2/07 Hearty sales spike key Valentine's Day categories

2/07 Hearty sales spike key Valentine's Day categories Money flows where the heart goes, suggests sales data for categories that index high in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day. Large tickets on mainstay flowers and jewelry foster retail opportunity in less pricey alternate categories such as chocolates (regular and dietetic), lollipops, incense, colognes and perfumes, bath oils and of course greeting cards in food, drug and mass stores (excluding Wal-Mart), according to ACNielsen Strategic Planner data covering these key weeks in 2006.

Possibly some non-romantics buy bath oils to relieve dry skin in the heart of winter - witness the segment's consistent high sales index of 200 in the cold months - but romance and indulgence indisputably lift the category. And while incense can set a mood at any time, and people love chocolate without regard to the calendar, sales soar from love in the air. Key destinations for Valentine's Day prompt retailers to sign, display and price-promote the event from mid-January to make it last a month. Even better if boyfriends and husbands consume the boxed candy they buy early and repurchase it.

To illustrate, the most dramatic rise occurred in special chocolates, which indexed at 131 in the week ended February 4, then doubled to 272 the following week, and soared to 710 in the actual week of Valentine's Day last year. (A value of 100 describes an average weekly sales rate in the category.) The peak 710-index week translated into sales of $134.4 million, up from $51.4 million in the week before Valentine's Day and $24.8 million in the week ended February 4.

This weekly spike topped that of Easter, Halloween and Christmas 2006. For example, special chocolates indexed at 642 in the week ended April 15, a figure that converts into sales of $121.6 million. The category indexed at 120 in the week ended November 4, worth $22.7 million in sales. And it indexed at 344 in the week ended December 23, which translates into sales of $65.1 million.

Sweethearts also went for dietetic chocolates, a segment poised to grow because of the surge in America's diabetics who must avoid sugar. They indexed at 126 in the week ended February 4, 157 in the week ended February 11, and 246 in the week ended February 18, at a peak value of $5.6 million in sales, the ACNielsen data show.

Giving goes both ways, and scents demonstrate the holiday trend. Men's colognes and lotions leaped from an index of 100 in the week ended February 11 to 170, or $4.8 million in sales the following week. For the identical periods, women's cologne and perfume rose from an index of 105 to 147, worth $8.5 million in sales.

Other high-percentage gainers from the holiday included: incense (index rose to 119 in the week ended February 11 and 141 in the week ended February 18); sparkling wine (index up to 84 and 137); lollipops (indexes of 221 and 316); fresh strawberries (indexes of 111 and 134) and fondue sauce (135 and 190); tiny dry bath oils (263 and 353) and the larger liquid bath oil segment (117 and 137).