Love by The Numbers: This Business of Valentine’s Day

If you were shopping for Christmas swag in hopes of scoring big post-season discounts, you might have taken notice.

In almost a blink of an eye, retailers moved quickly in preparation for Valentine’s Day. By the end of the first week of the new year, inventory on the shelves had magically transformed from tinsel and tree lights to pink and red hearts.

Valentine’s Day is a BIG deal in the United States. From all walks of retail, customers are faced with an endless array of love-inspired offerings to suit every taste and budget.

Each year, Valentine’s Day spending in the U.S. for sweethearts, kids, friends, coworkers, and even the family pet translates into billions of dollars. BILLIONS.

According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s Valentine’s Day spending contributed roughly $19.6 billion to the U.S. economy. Those numbers were the second-highest since 2013; topped only by a record $19.7 billion spent in 2016.  Given a stable economy, Valentine’s Day 2019 spending could easily match or exceed $20 billion.

Who’s Buying?

There’s nothing like the blush of young love. Whether it’s to impress a mate or to woo a potential one, 60 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 and 67 percent of those between the ages of 25 and 34 celebrate Valentine’s Day with gusto, spending more than the older folks. In fact, just half of those between ages 55 and 64 and only 44.7 percent of those 65 and older celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Most Valentine’s Day gift purchases are for a spouse or significant other. The other top gifting categories include family members, kids’ classmates and teachers, coworkers, and pets.

The $19.6 billion spent in 2018 translated into an average of $143.56 per person.  All Valentine’s Day gifting is not created equal, however. Men spend almost twice as much as women do. On average, guys spend $196.39 on their beloved, while the ladies spend only $99.87.

Where Are They Buying it?

As the first gift-centric holiday of the new year, big spending on Valentine’s Day provides a hefty boost to the economy. Despite the ease and convenience of the Internet, only 29 percent of shoppers order Valentine’s Day gifts online.

For Valentine’s Day in particular, shoppers seem to prefer the in-store “brick and mortar” approach to gift buying: 35 percent visit department stores, 32 percent shop at discount stores, 19 percent prefer browsing specialty stores, and 17 percent will stop by the florist’s shop on their way home from work. Even if it means waiting in a line that circles the building.

What Are They Buying?

The top five categories of Valentine’s Day gifts are candy, greeting cards, dining out, flowers, and jewelry.

Candy

More than 80 percent of consumers love their chocolate and it’s not surprising that candy is the No. 1 Valentine’s Day gift of choice.

The great thing about candy is that it can be purchased practically anywhere, at any price point – from grocery stores to high quality confectioneries – yet it’s still inexpensive when compared to flowers, fine dining, or jewelry.

For the past six years, sisters Caitlin Lyon and Michelle Novosel Pennell have owned and operated Pizzelle’s Confections at Lowe Mill.

“Valentine’s Day is literally a line of guys, lined up at the door,” said Lyon. “It’s also the one time of year where we can pre-box a variety of candy and it will sell.”

Pennell said, “Valentine’s Day is one week of craziness! We hope that people will come out and enjoy.”

Cards

Valentine’s Day cards are still popular and represent close to 45 percent of sales. Greeting card purchases include fancy romantic cards for one’s sweetie, as well as those packs of cards parents often buy for their kids’ teachers and classmates.

Despite being a high-volume item, Valentine’s Day cards are very inexpensive, thus generating a mere $1 billion in revenue.

A Night on the Town

Valentine’s Day dining translates into 35 percent of purchases and approximately $4 billion in generated revenue.

Tastes and budgets may vary, but most couples will spend a romantic evening out on Valentine’s Day, whether it be savoring fine wine and a fancy meal at an upscale restaurant or a sit-down meal without the kids at a fast food establishment.

Flowers

With close to $2 billion in revenue generated from domestically cut flowers, bouquets represent 38 percent of Valentine’s Day sales in the U.S.

“Valentine’s day is probably the busiest single day of the year for us. Men buying for their wives or girlfriends; if there’s a child, they buy a valentine for them, too,” said Karen Bowers, longtime sales clerk at Albert’s Florist in Huntsville. “People often wait until the last minute, so it gets pretty hectic.”

Co-worker Carol Moore said, “The phones ring off the hook, there’s a line out to the street. If Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend, it’s even busier.”

