Retailers expected to see an increase in sales this year

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

As Valentine's Day approaches, flower shops such as The Rose Image are seeing more customers come in to get that special something for their significant other.

"We have been swamped," said Nora Cuellar, an employee of The Rose Image. "The phones have been ringing off the wall."

David Macareno and other men were lining up at the flower shop Monday to order flowers or snack baskets adorned with large balloons and stuffed animals.

"I didn't want to wait until the last minute," said Macareno, who was placing an order for his wife, Mary Macareno.

Shop owner Yvonne Grossman said Valentine's week is one of the busiest for her flower shop.

"This is our busiest, especially during lunch time and after five o'clock," Grossman said as she was arranging a flower bouquet. "Everything has to be prepared ahead of time."

At least four months ahead of time, the order for flowers is placed and the red, white and pink bows are made. Beginning Tuesday through Wednesday for about 36 hours, she and her employees will be working around the clock.

They will be using four vans to deliver the goods around the city, and out-of-town including San Diego, Ben Bolt, Agua Dulce and Orange Grove.

According to the Web site, retail experts said the Valentine's Day retail forecast is seeing black rather than red. The average consumer will spend $100.89 on Valentine's Day, up from $97.27 last year, according to the National Retail Federation's 2006 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, the Web site reports.

Almost 61 percent of consumers plan to celebrate the holiday, and the NRF is forecasting total 2007 Valentine's Day retail sales to reach $13.70 billion, up from $13.19 billion last year.

Grossman said what they sell the most is the roses in all different colors.

"We sell thousands, I don't know exactly how many because we don't count them," she said.

The bouquets can start with a single rose bud for $9.95 and up.

Cuellar said most of her customers know to order ahead of time, but she expects to see some that wait for the last possible minute.

"It's so funny because it's always the scared husband that comes in at the last minute because he forgot," she said.

"But we try to accommodate everyone, we even have kiddos that want something for their mommy."