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Putting a price on love

By MICHELLE GROENKE   |   Feb. 10, 2013 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

CHICAGO, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Love may be priceless but the cost of romance is on the rise, U.S. retail analysts say.

Investment advisory firm Houston Asset Management's 2013 "Cost of Loving Index" reflects a 2.4 percent price increase for popular Valentine's Day gifts, including perfume, chocolates and designer silk neckties

The firm has been tracking the price of popular Valentine's Day gifts since 1990. Overall, prices have remained stable and the cost of a candlelight dinner for two has actually gone down.

The price of Chanel No. 5 perfume increased 14.04 percent, Godiva chocolates in a heart-shaped box cost 5.26 percent more than last year and the price of a designer silk tie increased 3.45 percent, the firm said.

The cost of two tickets to a first-run movie and a Valentine's Day greeting card remained the same while the cost of a romantic candlelight dinner for two at a fancy restaurant dropped 9 percent

A toast with a bottle of Simi California Chardonnay is the same as last year at $25.85 and the price of a silk designer nightie is unchanged since 2011 at $68.

"I don't remember another year since the inception of our Cost of Loving Index 23 years ago when the majority of gifts we track stayed at the same price points," said Bob Frater, chief executive officer of Houston Asset Management, said in a release. "Five of the nine gifts come in at the same price and that may reflect some stability in the market. But overall, since 1990 we have seen over a 2 1/2 percent increase in these prices. That may not be so bad for true romantics."

Last year, the average American celebrating Valentine's Day spent $126.03, up 8.5 percent from 2011. About 36 percent bought flowers and the Cost of Loving Index reveals a price of $129.07 for delivery of a dozen long-stemmed roses, the same as last year.

A survey conducted by BIGinsight suggests consumers aren't planning to boost spending much this year.

The National Retail Federation says the findings suggest only a slight increase in expected sales this year with the average person planning to spend $130.97. Total spending is expected to reach $18.6 billion.

"Valentine's Day remains one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year, and although consumers will be conscientious with their spending, it's great to see that millions of Americans are still looking forward to celebrating with their loved ones," Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said in a statement.

Shay said shoppers should expect plenty of promotions in advance of the holiday.

More than half (51 percent) of gift givers will buy candy, spending $1.6 billion in total, and more than a third (36.6 percent) will give flowers, with total spending expected to top $1.9 billion.

Other top gift items include jewelry, clothing and gift cards. Yes, gift cards. Fifteen percent of Valentine's Day gift givers say they plan to buy gift cards for their loved ones.

While people say they plan to spend the most money on their significant other, almost 61 percent say they will also buy cards or gifts for family members. One quarter of those surveyed say they will buy gifts for friends and 13 percent will buy Valentine's Day gifts for their co-workers. Americans aren't forgetting their pets either. The survey found 20 percent of consumers plan to buy gifts for their pets this year.

Men, as usual, will spend the most on Valentines' day; an average of $175.61, while women say they'll spend approximately $88.78.

The NRF poll of 5,815 consumers has a margin of error of 1.3 percentage points.

Diners who make reservations using OpenTable.com say they plan to spend an average of $139 for dinner with their valentine. While 51 percent say they'll have their romantic meal on Feb.14, 36 percent say they'll wait until the weekend.

Fondue and French food prove to be popular choices for a romantic night out, OpenTable said. The 2013 Diners' Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in the United States includes Canlis in Seattle, Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, Calif., and White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, Maine.

No time to shop? Retailers are making sure consumers have no excuse for forgetting their valentine. The NRF survey found more than one-quarter of those celebrating this year plan to purchase gifts online, up from 19 percent last year. Nearly 40 percent will do their shopping at discount stores, while 33 percent will visit department stores.

For those with more money than time, vending machines offer more than just candy bars and soda these days. A surprising number of luxury gifts are now available with the swipe of credit card.

You can pick up an ounce or two of gold at the "Gold to Go" machine in Boca Raton, Fla. Beluga caviar and blinis, truffles and escargots are available from vending machines in California and Hudson Hotel in New York dispenses designer furs and Ray-Ban sunglasses like candy.

For someone really looking to impress a valentine, how about a new car? A really expensive new car. For $90,000, you can buy a light blue Bentley Arnage T at the Mondrian Hotel in Miami or the Hudson in New York, the National Automatic Merchandising Association said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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