Given the current economic situation, 2014 has hardly been the best of years for retailers so far. Consumers have become increasingly judicious in their spending, But February 14, Valentine's Day, could well be an exception. And it is also not only flowers and chocolates that have been selling well in the run-up to Valentine's Day. Retailers and consumer services companies have come up with many interesting and innovative offers for customers.
ASSOCHAM, in its recent survey, estimated the Valentine's Day market at Rs 18,000 crore. It also said the size of the market was large since the celebrations run through the week. "The spending during V-Day week will be 25 per cent higher than last year, which was about Rs 15,000 crore," the survey noted.
Apart from ecommerce companies and retailers, which are offering discounts and special deals, travel as well as fitness companies have also jumped into the fray and are seeing a spike in customers.
Gym chain Golds Gym, for instance, has offered its customers a 40 per cent discount on "couple membership". This has led to a 15 per cent growth in the membership since the beginning of February across the 86 centres Golds Gym runs. The enrollment of women has gone up substantially in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities with this scheme, notes Shraddha Sheth, Vice President Sales and Operations, Gold's Gym India, which suggests that even in these places, men are encouraging their partners to join gyms.
Fitness chain Talwalkars Better Value Fitness Ltd also has a similar offer where with every membership, a second one is being offered at a 50 per cent during Valentine's week.
Airlines are also not far behind, notes Assocham. They are tying up with reputed travel houses and hotels to provide holiday packages to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Shimla, Mumbai, Goa, and Kerala as well as overseas destinations such as Bangkok and Singapore.
Pragya Singh, Associate Vice President, Retail, at consultancy firm Technopak agrees. "February 14 being a Friday and close to the weekend has given people a chance to plan a lot more than they would have done had it been any other week day. This also gives an opportunity to retailers and service providers to offer packages which are different from the usual," she says.
Various travel portals are offering Valentine's getaway destinations with discounts on flights as well as hotel bookings. Travel booking companies are also announcing special weekend. "We ran a Valentine's Day offer on our website… and saw of surge of 30 to 35 per cent in bookings," says Vikram Malhi, General Manager, South and Southeast Asia, Expedia.
A number of hotels and restaurants have rolled out the red carpet for couples. Donut brand Mad Over Donuts has launched a special Valentine day range, introducing heart shaped donuts.
"Valentine sales account for nearly 25 per cent of business share for a luxury brand. It is a heavy buying festival that has seen a significant jump over the past five years," says D. S. Rawat, Secretary General ASSOCHAM.
Hearts are what jewellery companies are also trying to win. Online jewellery retailer, CaratLane.com has a collection specially meant for the occasion, with discounts up to 20 per cent. Brick and mortar stores such as PC Jeweller and RK Jewellers have also come up with special collections, priced at Rs 5,000 and above to attract more shoppers.
"While flowers, platinum or diamond jewellery and branded apparel remain the most preferred gift items, the demand for "something different" is growing in the metros," said ASSOCHAM's Rawat.
Something different is what Infibeam has done this time round. While offering its express delivery service of cakes, chocolates and flowers in bigger cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, among others, the online retailer will also have the delivery boy carrying a guitar with him. While delivering the package, he will sing a song as well, strumming his guitar.
"The demand is so high, we have run out of delivery people and are now having to manage the schedules accordingly," says Vishal Mehta, CEO and Founder of infibeam.com. The company has also come up with gold coloured roses, of which "a few thousand pieces have been sold", he says. Stocks have run out.
"People are now thinking of innovative ideas… If somebody is offering it, then becomes an idea for them to grab," Singh of Technopak says, adding that for marketers and service providers this becomes another way to attract customers.