Are you sure?

Will you still be sending me a valentine?

Some ten years ago, Valentine’s Day was virtually non-existent in Hungary. And while many people continue lashing out at the foreign nature of the adopted Anglo-Saxon holiday, nothing seems to be able to stop the Valentine’s Day shopping spree. Well, the crisis, maybe.  

It’s only the early days of February, but the monthly targets of design startup Freshka have almost been met already. The company sells hand-made, crochet toy animal figures, and when they started to advertise their Valentine’s Day sales, offering their toys in “couples” with a slight discount, they found themselves unexpectedly tapping into a sizeable demand. “When I put the first couple up on Facebook, orders immediately started flooding in,” says Andrea Donner, Freshka’s founder and chief designer. By the end of February 1, around half of their monthly target had been completed, and the remainder of the orders swiftly followed in the next couple of days.

While a few people aim to be creative by giving unique or original gifts to their loved one, the vast majority of the estimated 50% of Hungarians who plan to buy presents for Valentine’s Day tend to stick to the good-old recipes.

“It’s not just a rose, it has to be a red rose,” exclaims László Müller, owner of flower delivery service Virágneked.hu. According to him, Valentine’s Day is the single most important day of the year for flower stores, and overtook “more traditional” holidays like Mothers’ Day (celebrated on the first Sunday of May in Hungary) or International Women’s day on March 8 long ago.

“We can usually generate a month’s volume in a day on February 14, but while the turnover is massive, the day has its collateral downsides too,” he says. “First of all, retail prices are becoming exorbitant around Valentine’s Day, and result in diminishing profit rates. As of February 6, the retail price of roses grew to EUR 1.80, some 30% above the normal price, and this tendency will continue until February 14, although the exact amount is currently unpredictable. Secondly, there is a huge risk involved, as the demand is highly vague, too,” he explains. “If we want to make sure that we can serve every customer, we need to increase our reserves, which inevitably results in more waste than on a usual day.” According to Müller a third aspect to consider is that, even though February 14 is a very busy period, January and the first half of February are practically dead months for the industry, so Valentine’s Day just about manages to offset the gaps caused by the lack of demand during the preceding weeks.

As for yearly trends, the financial crisis has obviously hit the flower industry as well. While most people consider Valentine’s Day a holiday specifically devoted to couples and lovers, some understand love in a broader sense, or at least they used to do so until the very recent years. “Men, and particularly those in the courting phase of a relationship used to be very generous on Valentine’s Day, while others bought flowers not only for their partner, but also their mothers, daughters, even colleagues or friends. Today, the number of people a man would buy flowers for on this day has strictly decreased to one,” László Müller tells us.

While most people opt for roses, international tendencies suggest that more valuable presents, like jewelry, is also taking a fair share of the Valentine’s Day gift frenzy, but in Hungary this is not the case. “Our sales figures don’t tend to show any visible sign of Valentine’s Day,” says Myrtill Hajnal-Uri, owner of premium jeweler Varga Design, adding that the same applies for more mainstream, commercial jewelers, too. “Jewelry is still a popular present for personal occasions, like anniversaries, birthdays or Christmas, but on Valentine’s Day people usually prefer inexpensive gifts,” she concludes.

And considering that they only had a month and a half to recover from the Christmas-related financial meltdown, we shouldn’t be surprised at all.