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Valentine's Day is time to splurge on sweetheart

February 12, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Valentine's Day is time to splurge on sweetheart

Hagerstown resident Jeremy Bean said he tends to be traditional in his Valentine's Day shopping, usually buying roses and candy for his sweetheart.

Bean, 21, was planning to stick with the tried-and-true combination again this year, at least until his wife, Pamela, told him she didn't want candy, he said.

He was still thinking about getting the flowers, along with whatever else his wife tells him she wants. And he doesn't expect to get anything in return.

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The way Bean sees it, Valentine's Day is more of an occasion for men to splurge on their sweethearts than vice versa.

Judging by shopping patterns, that traditional take on the holiday prevails locally and around the country, according to area retailers and a nationwide survey.

The average man expects to spend more than twice what the average woman expects to spend on gifts this Valentine's Day, according to the International Mass Retail Association's annual consumer survey.

Men will spend an average $119, primarily buying for their wives or girlfriends, while women spend an average of $56 on gifts and buy for a larger number of people, according to the IMRA survey.

What they're buying explains the gap, said Jennifer Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Arlington, Va., trade association.

"I think men feel more pressure on them to buy a nice gift," Roberts said.

Standard choices like flowers, jewelry and dinner out can be fairly expensive, she said.

"You pick up the phone and order a dozen roses. It's a lot," Roberts said.

Of the men surveyed, 38 percent said they planned to give flowers compared with 8 percent of the women.

Although they've had some women order for their sweethearts, most of the Valentine's Day sales at The Flower Basket in Martinsburg, W.Va., come from men ordering for their wives or girlfriends, said clerk Tracey Stotler.

Long-stemmed roses and basket arrangements are popular, Stotler said.

While the number of orders going to men has been increasing in recent years, Brown's Florist in Hagerstown still fills more orders from men to women for Valentine's Day, said floral designer Kim Cook.

Long-stemmed red roses are the most popular floral selection, Cook said.

At O'Connell Jewelers in Valley Mall, men far outnumber women when it comes to buying jewelry for Valentine's Day, said owner Dan O'Connell.

Male gift shoppers usually spend between $100 and $300 and favor gold chains, bracelets and diamond stud earrings, O'Connell said.

A lot of engagement ring shopping also is done around Valentine's Day, he said.

Watches, tie tacks, tie bars and birthstone rings are popular with female gift buyers, O'Connell said.

Candy and cards top the average woman's Valentine's Day shopping list, with 28 percent saying they buy candy and 26 percent saying they buy cards, according to the IMRA survey.

Candy came in second below flowers for male shoppers, 23 percent of whom said they were planning to buy candy.

Olympia Candy Kitchen in Hagerstown gets as at least as many men as they do women buying Valentine's Day candy, said manager Melodie Miller.

Men don't necessarily spend more on the candy, Miller said.

But it's often only part of the gift, she said.

Miller said many men bring jewelry and ask to have it put in with the candy.

She's packed diamond rings and a diamond and ruby necklace this year.

"It's a really fun time," Miller said.

Men generally think of Valentine's Day as a romantic holiday and thus limit their valentines to their sweethearts, Roberts said.

Women often include children, grandchildren and parents as well, she said.

"While it's a romantic holiday for them, they're buying gifts for all their loved ones, not just their sweethearts," Roberts said.

Hagerstown resident Giorgina Young said she usually buys her husband an article of clothing and gets her kids something small like candy or toys.

Her husband, on the other hand, usually springs for dinner and flowers, said Young, 32.

"I'm happy with that," she said, although she remembers he bought her jewelry earlier on in their nine-year marriage. "It's just a sweetheart day. That's all."

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