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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Noelle Harmon's husky Apollo looks at the Valentine's Day gift display at NoogaPaws on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Chattanooga.

Jewelry, flowers and candy are still mainstays, but Valentine's Day collars, squeaky toys and treats are gaining ground.

"Every year, I get a little bit more Valentine's Day stuff, and we don't ever have anything left over," said Caitlin Jones, the merchandise buyer for pet store NoogaPaws on the North Shore.

The National Retail Federation expects about 27% of people who observe Valentine's Day will show their pets some love this year. That is the highest figure in the history of the NRF survey, and up from 17% in 2010, for a total $1.7 billion in anticipated spending.

"They're part of the family," said Elizabeth Brown, a manager of PetSmart on Gunbarrel Road. "They want to celebrate them just like any member of the family, whether it's a dog, cat, or a guinea pig."

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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / French bulldog Penelope Rae Marie Presley "Penny" Aguilar stands inside NoogaPaws on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Chattanooga.

Wait. A guinea pig?

"Oh yes," Brown said. "In the past we've had special treats for them and little outfits with angel wings and stuff on them."

Francis Aguilar plans to bring his French bulldog Penelope Rae Marie Presley "Penny" Aguilar to NoogaPaws on Friday. Penny was born on Valentine's Day, and she's turning 2.

"I won't get her a Valentine's Day gift, but I will get her a birthday gift on Valentine's Day," Aguilar said. "I will definitely be here Friday."

Aguilar was sick two years ago, undergoing dialysis, and he decided what he really needed in his life was a French bulldog.

"She helps me a lot," he said. "She keeps me moving and going."

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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Valentine's Day gifts are displayed at NoogaPaws on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Chattanooga.

But Valentine's Day hasn't gone completely to the dogs. The biggest share of Valentine's spending still goes to spouses and significant others at 52% of the total, or an average $101.21 this year, according to the NRF. But their share of the spending is down from 61% a decade ago.

The share spent on most other recipients has gone up over the past decade, with the amount spent on co-workers, for example, more than doubling to 7 % of the total from 3%.

At the Chattanooga Flower Market on East Brainerd Road, owner Jamie Jones is awash in orders for red roses this time of year.

"As far as the flower business in general, there are trends, but for Valentine's Day it doesn't change," he said. "It's red roses, and it's always going to be red roses. I would say 70% of sales are dozens and half dozens."

His volume of work multiples by a factor of 10 or 20 in the run-up to the big day, and he grows his business from four employees to 25.

"It's mostly friends and family who pitch in," he said. "And I've been doing it so long that a lot of people take time off work to help out."

He'll run 13 delivery vehicles rather than his usual one — a combination of rented vans and the cars and trucks his temporary workforce brings along with them.

At Rone Regency Jewelers on Gunbarrel Road, delivery of a free flower arrangement is part of the deal for any customer who spends $299 or more from Feb. 1 to Feb. 14, said general manager Janie Colbaugh.

"It's our way of pairing the traditional flowers with an heirloom piece that lasts," Colbaugh said. "It's a nice way to be able to allow them to have two items — one more traditional and one that will last longer than candy or flowers."

Contact Mary Fortune at mfortune@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.

Big love

Those celebrating the holiday said they plan to spend an average $196.31, up 21% over last year’s previous record of $161.96. Spending is expected to total $27.4 billion, up 32% from last year’s record $20.7 billion.

The number of people celebrating Valentine’s Day has returned to 55%, about average for the past decade, after a dip to 51% last year.

Source: National Retail Federation

 

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