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Love is not enough

Sneha Mahale on the whole retail business around Valentine’s Day.

entertainment Updated: Feb 14, 2009 15:34 IST

Once again, the retailer’s infatuation with February 14 is on an ugly display in nearly every store window and newspaper ad. And why not.. the Retailers’ Association of India (RAI) estimates the total amount spent on Valentine’s Day gifts at Rs 1200 crore in 2007.. and is set to surpass it this year. Even in times of an economic slowdown, they expect at least a 50 per cent growth over last year. Most rate the day among the top four festivities in the country.

Message in a card
Despite the pressure to splurge on gifts, money is mostly spent on tokens of affection — cards, candies, flowers and dinners. Tanvi Shah, 25, MBA student, asserts, “When it comes to love, people are more alike than they are different.” India’s largest chain of card shops, Archie’s, produces more than 300 different types of Valentine cards every year. But displays are low-key. “Why invite trouble?” says a vendor. Rasika Jain, 25, interior decorator, who’s rifling through the cards, says, “Jewellery wears thin.. Flowers die.. but cards are hoarded and the expression of love remembered forever.”

Roses and orchids
For flower vendors, the day means brisk sales. It brings to a close their peak season that starts during Christmas and ends with Valentine’s Day. This year, though, there isn’t much demand for expensive blooms. Says Kamal V, a flower seller on Hill Road, “The buyers haven’t changed but this year they are going for conventional red rose or orchids.” Valentine’s Day usually means dining out. A restaurant owner in Bandra, on condition of anonymity, admits that had it not been for the moral police, he would have gone all out in attracting the young crowd. He has designed a special menu but decorations are down to bare minimum. But he’s still upbeat: “We are expecting a full house. Apart from couples, families too celebrate the day with gusto.”

Table for two.. three.. ten
The Ketkar family in Dadar acknowledges this. While romantic dinners for two still figure large, Valentine’s Day itself is more about exchanging meaningful tokens — cards, candies, flowers and stuffed animals — within the family and spending time together.

“We live such hectic lives that we forget to affirm our affection for those who mean most to us, “admits Vishal Ketkar, a businessman “It is crucial to let those close to us know periodically how we feel for them.” Internet dating sites are also ready for a field day. One of the most successful, Fropper.com, has two million members and says February is the most popular month to join. This year though the net is also a source for venting anger against the moral police. As Jeevan K, a college student says, “It’s our life, why should we be told how to live it?”