Stores gear up for Valentine's Day sugar rush 

Since men tend to procrastinate when shopping, Valentine’s Day poses a challenge for chocolate companies trying to anticipate crowds and stack stores with supplies and employees.

Richard Van Doren, vice president of marketing for See’s Candies, said Feb. 13 and 14 are the South San Francisco-based company’s biggest sales days because it is men typically shopping for their significant others.

“Men procrastinate,” he said “But we give them free samples to keep them happy while they wait.”

Van Doren estimates an increase in sales this year but noted it is too hard to predict. Valentine’s Day — Feb. 14 — falls on a Sunday this year, he said, and men might do their shopping on Feb. 11 or 12.

“So we put candy out — we stick our necks out and keep our fingers crossed,” he said.

To prepare for the increase, though, Van Doren said See’s Candies will set up kiosks in large malls to help alleviate some of the crowds in the regular stores. The company would not say exactly how many kiosks it would set up the region.

See’s has roughly 40 stores throughout the Bay Area, Van Doren said, including five on the Peninsula and four locations in San Francisco. There are more than 200 retail outlets nationwide with as many as 6,000 employees.

See’s started in west Los Angeles in 1921. The store resembled Charles See’s mother’s kitchen — pristine white with black and white tile flooring — according to the company Web site. Stores today have the same look as when the company started, Van Doren said, in order to stay consistent.

“Our workers also wear the same apron from the 1920s,” he said. “As a way of staying consistent.”

No one knows when Valentine’s Day began including chocolate as a traditional gift, but researcher The Nielsen Co. estimates
$345 million in chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day. Redwood City resident Helen Lomas, 79, said she buys See’s Candies for all different holidays because of the taste.

She was at the Redwood City store last week for a treat for herself — dark chocolate California Brittle — but will return in two weeks to pick up some gifts.

Lomas said she’s been a fan of See’s for more than 50 years.

“Ever since I moved to Northern California,” she said. “I remember going to the factory in Millbrae and my friends picking up 100 pounds of chocolate to give out.”

Van Doren said gift givers can choose between 120 different chocolates. For Valentine’s Day there are 35 different box assortments. A variety of red boxes already line the stores.

Valentine’s Day facts

- More than $345 million in chocolate candy will be purchased during Valentine’s week, 5.1 percent of chocolate candy’s annual sales. 

- More than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy will be sold during Valentine’s week.

- Feb. 13 — the day before Valentine’s Day — is the top total candy and chocolate candy-buying day in February.

- Feb. 15 — the day after Valentine’s Day — is the second most important chocolate candy-buying day in February.

- Valentine’s week is one of the top weeks for sparkling wine sales, with more than $8.6 million in sales, trailing only Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.
 
- Sparkling wine (750 ml) has its highest average pricing during Valentine’s week at $9.75, about 5 percent more than other peak sales weeks.

Source: The Nielsen Co.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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