Jewelry

Despite representing only 19 percent of Valentine’s Day purchases, jewelry generated nearly $5 billion in revenue in 2018.

“Valentine’s Day is a big day for us,” says Karen Boehme, co-owner of Meyer and Lee Fine Jewelry. “But it’s not an anniversary gift purchase, where thousands might be spent on a special piece of jewelry, like a diamond necklace or ring. It’s usually less expensive, like a pair of earrings, a bracelet, or a necklace.”

Jewelry remains mostly a traditional, gender-based purchase –a man buying jewelry for his lady love.

“Men will often tell us that their wife doesn’t like jewelry,” Boehme said. “This is where we might suggest more traditional ‘staples,’ pieces that have timeless appeal and can be worn as part of an everyday look or for special occasions, such as a strand of pearls or diamond studs.”

To dispel the bad rap of husbands being last minute shoppers, she said there is a strategy to their purchase habits.

“Wives often manage the household budget so, to avoid suspicion, men will come in beforehand to place the order, then make the actual purchase closer to the date.”

Don’t Forget Fifi or Fido

In 2018, Valentine’s Day statistics show that man’s best friend is getting even more love over the past decade. According to a recent NRF survey, about 20 percent of US consumers plan to give their pets a Valentine’s Day gift.

It’s no secret that pets are already a big business 364 days of the year. Add $6 million in heart-shaped squeakies and dog treat sales on Feb. 14 and that’s a significant heart-shaped boost to the economy.

Grand Reopening: Trash Pandas’ Renovated Emporium Includes Season Ticket Center

It’s time once again to start talking Trash.

That’s right. Trash with a capital “T” – as in Trash Pandas.

The Rocket City Trash Pandas are holding a grand reopening of the team’s Emporium and Season Ticket Center on Friday. Doors open at the newly renovated store at Bridge Street Town Centre at 10 a.m.

Fresh on the heels of record-setting sales, the Trash Pandas will be selling never-before-available team apparel and novelty items. The first 250 fans who make a purchase of $25 or more will receive a commemorative “Stadium Groundbreaking” baseball.

“As most people know, our original plan was for a ‘pop-up’ store to stay open only through the
holidays,” said Trash Pandas Executive Vice President Jenny Askins. “But, the demand for our
products from throughout North Alabama was so intense that we complied with our fans’ wishes and will keep the store open at least until we move into the new stadium.

“Our customers were very specific as to the types of merchandise they prefer, and we have restocked and added new items based on their requests.”

The restocked Emporium will feature all sizes of the most popular Trash Pandas merchandise that could not be kept in stock during the holidays, including the ultra-popular New Era 59FIFTY authentic fitted cap; the one worn by all Minor League Baseball players.

Among the new merchandise available Friday will be tank tops, sleeveless tee shirts, and new colors and styles of infant “onesies.” Coming soon will be items such as pop sockets, pennants, wall art, pet supplies, and new styles of hats from New Era.

The store will host the official Trash Pandas Season Ticket Center. There will be seating samples from the ballpark for three premium areas: Home Plate Luxury Field Boxes, Legacy (drink rail) seating and High Tops. A new feature will enable potential seat holders to view the field from any seat in the ballpark.

While two sections of the new stadium have already sold out for the first three seasons (Reserved Seating Stadium Club memberships and the half-moon shaped Four Tops), new reduced-price Stadium Club memberships that do not guarantee an outside seat will be available.

“I continue to be amazed at how this community has accepted and become excited by our team,” said
Trash Pandas’ CEO Ralph Nelson. “Our industry measures brand acceptance by merchandise sales,
and it’s hard to go very far in North Alabama or southern Tennessee without seeing folks in Trash
Pandas apparel. Our fans told us what they like and we think the new items to be introduced this spring are going to start a whole new wave of excitement.

“It made all the sense in the world to keep the store open so that the Trash Pandas Nation will just continue to grow.”

Champy’s World-famous Blues, Brews, & Bird Comes to Madison This Spring

MADISON — An old Down in the Delta family recipe for fried chicken is coming to Madison in April.

Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken will open in the renovated Bison’s Bar & Grill building at 8020 Madison Boulevard, in front of Publix near Zierdt Road intersection. It will be Champy’s fourth location in Alabama. There are restaurants in Daphne, Alabaster, and Muscle Shoals; two locations in Chattanooga and locations in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Athens, Ga.

“I am a world-traveled foodie and Champy’s World Famous Fried Chicken is among the best fried chicken recipes in the world,” said managing partner Eugene Jung.

Jung, his brother-in-law David Harris and co-partner Michael Creekmore are refurbishing the building, replacing the floors and removing the booths to make more room for tables. They are expanding the dining room, the bar and the front and side patios, adding roll-up tarp awnings as protection against weather events.

“There will be a small outdoor bar on the front patio facing Madison Boulevard,” said Jung. “We can close it off for private parties or family gatherings of up to 80 people. Eventually, we will have live music off the bar patio.”

The menu includes salads, Southern favorites such as fried green tomatoes, buttermilk-fried pickles, and Mississippi Delta homemade hot tamales with coleslaw and crackers.

Champy’s won two Best of Southern Living awards, and several citywide awards in Chattanooga for its chicken.

“I know good food, so when I saw an opportunity to open a restaurant, I knew this location, right across from Town Madison and the new baseball stadium, was the place to do it,” said Jung.

Jung’s daughter and her family live in Huntsville, so Jung has relocated from Atlanta and bought a home in the nearby Lake Forest community.

“I am excited about introducing Huntsville and Madison to Champy’s this spring …. oh, and wait until you taste the tamales!” Jung said.



  

Ahead of Spring Opening, AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown Taking Reservations

It hasn’t opened, yet, but Huntsville’s newest hotel is taking reservations.

The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown, the first AC Hotels by Marriott in Alabama, said reservations are being accepted ahead of its spring opening.

The six-story hotel is across the street from the Von Braun Center and is the first tenant for CityCentre at Big Spring, a $100 million, mixed-use development in downtown Huntsville. The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown includes 120 guest rooms, AC Lounge, AC Library, co-working space, event space and three meeting rooms named for the city’s mill heritage – Lincoln, Lowe and Merrimack.

“With its Southern hospitality and strong appreciation for the arts, Huntsville is a great match for the AC by Marriott brand,” said Srinath Yedla, CEO of Yedla Management Co., which will manage the property. “The hotel provides everything essential you need – and nothing you don’t – creating a seamless, tranquil and frictionless experience for guests, whether traveling for business or leisure.”

The hotel will be anchored by Atlanta chef and restaurateur Marc Taft’s restaurant—The Gemini Kitchen + Cocktails, which is set to open in the fall. Gemini will be an approachable polished-casual restaurant for those looking for an affordable, quality dining experience. Taft will provide catering for the hotel as well as oversee menus for the hotel’s second-story terrace, The Veranda.

Reservations for the AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown can be made at Marriott.com.

Huntsville to Launch Mobile and Credit Card Downtown Parking Payments

The city has plans to make it easier to pay for parking in downtown Huntsville. (USNews.com)

Huntsville’s high-tech expertise takes a leap into downtown parking.

The city is adopting new technologies to make it easier for patrons to pay for parking with a smartphone and credit card. Early next year, about 400 parking spaces, including those with coin-operated meters, will be updated for easy pay by smartphone and credit card options.

This will enable users to:

  • Monitor their parking sessions
  • Extend time remotely
  • View payment history
  • Receive email receipts

“We want to make it easier for customers to pay for parking and to extend their time without the hassle of returning to a meter,” said Tommy Brown, director of Parking and Public Transit. “You can be in a meeting that is running late and add more time to your parking meter using your cell phone.”

While a coin/bill pay option will still be available when paying to park downtown, Mayor Tommy Battle said the new meter system will make it more convenient for residents and guests to enjoy Huntsville’s downtown.

“People expect to have the ease of mobile apps and credit card options when they purchase a good or service, and parking meters are no exception,” he said. “This is just one more step in the City’s effort to modernize our business practices and make us user friendly.”

Parking and Public Transit plans to begin installing the new meters around Big Spring Park and Lot H, which adjoins The Avenue.

IOS, Android and mobile web apps allow motorists to park at traditional meters without needing coins. Parkers establish a minimum $5 wallet on the app with their credit card and pay for parking from that wallet. They will enter their license plate when they park and enforcement will use the license plate to determine who has paid to park.

