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Love and money

KALAMAZOO — Retailers are hoping more Valentine’s Day red this year — roses, wrapped gifts and boxes of candy — will mean more green.

Purveyors of flowers, jewelry and candy say they are expecting better sales this year versus last because of an improvement in the economy.

Some store owners who are not usually open on Sunday said they plan to be open to accommodate last-minute Valentine’s Day shoppers.

“For the last few days, sales have been up a little,” Rosemary Herder, of Heilman’s Nuts and Confections in Kalamazoo, said Thursday.

Herder co-owns the business with her husband, Dan.

Strawberries dipped in chocolate and dark chocolate caramels are expected to help Heilman’s reach a 25 percent increase in sales this Valentine’s Day compared to 2010.

“I think a lot of people are seeing that the economy is getting better,” Herder said, “but Valentine’s Day encourages them to think about others.”

The average sale at Heilman’s thus far has been 1-pound and 1.5-pound boxes of chocolates or strawberries. Come Monday, Herder said she expects to be “real busy,” but she won’t be open on Sunday because that’s a day of rest for her and her husband.

Pam Porritt, owner of Plainwell Flowers, said she will open her shop on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to avoid the “Monday craziness.”

“There will be no deliveries, but we’ll be taking orders and doing cash and carry,” Porritt said.

While the economy may be getting better in certain areas, Porritt said she doesn’t think florists are feeling it just yet. She said she thinks many people still see flowers as a luxury item. But she hopes her shop will do as well as it did last Valentine’s Day.

“What we’re seeing with customers is they may not be able to afford or want to spend money on a dozen roses ($80 at Plainwell Flowers),” she said. “We’re seeing them order smaller arrangements between $35 and $40, and some people are coming in to buy a single rose or a box of candy.”

Fellow florist Charlie Schafer said he expects his average sale this Valentine’s Day to range from $50 to $75.

“Most people still love the red roses,” said Schafer, who owns Schafer’s Flowers on Stadium Drive. “Whether they buy one rose or 100, they’re still treated the same. For those who prefer something else, we’ve got over 200 varieties of flowers.”

Sales were up 3 percent last year for Schafer, who said he’s looking for a “good 5 to 10 percent increase” this year. He said his store will be open Sunday to take care of last-minute customers.

“We do half or more of our business during the last one or two days,” Schafer said. “It is one of the largest floral holidays there are.”

He said florists do better when Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday “because if it’s a Saturday or Sunday, people tend to go spend money on dinner or movie.”

For Elie Abou-Rjeileh, store manager at Medawar Jewelers, on South Westnedge Avenue, the day of the week makes no difference as far as he knows. Last Valentine’s Day, he said last-minute shoppers took numbers and stood in a line that snaked around his store.

On Thursday, Abou-Rjeileh said there had been steady traffic all day, and he expected an increase leading up to and on Monday. He said the store will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“Last year was an exceptional Valentine’s Day, but we’re already ahead of last year in day-to-day sales,” Abou-Rjeileh said.

Carrying exclusive rights to the Pandora jewelry line in the Kalamazoo area and the addition of Ice Watches to Medawar’s product lineup has helped boost the store’s sales, he said. While people are still willing to purchase an engagement ring for about $15,000 for their Valentine, Abou-Rjeileh said they can just as easily buy Pandora beads for $30 to $100 each to add to a bracelet.

Key designs are likely to be the big seller for Romantica Jewelers on Oakland Drive. Ray Carrie, owner of Romantica, said the pendants in the shape of a key are available in plain metals or metals set with diamonds.

“We’ve sold more key designs than anything with hearts in it,” Carrie said. “The last few years have been a little soft because of the economic uncertainty. I think we’ve bottomed out and things are starting to turn around.”

Carrie said he won’t open his store on Sunday, but he expects to do more sales this year than last Valentine’s Day, the majority of them between Thursday and Monday.

”Business has picked up and people are willing to spend a little more money,” Carrie said.


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