Hard-hit Australian businesses will be looking for some love on Valentine’s Day, as couples prepare to spend big on the most romantic day of the year.
It couldn’t come at a better time for retailers, who are desperate to recoup some of the losses incurred over the “dismal” six-week Omicron outbreak.
Florists and restaurants in particular are looking forward to being on the receiving end of millions of dollars worth of romancing.
Research from the Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan shows Australians will spend an average of $111 on gifts, for a total of $415 million.
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Flowers are at the top of the Valentine’s Day food chain, with the country’s florists getting ready to sell out.
But the pandemic has thrown every industry into a loop over the past couple years, and the exact outcome of Cupid’s big day is hard to predict for some businesses.
Flowers a must for Valentine’s Day
Bonnie Muir, manager of Adelaide-based East End Flower Market, said the store is “flying a little bit blind”, unsure what to expect this year after border closures meant better-than-usual sales in 2021.
“When the pandemic started, we did find that we got quite busy because people couldn’t travel and see their loved ones and see their friends and family, so they were relying on sending flowers,” she said.
“We’ve also found that in the last month or so, with the latest round of COVID-19, people have been choosing to get deliveries rather than come into the store.
“So it’s really hard to gauge [how] the shop will do over this weekend and Monday.”
But Muir expects the store has a good chance of selling out in flower deliveries, at least.
The store’s maximum capacity for flower deliveries stands at 350, and orders as of Thursday are “just shy” of 250, with expectations to fully sell out over Friday and Saturday.
This is more than double the store’s usual daily delivery numbers, which average between 100 and 150.
Although Muir labelled Valentine’s Day as one of the busiest days of the year for florists, coming in second after Mother’s Day, it’s not usually as big a deal for the hospitality industry.
But the effects of the pandemic have raised the stakes.
Extra bookings ‘desperately’ needed
Frank Camorra, part-owner of Melbourne-based MoVida and MoVida Aqui, said both establishments are fully booked out for the upcoming romantic celebration.
He said Valentine’s Day doesn’t usually make much difference in booking levels when it lands on a weekend, but on a weekday it’s a whole different story.
MoVida Aqui is usually closed on Mondays, but it will remain open this year especially for diners keen to make the most of the occasion.
It should act as a great boost for business, which Camorra said has been relatively quiet this year apart from the two weeks during the Australian Open.
Restaurant and Catering Australia CEO Wes Lambert said Australian diners’ fear of going out has declined as the country comes to grips with Omicron, after initially struggling during the beginning of the wave with customer cancellations and government restrictions.
After a “dismal” January, Lambert said the hospitality industry views special events such as Valentine’s Day as a “restart day”, which businesses can use to bounce back.
Chris Lucas, CEO of Lucas Restaurants (which runs Melbourne eateries such as Chin Chin and Kisumé), said the pandemic and record lockdowns have done “enormous damage” to the hospitality industry.
Lucas expects a revenue increase of up to 300% from an average day across his establishments this Valentine’s Day, which will help recover losses from the latest wave.
He said the reintroduction of restrictions, such as indoor capacity limits, are making it tough for the industry to get back to business as usual.
“Six weeks of this Omicron outbreak have really hit us very hard,” Lucas said.
“We’re desperate to try and get back some of the losses that have occurred over the last six weeks.”
This article was first published by The New Daily.