WASHINGTON – Mel Fishman’s lingerie and adult store in Bethesda has everything anyone would ever dream of on Valentine’s Day — except customers.
“Usually around this time, there’s so many people I can’t even walk through the door,” said Fishman, manager of Night Dreams. “Right now, it’s just dead.”
The bad economy has retailers reeling in Maryland and across the country.
Most are still predicting decent sales during Valentine’s Day, but their hopes — like many lingerie styles this year — are conservative.
Local and national retail associations predict the same or slightly lower sales compared to last year.
“In this economic climate, no one’s expecting a super Valentine’s Day,” said Tom Saquella, president of Maryland Retailers Association. “We’re hoping things will pick up during the third and fourth quarter.”
A recent survey by International Mass Retail Association predicted consumers will spend an average of $71.50 this year down from $94.50 last year. More of that spending will go on at discount department stores than anywhere else, the survey found.
But the ominous predictions don’t faze Bob Chance, who owns W.R. Chance Jewelry in Annapolis. People don’t think of money on Valentine’s Day, he said, they think of romance.
The price of romance at his shop ranges from $25 bracelets for high school sweethearts to $4,500 necklaces for the more serious, and wealthy, lovers.
“This year, we’re even looking for a large gain in profits. So far, so good,” Chance said.
Most of Chance’s customers around Valentine’s Day are, of course, men. The average adult male in America will spend $125.96 this Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation. The average woman will spend $38.22.
Those statistics never cease to amuse Tony Klenis, manager of the Luv’n Time lingerie store in Greenbelt.
“The guys all run in here on Valentine’s Day, like they don’t want to get in trouble for getting nothing,” he said. “It’s fun to watch — kind of like panic city.”
The most amusing ones, Klenis notes, are men who have never before bought lingerie.
“You have to walk them through it a little bit,” he said with a chuckle. “The gift is more for them than for the women anyway. It’s like, `Let me buy you a fishing rod for your birthday, honey.'”
Male buyers constitute 62 percent of the Valentine’s season floral industry customers, according to the Society of American Florists. Unlike most retailers, however, florists and chocolate associations are predicting sales increases this Valentine’s Day.
“Valentine’s falls on a Friday this year. That could be very good for sales,” said Susan Fussell, spokeswoman for Chocolate Manufacturers Association. “That gives people five whole weekdays to buy.”
After 20 years of Valentine’s Days in retail, lingerie manager Klenis has heard all the predictions. In all those years, he’s learned one thing: “With chocolates and flowers, you could just be friends, but you give someone lingerie . . . no room for error there. Sex never seems to go out of style, thank God.” – 30 – CNS-2-12-03