Mike Murphy expects his phone will be all noise and flashing lights right up until dinner time tonight.
The Victoria restaurateur, whose Bon Rouge, Pescatores and Oyster Bar are top-of-mind destinations for special occasions like Valentine’s Day, is already fielding calls.
“I’ve had texts already and there will be a bunch of frantic texts from people I know, who never think of it until the last minute, trying to get a table for Valentine’s Day,” Murphy said. “It always happens and I always get a kick out of it, but they tend to be good customers so we try and help them out when we can.”
But it might not be as easy as begging the owner to find space.
Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest nights of the year — and romantic, cosy restaurants tend to fill up fast. “It’s always a great day ... one of our biggest and ranks right up there with New Year’s Eve,” said Murphy.
At the Marina Restaurant in Oak Bay, they’ve been booked solid for 160 people for at least a week, said Oak Bay Marine Group’s Susan Barcham. “It’s close behind Mother’s Day, which is our biggest day of the year, and New Year’s Eve,” Barcham said.
Those who have already secured tables somewhere in the city are very likely to make the most of it.
According to Barcham, the restaurant estimates each person will spend $55-$60, and may splurge on a better bottle of wine or champagne to mark the day. “For the special occasions, people still reach a little deeper into the pocket, they feel it’s the one time they might splurge,” she said.
Murphy agrees, though he said spending has slowed in recent years. “It’s not the halcyon days of champagne and dinners for two. It’s nothing as flamboyant as it was five years ago, but it’s still a good night,” he said. “People still go all out.”
And that seems to go for all the traditional Valentine’s Day gifts.
Depending on which survey you believe, Canadians may spend anywhere between $100 and $170 on their significant others to celebrate Feb. 14.
A survey for Walmart Canada suggested the average spend could be well beyond that figure, and BMO Economics believes stronger job growth combined with an increase in confidence levels could mean strong sales results.
The bank said sales growth comes in those Valentine’s Day staples of flowers, candy and jewelry.
And if the U.S.-based National Retail Federation is to be believed, men will far outspend women this year, forking out an average of $175 while women will spend $89.
Jane Brajkovic said those totals are sometimes just the start. The owner of Fine Floral Designs By Jane in James Bay said the average spend in her shop ranges from $50 well into the thousands of dollars. “It is our single busiest day of the year, all the romantics are out there,” she said.
Brajkovic said she sees it all, from the well-organized romantic who plans weeks in advance to the frantic last-minute buyer who has left it late. “That’s why we are all hands on deck down here today and tomorrow,” she said.
One of her clients is surprising his partner with a suite in the city adorned with fresh flowers and designed by one of her staff.
“But we also have gifts for every range imaginable, we often get little children buying something small for their parents,” she said.
But the biggest seller and staple of the day is the red rose. “It means love and there’s no, ifs, ands or buts about that,” she said.
There will be less frenzied buying at Victoria Classic Lingerie on Fort Street, according to one of the store’s qualified “fitters.”
Either the lingerie has been purchased well in advance or it will be women buying.
“Lingerie is kind of a reverse gift, ladies buying for themselves for their partners. We have a few men, but I would say it is more the ladies buying for themselves,” she said, adding the advance purchasing is apparently down to a renewed interest in boudoir photos as a gift.
As for what’s selling, it ranges from the risqué to the traditional, though as time ticks away ahead of Valentine’s Day more red items are flying off the shelves, she said. “And if it’s a man, we tend to recommend they don’t buy bras and panties unless they are sure of their partner’s sizes,” she said, noting there is more “wiggle room” with items like nighties and babydolls. “They come in small, medium and large, which is much easier.”
VALENTINES BY THE NUMBERS
11,784,855 — Number of singles never-married, divorced, separated or widowed in Canada in 2011.
16,084,490 — Number of couples, including married and commonlaw, in Canada in 2011.
$2,207 — Average annual spending on food from restaurants by Canadian households.
$3.2 billion — Value of jewelry and watches sold at retailers in Canada in 2011.
$2.4 billion — Value of cosmetics and fragrances sold at retailers in Canada in 2011.
$1.6 billion — Value of women's lingerie, sleepwear and intimates sold at retailers in 2011.
$634.6 million — Value of men's underwear, sleepwear and hosiery sold at retailers in 2011.
$110 million —Value of sales of chocolate and confectioneries in Canada in February 2012.
10.5 million — Number of roses produced in Canada in 2011.
On the Map — Love, Sask.
Heart’s Desire, Nfld.
Heart’s Content, Nfld.
— Source: Statistics Canada
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