busiest days for us,” said Arragan.

Sticking to the classics is the choice of customers year in and year out on Feb. 14, says florist Martin. The best-selling flower will always be red roses, he says.

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