Spending on our sweethearts

Lead floral designer Karen Geer, of Leesburg, creates a flower arrangement at Plantation Flower Designs & Gifts in Southern Trace Plaza.

Susan O’Neill has kept every card her husband has given her in their 50 years of marriage. She and Bryan, her husband, enjoy expressing their love for one another through the special cards. “My husband gets awesome cards for me,” the Village of St. Catherine resident said. “He’s great at picking (them out).” By the Wednesday before Valentine’s Day, she already had picked out a card for her husband and was shopping for cards for her five grandchildren at Gifts & More at The Paper Store

in Lake Sumter Landing. Consumers are expected to spend about $25.9 billion for Valentine’s Day this year on gifts, according to the annual survey released Jan. 25 by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. That is higher than the $23.9 billion spent in 2022, which was one of the highest spending years on record.

In addition to cards, candy and flowers are popular items people are buying for the holiday, and local businesses that sell them are seeing an uptick in those stopping in to do their Valentine’s Day shopping.

“Valentine’s Day is a special occasion to shop for the people we care most about,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF, in a press release. “This year, as consumers embrace spending on friends and loved ones, retailers are ready to help customers celebrate Valentine’s Day with memorable gifts at affordable prices.” 

Individually, consumers are expected to spend about $192.80 for the holiday, which is almost $20 more than what they spent on average in 2022, according to the NRF.

Candy and other sweets are expected to be the most popular things to buy this year, and business is booming at area sweet shops in the days leading up to Feb. 14, including at Peterbrooke Choclatier in Lake Sumter Landing. 

Sarah Bowersox, co-owner of Peterbrooke in The Villages, said business picked for the holiday early last week and the momentum continued into the weekend. 

“It’s doing extremely well, and we can definitely tell that The Villages is growing because we’ve seen a lot of new faces and the traffic flow is extremely heavy,” she said. “The shop is doing great.”

In fact, business for Valentine’s Day this year already is better than last year. 

She said the store so far has made about 20 to 30 shipments for this Valentine’s Day, and Bowersox expected to make about 15 to 20 more over the weekend. 

“It’s all hands on deck,” she said. “Everyone is working as much as they can that weekend into Valentine’s Day.”

Edible Arrangements in Southern Trace Plaza started getting busy with orders Feb. 6. 

The business usually gets a lot of last-minute orders, and shop co-owner Rachelle Neck expects Monday and Tuesday to be the busiest days with about 500 to 600 pickups and deliveries.

“We’re ready,” Neck said. “We’ll be slammed, but we’re ready.”

Neck and co-owner Becky Pilipow have hired more staff, including delivery drivers, to meet the demand, and they have prepped what they can ahead of time so they’ll be able to focus on putting together the fresh items Monday and Tuesday. 

Gifts & More at The Paper Store also has seen crowds coming in to purchase gifts ahead of Valentine’s Day. In addition to greeting cards, the store sells jewelry, candles, figurines, sweaters and more.

Lisa Coski, manager of Gifts & More, said it has been busier this year, especially because the store expanded last spring and is now able to offer more merchandise.

“It has just been selling out here,” Coski said.

And despite the Super Bowl today, Coski still expects to see people shopping shop for Valentine’s Day as well as Monday and Tuesday.

“We will be able to help all those last-minute shoppers,” she said.

Behind greeting cards, flowers are the third-most popular gift item for the holiday with about 37% of consumers expected to give them as a gift.

Jeff Osterman was well prepared for the influx in business at Plantation Flower Design & Gifts. He said Valentine’s Day and Christmas are the second busiest holidays of the year at the shop after Mother’s Day.

Osterman, who owns the shop, brought on extra designers, extra delivery drivers and more people to help at the front of the store in anticipation of the rush. He said business really picked up the week before the holiday.

“We’re definitely on par with previous years,” Osterman said.

Roses are the most popular flowers for Valentine’s Day, he said, and he anticipates 500 to 600 bouquets will be made at the shop leading up to Valentine’s Day.

“It starts getting a little bit more intense about maybe three or four days before the holiday,” Osterman said. “It definitely ramps up because we’re all procrastinators as humans. It’s like, ‘Oh gosh, I almost forgot.’ So it’s starting to pick up and it’s going to get even busier.”

Senior writer Summer Jarro can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5404, or summer.jarro@thevillagesmedia.com.