Business Advice

Is Valentine’s Day losing its appeal for customers? How to position your SME for special events

Dominic Powell /

While some may say an SME owner’s true love is their business, recognising the love of others on Valentine’s Day could lead to happier customers and a bump in sales.

Aside from a focus on love, February 14 is also a day of spending, with research from St George Bank revealing Australians don’t hesitate to spend on their partner.

The research shows men are more likely to get the wallet out, with a majority spending over $51 dollars, while their female counterparts are predicted to spend an average of $25.

This is down from the gender-combined average spend in 2014, which research from IBISWorld shows sat at approximately $86. This suggests some couples may be turning off traditional Valentine’s Day approaches, and one business owner agrees.

Paul Bonet, co-owner of Melbourne restaurant The Moat, has taken on a different approach to Valentine’s Day, telling SmartCompany last year was “a lot of work for the return”.

Tucked under the State Library in the city’s centre, Bonet describes last year’s Valentine’s Day as a “warm, intimate environment”, but notes the day doesn’t bring in much more business than normal.

“It’s not a huge day for us as opposed to any other day, and it was a lot more work for the return,” Bonet says.

“We would change up the menu, and refuse bookings from groups. We’d also have to turn down a lot of our regular clientele, it put them off.”

The restaurant decided to turn the day on its head, and this year will welcome singles and groups. Bonet says it will serve “share-y, messy food” and will feature board games and “ironic” Valentine’s music.

He’s already seen more interest from patrons.

“We’ve had a lot more traction as far as interest goes. A lot of positive responses from people who aren’t in relationships and groups of friends,” Bonet says.

Roses are red, violets are blue, I’d like to watch rampaging dinosaurs with you

Bonet’s restaurant isn’t the only place looking to turn a traditional Valentine’s experience on its head, with Melbourne IMAX showing two Jurassic Park films back to back.

“We decided to screen the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World double feature on Valentine’s Day for a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun,” IMAX Melbourne’s general manager Richard Morrison told SmartCompany.

“We know that dinosaurs, blood and guts and terrifying chase scenes aren’t super romantic but we thought it would speak to people looking for something different to do with their significant other.”

Keeping “on your toes” for special events

Bonet thinks the changing interest in the day is thanks to customers shifting their mentalities away from traditional Valentine’s Day experiences, noting people “don’t want to be dictated to when and how they want to spend intimate moments”.

“People have spent many years having to fall in line with these commercial events, they’re probably a bit sick of it,” he says.

For other SMEs wanting to take a different approach to days like this, Bonet advises to cut back on the “pomp and ceremony” and look to be unique.

“You’ve always got to be looking for a point of difference. The Melbourne market is growing but the supply to the market is growing faster,” he says.

“You’ve got to be on your toes.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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