Once upon a time, on Valentine’s Day, I tied dozens of balloons to my boyfriend’s car – it was in a prominent position in the office car park – and scrawled a heart with lipstick on the windscreen.
I thought it was hilarious. I think he did too. Later. Lipstick is hard to remove from glass. We married, so he forgave me.
That was 30-something years ago. Valentine’s Day was more an opportunity to play a joke on someone, send flowers anonymously and watch them squirm. Now it’s big business – up there with Halloween, which has developed a life of its own around Australia.
But unlike Halloween, which might require an inexpensive costume and a few bags of lollies, Valentine’s Day can stress the bank balance when you may just have got it under control after Christmas.
Last year, comparison website Finder.com.au surveyed 1000 couples who had been married in the past five years and found most respondents planned to spend at least $100 on their partner. While $200 per couple was typical, some big spenders lifted the average to $315 per person.
Personal finance app Pocketbook crunched through the transactions of 135,000 Australians, looking at how much people had spent on likely Valentine’s Day items in the fortnight leading up to February 14. They concluded that men had spent an average of $123 and women $91. Obviously an expensive business for those who care – or have to care.
In crunching the numbers and looking at the most popular gifts in past years – roses – the question arises: are the blooms local?
The answer is that most aren’t, which translates to higher prices.
In the month leading up to Valentine’s Day last year, the Federal Department of Agriculture recorded that Australia imported more than nine million rose stems, with the majority sourced from Kenya, according to an ABC report.
Kenya supplied 5.22 million rose stems, up by nearly 850,000 roses on the same period in 2016. So for anyone buying roses this Valentine’s Day and aiming to buy local, you will need to ask the question.
Meanwhile, Woolworths was preparing for similar buying patterns to 2017.
“We predict there will be an influx of last-minute purchases,” a spokesperson said. “We’re gearing up to sell more than 90,000 single stems.”
Woolworths also expected to sell 900,000 chocolate boxes by Valentine’s Day, with a third of sales, 300,000, taking place on the 13th and 14th..
Do you think Valentine’s Day is just another gimmick?