Valentine’s Day might be a costly affair for couples, married folk and people looking for a relationship, but it is a financial boon for businesses – chiefly flower outlets, chocolatiers, speciality gift stores, restaurants and card manufacturers.

Even small businesses and the informal trade sector are jumping on the bandwagon and cashing in on Valentine’s Day – just take a walk down some of Durban’s major streets and you will see rows of street traders selling everything from mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards and teddy bears to plastic roses and lingerie.

Jerusha Chetty, manager of Lall’s Fresh Flowers stall near The Workshop and Durban City Hall, said Valentine’s Day week was their busiest period.

“Most of our stock for Valentine’s Day is sold the day before, or on the day. We sell about 15 000 mainly red roses, which is several times our normal business. It’s about a 50/50 split between special orders and those customers who buy on the day,” she said.

“People from all walks of life buy flowers for Valentine’s Day, from businesspeople working in the city, to youngsters. They still spend money, despite tough times, going all out to impress their loved ones on Valentine’s Day.”

She said the price of red roses went up ahead of Valentine’s Day. Depending on the quality, a single rose could cost between R10 and R20.

Major retailers have also stocked up and even home industries and small businesses are cashing in.

Valentine’s Day sales also represents a major post-Christmas busy period for specialist stores such as Cardies and CNA.

The Cardies chain, owned by SA Greetings, did not want to comment on card sales and other items for the occasion. However, according to a report in The Guardian, the US Greeting Card Association said about a billion Valentine’s cards were bought throughout the world each year, making it second only to Christmas.

According to Ryan Bacher, managing director of South Africa’s biggest online flower retailer, NetFlorist, Valentine’s Day gift orders were up 40 percent last year, with some 11 000 orders made nationwide.

“Valentine’s Day brings in around 8 percent of our sales for the year… Sales are going well and we expect between 20 and 30 percent growth this year,” he said.

Asked about South Africans’ spending on Valentine’s Day in tough economic times, Bacher said: “People seem to celebrate Valentine’s Day no matter the economics of the day.

“It’s a great way to show your love for your wife, girlfriend or someone you hope to court.”

Unsurprisingly, red roses were the most popular product sold. He said NetFlorist used around 130 000 red roses for Valentine’s Day bouquets and gifting.

“In the 13 years we’ve been in business, we’ve never seen anything like it for any single occasion,” Bacher said in a report after Valentine’s Day last year. NetFlorist experienced a 59 percent profit increase each February, he said.

Philippe Touche, owner of La Boutique du Chocolat at Musgrave Centre, said sales for Valentine’s Day were more significant for his business than over Christmas.

“We specialise in hand-made Belgian chocolates and we are doing fantastically well this year,” he said.

“Heart-shaped chocolates and other Valentine’s Day creations are becoming increasingly popular in South Africa as people look for something different for their loved ones.

“I am French and have been in South Africa for four years… I am amazed at the level of how Valentine’s Day is celebrated and marketed here. I would say it is on the same level as in Europe.”

Touche said since the major revamp of Musgrave Centre, his boutique had been doing great trade and he was looking forward to his best Valentine’s Day yet.