With the day of romance just 24 hours away, Richard Blackledge spoke to a florist and a chocolatier in Sheffield to find out why couples can’t fail with these ideal last-minute presents.
TRADITION rules when it comes to Valentine’s Day, according to florist Sarah Whitaker – who’s expecting to be faced with a rush of customers today requesting red roses.
Sarah, who runs the Bouquet florist’s shop in Crookes along with her mum Ruth Bunting, said some well-prepared partners placed their flower orders well in advance, but that the business is opening late tonight to cope with demand from last-minute gift buyers.
“It’s not been too bad this year,” said Sarah, whose mum has owned the shop for 24 years.
“I think it may be a little bit slower this year, a bit more last-minute in the current financial climate. I don’t think anybody really knows what to expect.
“Valentine’s Day is a busy one. We’ve still had customers coming in at 10.30pm and 11 o’clock the night before. We usually burn the midnight oil, then go home for a few hours’ sleep and come back at 6.30 the next morning.”
Sarah said that while roses are still holding strong as the most popular Valentine’s bloom, customers are also warming to tulips as a romantic flower.
“The favourite is still the red rose, I would say. That’s been the most popular up to now, and after that it’s tulips. It’s quite a nice spring flower and is an alternative to red roses which can be so expensive. We’ve definitely got an order for red and purple tulips.”
She continued: “The extravagant gifts usually come at the end, on the day, when men think, ‘I must do something, I’ve forgotten Valentine’s Day – how many roses can I send?’. A couple of years ago we did one order that wanted 100, that was quite big. It wasn’t difficult to supply, roses are always available from the wholesalers, so even if the order comes in at the last minute we can still get more.”
Sarah also said it was a ‘common misconception’ that florists inflate their prices to cash in on Valentine’s trade.
“Anything that’s red goes up in price at Valentine’s Day, and that comes from the grower,” she said.
“We have to buy everything more expensively. The roses are already double the price and more than they normally are. It’s basic supply and demand.”
The shop tries to steer customers away from buying clichéed red roses, encouraging them to buy something with a more original meaning, Sarah added.
Traditionally, daffodils are a symbol of unrequited love, forget-me-nots are a sign of true love and violets are a symbol of faithfulness.
“I think people should use more imagination when they’re picking flowers,” Sarah said. “We try to recommend things like a mixed bouquet. Lilies are another popular one, although some people do still think lilies are for funerals.
“It’s mostly men that can be quite traditional, but there are some new men around who are aware of what their partner likes, rather than what they think they should be getting!
“I know you can go to the supermarket and buy flowers with the shopping, but to get a bouquet is still considered a luxury.
“It’s a feelgood item, I suppose. Flowers cheer people up. When you get a delivery to your workplace on Valentine’s Day it still causes a bit of a stir.”
At chocolate boutique Cocoa, on Ecclesall Road, staff are also primed for an increase today and tomorrow in the number of shoppers eager to buy their loved ones a special treat.
Kate Shepherd, who’s owned the shop for six-and-a-half-years with her friend Anne White, said confectionery is often seen as a safe last-minute present.
“I think everyone thinks they won’t get anything, until all of a sudden they think, ‘Oh my, what if my partner gets me something and I don’t get anything?’
“So it’s the day before and on the day that are busiest, really. We don’t have to panic if we’ve got Valentine’s stock in on the day. Most people are quite last-minute about it.
“I think Valentine’s is the most concentrated time of year after Mother’s Day.”
Cocoa’s shelves are filled with boxes of speciality chocolates, as well as jars of individual chocolates, and the shop is offering many Valentine’s delicacies such as heart-shaped pralines.
“We’re selling Edward Monkton chocolates, who usually sells greetings cards but now does chocolates. They’re quirky and humorous,” Kate said.
“We’ve also got Love Monkey chocolates – they’re quite popular because they’re a bit more masculine than the other chocolates. Lots of girls buy that one for their boyfriends or partners.
“We sell hampers as well which are really good, they’ve got a little bit of lots of different chocolates.”
She added: “Chocolates are definitely a good present for women and men. A lot of girls have already bought a present for their boyfriends and get a bit of chocolate on the side.
“Women are renowned for having a sweeter tooth than men, so men always go for chocolate for that reason. And it’s good to get a treat as a present.”
Kate said: “Women are usually a bit more careful, and will just be buying add-on presents, whereas men will be more tempted to buy something because it looks amazing. They tend not to care how much it costs!
“I think the packaging is really important. It’s the first thing that you see. I think sometimes it doesn’t really matter what’s inside the box as long as it looks good. That’s the first impression.”
Cocoa is opening late until 10pm on Valentine’s Day for the first time, Kate said.
“We’ve never done it before, it will be a bit of an experiment,” she said. “People might come for a little drink after they’ve been for a meal – maybe come in for a hot chocolate.”
Do cook a nice dinner if you’ve forgotten to book a Valentine’s meal. Of course, if you’re hopeless in the kitchen, some of the higher-end supermarkets supply acceptable ready meals and dine-in deals with wine.
Do book a holiday or a spa weekend for a future date, then put the tickets in a Valentine’s card. It won’t be a treat on the day but it avoids disappointment.
Do consider a romantic night in with a DVD you’ll both enjoy and a few candles lit in the living room. Cinemas will most likely be packed with couples celebrating February 14 at the movies.
Do consider perfume as an alternative to buying flowers. There will be plenty of shops open late tonight selling quality fragrances.
Don’t buy flowers from the petrol station. However tempting it might be for the last minute gift-buyer, a sad bunch of wilted chrysanthemums is no match for a carefully-selected bouquet of blooms from a proper florist.
Don’t buy household appliances as a gift for the fairer sex. Valentine’s Day is supposed to be extravagant, indulgent and romantic. A new iron will almost definitely send out the wrong message.
Don’t buy lingerie, or any other clothing, unless you’re absolutely sure of your partner’s correct size. Unwrapping a dress three sizes too big will see you driving back to the shops, receipt in hand, within the hour.
Don’t overspend in an attempt to compensate for your Valentine’s Day absent-mindedness.