Aug 20, 2013
Significant Sweetheart Sales
Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

Valentine’s Day is a day to cash in on love of every kind

Whether dealing with a classroom or a couple, “it’s the thought that counts” is a phrase that’s truly applicable for Valentine’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate love and appreciation in all shapes and forms, and often that form involves spending.

According to the National Retail Federations’s 2013 Valentine’s Day spending survey, the average person planned to spend $130.97 on candy, cards, gifts and more in 2013, with total spending estimated to reach $18.6 billion.

While most planned to spend on their significant other ($73.75), 61 percent of shoppers planned to show their appreciation for other family members by spending an average of $26.46, and one-quarter of shoppers were buying gifts for friends, spending an average of $8.49. Men were predicted to spend an average of $175.61 on jewelry, flowers or a romantic evening out while women spent approximately $88.78 for their counterparts.

Fun and Flirty

Those are significant numbers, and given the options that shoppers will have, it’s important to have what they need and want.

“Valentine’s Day brings out the romance in just about everybody, and for that reason we continue to sell the classic, more ‘serious’ Valentine’s and love message designs,” said Kathy Flynn of Pioneer Balloon Co. “Often the general ‘love’ designs are good for everyday sales throughout the year as well. We also offer a large variety of playful designs, as the trend toward less formal has continued.”

Flynn added that they are surrounded by colors in every category of merchandise, with a trend toward the bright, intense colors. Though the reds and pinks remain dominant, they are seeing accents of lime, blue, orange and purple. The pairing of black and white with red continues to be a unisex favorite, and animal prints and damask patterns in both black and white and colors are also seen on a lot of products.

“We’re seeing more and more balloons that cater to the ‘young love’ audience, so younger buyers in high school and college will opt for fun and interesting ways to show they care,” said Andres Ochoa of U.S. Balloon. “Betallic is releasing a new design with ‘I choo choo choose you” (from an iconic “Simpsons” episode) as well as other playful phrases like ‘Iguana Be Your Valentine’. These designs will cater to the younger generation. Other themes to look for in 2014 include mustaches, lace and sparkle.”

When it comes to greeting cards – the perfect impulse buy – George White of Up With Paper has noticed a definite change in sales of their pop-up cards in two ways. First, sales of the more playful, fun and even juvenile looking designs have increased significantly, while sales of their more sophisticated looks have languished. This is the opposite of what they’re seeing with their everyday lines, which have veered to the more sophisticated in recent years.

“The other, countervailing trend is that our Panoramics cards with sound chips were hugely successful this year,” White said. “Those are the most expensive we sell, so consumers are looking for the most unique cards and will pay for it.”

Show the Love

The key for the retailer is to have several looks and price points. Merchandise the looks together, normally by brand, even if that brand has romantic and playful designs in the same offering. By grouping similar designs and patterns, the retailer makes it easy for the shopper to choose the appropriate looks.

“For classroom parties, there are simple ways to dress up a bouquet of balloons, and showing these simple ideas will result in more sales,” Flynn said. “Grouping crepe paper, confetti and paperboard hearts will also make it easy for teachers to imagine their rooms fully decorated, and this merchandising strategy is likely to sell more products if the customer doesn’t have to search them out.”

Dawn Kirschner of Unique said basic tableware items like plates, napkins, cups, tablecovers and cutlery are the must haves for school parties. Gift bags, foil balloons, cello bags, cutouts and confetti are core gift giving and decorating items.

“Our new Radiant Hearts design captures the tradition of Valentine’s Day with red and pink hearts while also incorporating the popular dot trend,” Kirschner said. “This design allows consumers to easily mix and match with not only their solids, but also our popular Decorative Dot program.”

It’s important to provide a wide range of products to accommodate the needs of both shoppers – the playful shopper is decor and partyware focused, while the romantic shopper may stop in for a balloon or bakeware to add to a gift.

Kacey Curry of Creative Converting said end caps are a great place to put a small display of Valentine’s Day merchandise. For larger displays, keep partyware and decor products nearby coordinating solid partyware and keep more “romantic” products near gift wrap for the romantic shopper.

“As a result of the added focus on food gifting and bakeware, we will be adding new shaped cello bags, chevron treat cups and polka dot baking cups,” Curry said. “We’ll also be adding new stickers to our product offering for the playful shopper like the teacher looking for Valentine’s Day gifts for a class.”

White said they tested a new portfolio of fun pop-up cards in several accounts this year that did very well, so they will be expanding that offering to all of their accounts this year.

“With 12 die-cut and pop-up designs in four designs, these portfolios provide a nice option for children’s Valentine’s cards to really stand out,” White said. “Designs include monkeys, owls and Hello Kitty licensed images.”

Retailers can easily incorporate all of their red and pink decorating and tableware items into their Valentine set in order to maximize sales, helping the consumer to see what is available and allowing them to be creative. In addition, display solid color heart balloons and products at the counter for impulse sales and for the couples who can’t afford the big-ticket items.

Ochoa suggests retailers create displays for specific shoppers.

“For example, I would create a romantic display that has all of the romantic items with phrases like ‘forever and always’ and then create a more jovial display for those friends or people in new relationships. Some people just want to show they care for another person, especially those in newer relationships.”

Flynn suggests including plush, candy, and small gift bags as ways to upsell a weighted bouquet of balloons. Another quick-and-easy idea is to stack two 11-inch latex four-balloon clusters together, add a weight and tie on a large Microfoil.

“This type of balloon gift is perfect for cash-and-carry sales and requires no helium, which means more profit for retailers,” Flynn added.

And more profit for retailers is truly a thought that counts – every day of the year.

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