Retailers swept off their feet by Valentine's boost to sales
RETAILERS received a much-needed multi-million euro boost as Irish men followed in the footsteps of the suave Italians and French by splashing out for St Valentine's Day.
Following a disastrous year for shopkeepers, the high street was banking on an annual romantic splurge to give business a boost.
The Dublin Chamber of Commerce confirmed Valentine's week was "significant" for retailers as shops recorded a boost in sales of lingerie, jewellery, cosmetics, flowers -- and even cream for the strawberries.
Around 20pc of the extra sales were estimated to have taken place yesterday.
"This year, compared to other years, it appears that some planned to stay in," a chamber spokesman said. Ahead of February 14, an increase in sales of luxurious dinner items such as better fillets of beef and more expensive ready-made meals were noted.
But last night restaurants were welcoming the extra diners after a quiet January. "There is a real sense that the customer is king again," the chamber spokesman said, adding that restaurants were no longer telling people they would have to vacate their tables by a certain time.
A "strong" trade in card sales was reported by retailer Easons in the run-up to February 14.
Most were hand-delivered to loved ones this year as the day fell on a weekend but An Post confirmed postmen struggled under the weight of several thousand red envelopes and small gifts on Friday.
This year the price of wooing a loved one with a romantic weekend for two, chocolates or a dozen red roses had dropped dramatically from the height of the spending splurge.
Some of the cheaper options for the cash-conscious romantic were found in the retail chains and supermarkets, like Aldi's offer of 18 roses a snip at €14.99 or a bottle of champagne for the same price.
The prices at the dedicated flower retailers were slightly higher, varying from €45 for 12 medium-stemmed red roses up to an extravagant bunch of 50 for €185.
Romantics were still eager to whisk a loved-one away but they were keen to strike a bargain, according to the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).
Some of the key search terms on the website Google were 'bargain breaks' and 'hotel deals' in the run-up to Valentine's Day.
"From our own website the bookings in the last two to three weeks have increased significantly, even on 2009 figures," IHF marketing executive Ronan Smyth said. However, he cautioned it was at a "reasonably low base".
But Mark Fielding, from the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises association (ISME), cautioned the boost was only small in the current economic climate. "The usual blips such as Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and Easter all help but everything is at a much lower level than previously," he said.
"Anything is welcome but we would need 15 Valentine's Days in a row to make up for the loss of sales due to the weather in January."