Drivers will receive reminder notifications, email receipts and remote session extensions that allow them to extend their parking without going back to the meter.

A single multispace meter will service parking spaces so there are fewer meters to maintain. Drivers will enter their license plate when they park and enforcement will use the license plate to determine who has paid to park. The meters allow for more flexible forms of payment such as coins, bills and credit cards.

Drivers will be able to receive parking expiry reminders and to extend time via mobile phone using the integrated Extend-by-Phone service. PassportParking is free to download through the App Store or Google Play. Users can also manage their parking at ppprk.com. The app is also available in many cities nationwide.

Downtown Huntsville honored by international group

Downtown Huntsville was awarded a Certificate of Merit Award for the Spragins Street Greenway and Cycle Track Connector.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Downtown Huntsville Inc. was awarded a Certificate of Merit Award for the Spragins Street Greenway and Cycle Track Connector by the International Downtown Association.

The project was awarded a Certificate of Merit in the category of Planning during the IDA’s 64th annual conference and trade show.

This category features planning efforts that have established a strategic position for downtown, and that include elements of the plan that have already been approved, ratified, and implemented.

“The Spragins Connector creates an important bicycle link between two popular downtown parks – Big Spring Park East and Depot Park.  By making this connection, over 3 miles of pedestrian and bike infrastructure are linked,” said Chad Emerson, president/CEO of Downtown Huntsville Inc. “We’re grateful that our partners at the city of Huntsville implemented this key first step of the Downtown Master Plan Update.”

Washington, D.C.-based IDA is the premier organization for urban place professionals who are shaping and activating dynamic city center districts. Downtown Huntsville, Inc is the urban place management organization representing the interests of property owners in Huntsville. 

“Downtown Huntsville’s project received the IDA Certificate of Merit for successfully employing best practice in urban place management,” said David Downey, IDA president/CEO. “The Spragins Greenway and Track Connector is a shining example of downtown management delivering real value to the city.”

Trash Pandas Emporium Grand Opening Saturday Features Apparel Sales and Season Ticket Orders

The Trash Pandas will hold the grand opening of their store at Bridge Street Town Centre on Saturday. (Photo by Steve Babin)

“If you build it, they will come” is a well-known line from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

Well, in the case of Monday’s “soft opening” of the Rocket City Trash Pandas Emporium – “If you sell it, they will come.”

The area’s new minor league baseball team hasn’t played an inning. Heck, it doesn’t even have a ballpark.

But that didn’t deter fans from showing up and buying merchandise Monday.

The grand opening for the store at Bridge Street Town Centre is set for 9 a.m. Saturday.

The team will also be taking deposits for season tickets – the fee is $250 per seat. There will be brochures available so fans can see the seating for the new ballpark – which is expected to be finished by the end of next year. 

The Trash Pandas officially begin play April 15, 2020; meanwhile, the team is still the Mobile BayBears through next season.

Monday’s activity, though, was supposed to be a “soft opening” for the store.

The key phrase is “was supposed to be …”

“It’s been steady,” said Jennie Askins, the team’s vice president of corporate and community partnerships. “We didn’t promote this. This was to give our Trash Pandas Ambassadors (sales staff) a chance to learn and talk to people.

“And a chance to work out any kinks.”

Things were running pretty kink-free Monday as the steady flow of fans made their choices of apparel – ranging from jackets to caps to hoodies and T-shirts.

“The store will be open everyday through Dec. 30,” Askins said. “Then all sales will be online (trashpandas.milb.com).”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frontier Takes Flight at Huntsville International Airport

It was a Rocky Mountain high kind of day Friday when Frontier Airlines’ first flight from Huntsville took off.

“We are excited to be starting service and proud to bring our unique brand of ‘Low Fares Done Right’ to Huntsville,” said Jonathan Freed, director of Corporate Communications for Frontier Airlines. “Frontier is always looking for ways to make travel easier and more affordable, and our … frequent flier program with family-friendly benefits and attainable elite status, as well as our reduced change fees – free if you make changes more than 90 days before you fly – are the latest examples …”

The first flight departed for Denver at high noon Friday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Frontier will begin service to and from Orlando on Oct. 21.

