Every year around Valentine's Day, kindhearted customers ask us about business and being busy. They assume we're swamped with men seeking last-minute sparklies for their wives/girlfriends/mothers/daughters, and that the days preceding the holiday are almost as busy as the other winter holiday season. No retailer will ever admit to being slow -- it's bad for business, right? -- but in my neck of the woods, at least, February is not a top-dollar month. The weather has a large role to play in this, particularly in years where we get slammed with storm after winter storm (like, y'know, this year). But you can't pin all the blame on Mother Nature and Old Man Winter, so I look to regional and cultural trends in an attempt to figure out why V-Day sales aren't so hot.
There are some obvious factors to list as a starting point: post-holiday spending dips as bills come due. Holiday bonuses have been spent, and most folks haven't filed taxes yet to get their returns. Winter is an expensive month for heating and electricity bills, not to mention snow removal, automotive repairs, and home maintenance. February also has the lowest average number of birthdays in the calender year, removing yet another reason to shop.
But I like to look at the slightly bigger picture as well, and consider the financial planning that many people and families do around this time. Summer vacations tend to book up this month (our local Travel Show is always in February -- not a coincidence), and deposits must be paid. Spring and summer weddings are announced and invitations sent, often sparking a furious spending spree on dresses, suits, gifts, and the various travel arrangements required. And let's face it, dreary days that cause a whole lot of staying home with not much to do causes an uptick in our-family-is-growing announcements. Yep, I said it.
Culturally speaking, periods of high-dollar spending tend to be followed by more conservative habits as the guilt and buyer's remorse (not to mention plain old exhaustion and burn-out) set in. We've had advertisements attacking us on all fronts since Halloween, and by now we can barely suppress collective eye rolls at Superbowl puppy commercials, let alone the sweet romance of kisses and hearts of Public Enemy #1: the Hallmark Holiday.
Frankly, we're in a unique position here because we do a constant, year-round business with custom design and repairs. This gives us the opportunity to show new merchandise to existing customers because they're already coming in with a purpose, and can bring in new clientele looking for a more relaxing atmosphere than the madhouse malls. But the overall percentage of customers coming in to shower their loved one in diamonds is on a level with the temperature -- lower than average.
Do you give or receive jewelry for Valentine's Day? Do you want to?