Valentine’s Day: Chocolate and home-cooked meals to buy love this year?

Posted by Isobel Drake on 10th February 2009

Valentine’s Day is still expected to provide the usual boost to a number of food sectors, although those choosing to dine out may find it easier to get a table than in recent years.

Couples are likely to choose confectionery and cards over bouquets and ‘bling’, according to business information analysts IBISWorld.

This year, IBISWorld (Australia) General Manager, Mr Robert Bryant, says Valentine’s Day spending will rise a mere 0.5% from 2008 to total $894.2 million, compared to an overall rise in retail Valentine’s Day spending of 2.2% since last year. “Tightening household budgets will make it difficult to justify splurging on loved ones this year,” Mr Bryant suggested, “especially for couples with children who have just had to budget for the Christmas holiday. Valentine’s Day is considered a more discretionary occasion than Christmas and birthdays, which means it will be hit particularly hard by the current economic climate.”

IBISWorld expects many couples will substitute pricier gifts such as jewellery and lingerie for a simple box of chocolates and a card, forgo a dozen red roses for a single stem, and try to come up with inexpensive ways to celebrate such as cooking a romantic meal at home rather than splashing out on an expensive restaurant meal.

Those who do purchase gifts will be looking to discount and online retailers rather than specialty outlets and boutiques, with supermarket greeting cards likely to outperform those sold at newsagents – according to the research.

Greeting cards, chocolates and flowers will all still perform reasonably well, according to IBISWorld, with card sales expected to grow by 3.8%, chocolates and confectionery sales tipped to rise 3.9% and flowers enjoying a 3.4% rise – although Mr Bryant noted that strong growth in flower revenue could be largely attributed to the significant mark-up on February 14.

Dining out sales will decline 1.4% on last year’s figures according to the forecasts, though that doesn’t appear too bad when compared to the downturn expected in the US – where dining out sales could fall by an alarming 6.1%.

Nielsen US has estimated that around 5% of annual chocolate sales take place in Valentine’s week, with the day before Valentine’s Day seen as the busiest for chocolate sellers. The day after Valentine’s day also draws in plenty of consumers looking for chocolate bargains, making it the second busiest day for chocolate sales in the month of February.

In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, supermarkets in recession-hit Britain have begun introducing deals on cook-at-home foods they consider to be ‘restaurant quality’ in a bid to capitalise on the rise in home cooking. Michelin-starred restaurants have even responded with set price lunch at dinner menus for as little as £12 (A$26.50).