Chattanooga retailers gear up for Valentine’s Day spending surge

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / A variety of flowers and gift items greet shoppers at the entrance of the Food City in Red Bank on Thursday. Top gifts for Valentine's Day 2024 are expected to be candy (57%), greeting cards (40%), flowers (39%), an evening out (32%), jewelry (22%), clothing (21%) and gift cards (19%), according to the National Retail Federation.
Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / A variety of flowers and gift items greet shoppers at the entrance of the Food City in Red Bank on Thursday. Top gifts for Valentine's Day 2024 are expected to be candy (57%), greeting cards (40%), flowers (39%), an evening out (32%), jewelry (22%), clothing (21%) and gift cards (19%), according to the National Retail Federation.

Romance is on the rise this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

The organization's annual survey projects consumers will be spending a record-breaking $14.2 billion on their significant others this Valentine's Day. That translates to an estimated average of $185.81 per consumer, marking an increase of about $8 in Valentine's spending over the past five years.

The buying trend survey differs slightly from last year, which showed customers were celebrating all the special relationships in their lives — spouses, children, pets, best friends. This year, though, the survey points to an increase in romantic spending.

Top gifts are still what one might expect: candy (57%), greeting cards (40%), flowers (39%), an evening out (32%), jewelry (22%), clothing (21%) and gift cards (19%). But the survey predicts record sales for jewelry ($6.4 billion), flowers ($2.6 billion), clothing ($3 billion) and an evening out ($4.9 billion).

But nonromantic forms of love are still reason to celebrate and spend, according to the survey, which shows about 29% of singles still plan to mark the occasion in some way, whether that's treating themselves to something special, attending an event or planning a night out with other single friends or family members.

Chattanooga jeweler Jeremy Kennedy, owner of Kennedy Jewelers on East Brainerd Road, said he hasn't detected any obvious signs that romance might be on the rise this year — but he sure hopes the retail group's survey is right.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga chocolatiers can make your Valentine's Day a little sweeter)

In terms of revenue, Christmas remains the top-selling season for his company, followed closely by Valentine's Day. Regarding this year's sales, Kennedy said they appear to be consistent with last year's figures. And as usual, men make up the customer base.

Valentine's jewelry sales typically span from around $150 to $600. When it comes to the most popular types of jewelry — rings, bracelets, necklaces — that part varies widely.

 

"We just want to make sure they show up with some kind of gift," he said by phone.

Anita Sass and Linda Atchley, floral department managers at the Dayton Boulevard Food City location in Red Bank, said February's celebration of love is their busiest sales period by far — and this year's selection is looking especially good. They have heart-shaped orchids, azaleas, roses, hydrangeas and more.

Sass said the store received more than $8,000 worth of plants and flowers Thursday morning with two more large deliveries expected throughout the week.

Staff members have been busy making arrangements of all sorts with flowers, plants, candies, stuffed animals and other tokens of affection. Leading up to Valentine's Day, the store is presenting the "Cupid Combo": a dozen chocolate-covered strawberries with a dozen roses for $30.

"There is just no comparison to the amount of flowers we get on a normal day," Sass said in a phone interview. "We're prepared and ready."

(READ MORE: Earn Valentine's Day points with a homemade chocolate fudge pie)

And at Scottie's on the River, a restaurant along the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, staff is adhering to a philosophy that's good for business as well as romance: If a relationship is working, stick with it. And so for the third year, the restaurant will hold its three-course Valentine's dinner of surf-and-turf for two.

"We've done this the last several years, and we sell out each year," sous chef Kristen Dann said by phone. "We're expecting to sell out again this year."

While walk-in diners are welcome, the restaurant will offer a limited number of Valentine's specials. Priced at $175 for two, the meal includes a 3-pound tomahawk rib-eye sourced from Dyer Livestock farm, cold water lobster tails, a choice of both an appetizer and dessert, and a bottle of wine. Adding to the ambiance this year, the restaurant has invited a string quartet from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to play throughout the evening.

"We have the perfect setting, right here on the river, watching the sun set over the river," Dann said. "Valentine's is one of our busiest nights of the year, second only to Memorial Day weekend."

Contact Jennifer McNally at jmcnally@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.