Valentine's Day spending is expected to reach an all-time high this year -- at least $17.6 billion. That's a lot of chocolate, cards, jewelry and unmentionables.
Those planning to celebrate the holiday are expected to drop an average of $126.03 per person, up 8.5% over last year, according to the National Retail Federation's annual survey. That's the highest total in the 10 years that the survey has been conducted.
Valentine's Day is "one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year," federation Chief Executive Matthew Shay said in a statement. "It’s encouraging that consumers are still exhibiting the desire to spend on discretionary gift items, a strong indication our economy continues to move in the right direction."
The average male celebrating the holiday will spend $168.74 for the works -- flowers, dinner, gift, etc. By contrast, women will spend an average of $85.76.
Here's what all that spending looks like, according to the survey: Just over 35% of those surveyed will buy flowers, and 35.6% will treat someone to dinner. Nearly 19% of those surveyed will buy jewelry, and 13.3% will give their sweetheart a gift card. (We're pretty sure that those who give a card will not have an especially memorable Valentine's Day evening, but the survey did not explore that question.)
And just over half -- 50.5% -- of all Valentine's Day celebrants will buy candy.
One beloved chocolatier, See's Candies, sees about 3 million pounds of chocolate fly off its shelves this time of year. (See's, which recently celebrated its 95th anniversary, was the training ground for Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance in the famous "I Love Lucy" conveyor-belt scene.)
It might surprise you to know that Valentine's Day is not the company's biggest selling holiday, or even its second-biggest. Valentine's Day ranks No. 3, behind Christmas and Easter.
"Valentine's is a fairly short-selling season," See’s President Brad Kinstler told The Times. "The real sales don't start coming in until Feb. 1. And then it's a lot of activity compressed into a few days."
By contrast, the Christmas selling season begins after Thanksgiving and lasts until Dec. 24. And Easter is all about chocolate and candy, unlike Valentine's Day, which can also be about baubles and roses.
Kinstler said See's outlets will be jam-packed all day Tuesday with customers -- mainly men -- who woke up and realized they were about to be in the doghouse unless they came up with something super sweet, super fast.
When asked whether he was bringing home something sweet for someone special, Kinstler said: "Oh, I know what I am required to bring home." (See's dark chocolate butterchews are his wife's favorite.)
"But I did my shopping already, I didn't wait," he said.
-- Rene Lynch
Photo: Red roses waiting to be shipped. Credit: AFP / Getty Images