Nicola Mawson, IOL Business Editor. Picture: Matthews Baloyi
Nicola Mawson, IOL Business Editor. Picture: Matthews Baloyi
File picture: Denis Farrell
File picture: Denis Farrell

Aaaaahhh - can you smell that? It’s the smell of hundreds of thousands of millions of roses (did you catch the 9 600 MW slip in last night’s speech too?). It’s the smell of Valentine’s Day - the one day a year we all go all-out and snap up chocolates and flowers and teddy bears to woo the one we love.

Sometimes, this is in the vain hope that they will love us back. Nevertheless, it’s a day we celebrate Cupid and his arrow and hope his magic will work for us, too.

My little one has embraced this Valentine’s Day with a surprising amount of zeal. I arrived to fetch her a few weeks ago, a day after the school disco was announced, and had one hang of a time persuading her to leave the playground and stop passing a note around. Usually, I’m greeted with a running hug; this time I had to resort to that old parental fallback. “One, two...”

When she finally arrived at my side, she was secretive about the note, too embarrassed to tell her old mom, although happy to share with her friends. “You can tell me anything,” said I. “But you’re my mom, not my friend,” was the response.

It finally transpired that a young chap had asked her to the disco - and I swear, if she was old enough to have blush hormones, she would have resembled a tomato.

Little one’s school has gone all-out for this auspicious occasion. There’s a civvies day, a cake sale, a disco and goodness only knows what else. And it all costs money.

Which is what Valentine’s Day seems to be about, actually.

Money-making racket

It’s nigh impossible to walk past a store now-a-days without being assaulted with a range of cute and fluffy - or more provocative - gifts. Once those are packed away, shelves will be filled with Easter eggs and bunnies and cuddly chickens.

Then there’s braai day - September 24 - which is meant to be Heritage Day but has been co-opted by retailers and rebranded so they can sell a ton of wors and charcoal.

After that, it’s Halloween. An American “celebration” of sorts that has invaded our country and now requires moms and dads to buy ghoulish masks and costumes and escort little people around on streets, knocking on strangers’ doors, to beg for sweets.

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Who thought it would be a good idea to bring that to SA? This is South Africa for crying out loud; we don’t let our kids roam the streets asking for sweets, it’s just not safe.

After that, it’s the retailing grand finale: Christmas, which starts around the end of October and climaxes in a shopping frenzy on December 24. The festive season is a retailer’s most profitable time, unsurprisingly.

Getting out of hand

Frankly, this is all getting a bit much. Even Incredible Connection is getting in on the act. The PC retailer is running a radio advert in which a desperate man needs to redeem himself - I can only imagine it’s 9am on Sunday morning when he rushes into the shop.

And, he’s looking for timeless, and costly. Timeless in a PC shop? It’s dated by the time you walk out the door.

Costly, no problem, and the salesman gleefully tells the desperate customer that he can sell him an Apple Watch, and then makes the point that Incredible has held its prices to pre rand-fall-out-of-bed levels.

The gent seemed pleased that he could buy his lady a gift for just under R6 000 and redeem himself. Frankly, if my man spent a fortune on a glorified watch that tells you how much you’ve eaten in addition to the time, he can spend the rest of the day in his cave.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real point of the ad. It has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day so much as Valentine's Day is a neat hook, a gimmick if you will, for IC to boast that it got its hedging right.

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Save us all.

Sure, I get the strain retailers are under, even the best of the bunch are battling amid increasing interest rates, a rand that won’t play ball and a tough environment all around.

But seriously? Is tainting the day of love the best way to boost your bottom line? (Not that I’m suggesting we should limit affection to February 14.)

So, I’d like to start a new movement: #GiveUsBackValentine’sDay. We have enough on our plates without the added pressure placed on us by retailers to live up to the mythical Jones family.

* Nicola Mawson is the online editor of Business Report. Follow her on Twitter @NicolaMawson or Business Report @busrep.