“Frontier Airlines boasts a network that serves over 100 cities in the U.S., Mexico and Dominican Republic,” said Airport Executive Director Rick Tucker. “They have over 1,000 nonstop and connecting routes. Couple that stability and structure with our region’s excellent track record of supporting low cost carriers and it’s a recipe for success.

“This partnership fills a void in our market and provides our leisure and business travelers with more options for a lower price. Our customers appreciate convenience and we know they will support this service by flying local from Huntsville International Airport on Frontier Airlines.”

For information, visit flyfrontier.com and flyhuntsville.com.

Baron Weather Research Institute to Aid Transportation

So, how many times do you check the weather before hitting the road or the water?

Well, leave it to veteran meteorologist Bob Baron to help make those observations easier.

Baron, CEO and founder of Baron Services, has launched the Baron Critical Weather Institute, which will focus on the unique weather and safety challenges facing the transportation industry.

The goal is to create a comprehensive statewide weather observation network including road, river and atmospheric conditions. This will help ensure that citizens across Alabama will receive improved and more timely current conditions and forecasts on roadways and waterways as they travel across the state.

Baron said “the Tennessee Valley and the state of Alabama uniquely experience a broad range of weather events and contain terrain that extends from subtropical seashores to mountains along with navigable waterways, seaways, highways and airways.

“Our state is home to numerous manufacturing powerhouses who produce transportation-related products, including automobiles, boats, railcars and aircraft.”

The Institute’s efforts to develop, coordinate, and support world class instrumentation across the state will provide a building block for major weather research and development, particularly in transportation.

Guiding the Institute’s development are Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center; Dr. John Christy, Director of Earth System Science Center at UAH and the Alabama state climatologist; Dr. Steve Goodman, retired Chief Scientist, GOES-R, NOAA; Dr. Jack Hayes, retired director, U.S. National Weather Service; retired Air Force Col. Brian Hastings, director of Alabama Emergency Management Agency; Daryl Herzmann, Systems Analyst, Iowa Environmental Mesonet; Dr. Sytske Kimball, Chair of University of South Alabama Department of Earth Sciences and director of South Alabama Mesonet; John McLaughlin, retired Chief Meteorologist KCCI, Fellow AMS; and Tom Thompson, Partner, Chief Technology Officer, Baron.

Also, the Baron Critical Weather Institute will provide education outreach, including helping student scientists understand the importance of weather instrumentation in studying the weather.

Huntsville Strikes Silver with Flights to Orlando

Silver Airways has joined the ranks of air carriers at Huntsville International Airport.

And it didn’t waste any time with its first nonstop flight to Orlando taking off Thursday morning.

We are very excited to start this highly-requested nonstop service for business and leisure travelers from Alabama and the Tennessee Valley travelling to the attractions, beaches and businesses of Central Florida, including NASA and Florida’s Space Coast,” said Alabama native and Silver Airways Vice President David LeNoir. “We are delighted with the support and outstanding reception from the folks in the Tennessee Valley for our safe, affordable, and friendly air service.”

To celebrate the new nonstop Huntsville-to-Orlando service, Silver is offering fares for a limited time from only $99 at silverairways.com. In addition, Silver offers one-stop connections from Huntsville to Fort Lauderdale and Key West and one-stop connections from Huntsville to Marsh Harbour and Freeport in the Bahamas.
“The addition of Orland0 … to the list of nonstop destinations for our market has been received with great excitement,” said Betty Fletcher, chair of the airport’s board of directors.
Mayor Tommy Battle emphasized the importance of non-stop air service.
“Our push to offer more non- stops to our top destinations has brought us another outstanding airline to better serve North Alabama,” said Battle.
Airport Executive Director Rick Tucker said it’s important for local residents and businesses to take advantage of the opportunities at Huntsville International Airport.
“Attracting and sustaining new air service is a community-wide matter that affects each and every one of us – both the leisure traveler and the business traveler,” he said. “Launching this service from Huntsville to Orlando is an excellent step to providing all of the citizens of the Tennessee Valley more air travel options and savings.
“Support from the business community and our residents is integral to attracting and sustaining service like this in Huntsville and so we encourage everyone to fly HSV and Silver Airways so that we can continue to provide more air travel options to more destinations and with lower fares.”