Retailers are pulling out all the stops for Valentine’s Day . Some boast displays with flowers and candy. Others cross-merchandise everything from meal solutions, home decor products and novelty gift items, and toss in custom flower arrangements and free giveaways too.
Valentine’s Day is one of the most heavily promoted holidays in supermarket circulars, with Mother’s Day as its closest contender, according to a 2013 report by ECRM, the Solon, Ohio-based market research and promotional data firm.
Sandi Probst, floral manager and events coordinator for Lin’s Marketplace, St. George, Utah, takes her store’s Valentine’s promotions to a whole other level.
“This year, our display will have a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the center surrounded by framed photos of Elvis Presley, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, and Jax from Sons of Anarchy, all on Harleys,” said Probst. “We will also have floor-to-ceiling jumbo mylar balloons and a 15-foot, double-sided banner with the message, ‘Love is all You Need and Maybe One of These!’”
Products from the store’s scratch bakery and candy and greeting card departments will be tucked in amongst the props. So will a workstation that floral employees will use for making custom flower arrangements upon request.
“We will have other [premade] flower arrangements in the floral cooler and potted plants too,” she said. “And, there will be a balloon station filled with balloon bouquets.”
Flyers have been printed to pass out to shoppers, detailing all the Valentine’s Day products that are part of the promotion, plus information about the store’s giveaway of one dozen roses and a box of valentine candy.
In the past, Probst has entered and won a number of display competitions at the national and state level. One of her favorites was a “Phantom of the Opera” arrangement, demonstrating that whether it’s a rough and rugged Harley theme or a classic stage musical, virtually any scheme can be transformed into a holiday promotion.
John Hauptman, partner at Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill., has led Global Market Development Center studies related to seasonal best practices, including Valentine’s Day promotions. His findings suggest that supermarkets target one type of shopper in particular.
“One large segment during Valentine’s Day is the man in a hurry,” said Hauptman. “Consequently, we recommend setting up a special display area near the entrance, at least three days before Valentine’s Day. This section should contain a wide variety of items including greeting cards, floral, candy, HBC items, wine and baked goods so male shoppers can get in and out quickly with whatever their sweethearts might like.”
Read more: SN's floral category page 
Designating an express checkout “Lover’s Lane” would create additional convenience for last-minute shoppers, an idea Hauptman got from New England-based Stop & Shop .
ECRM’s research revealed that several of the most commonly advertised Valentine’s Day products at supermarkets are steak, lobster, wine and, of course, roses, which Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer Inc.  anticipated selling one million of last year, according to a post on its Facebook page.
Meijer typically fills its circulars with an array of items ranging from jewelry and food to craft accessories, baking molds and bright red photo albums.
Valentine's at Publix
Publix Super Markets , Lakeland, Fla., incorporates premade gift baskets, candies, flowers and other standard romance-related items during this time of the year. It also promotes Valentine’s Day meal solutions through its Apron Simple Meals program.
“We always create a special recipe for our customers for Valentine’s Day,” said Publix spokesperson Maria Brous. “Then, we stock recipe cards in an adjacent kiosk and display the ingredients needed to recreate the meal in a nearby cooler for convenience.”
Superstores, with their multitude of nonfood offerings, have wide selections of SKUs they could showcase during the holiday.
Those with photo development service can promote custom gifts like picture mugs, mouse pads and even personalized kids’ valentines. Baking molds, gift bags and treat bags for parents prepping for in-school parties are potential picks too, said Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill.
Supermarkets shouldn’t sidestep social media, said Wisner. He cited Kroger and Harris Teeter as two chains utilizing Pinterest in creative ways, like Kroger’s recent post on Pinterest prompting people to make a pink pancake breakfast on Feb. 14.
“We have a Pinterest ‘Pin It to Win It’ contest and a ‘Text to Win’ event going in February,” said Cindy Schmidt, senior perishables specialist for Festival Foods, Onalaska, Wis. “We will also be featuring our floral leads on Facebook before Valentine’s Day. We start setting up displays in our stores in January, along with signage in the floral department that says, ‘Valentine’s Day Is Coming Soon!’ reminding people to think of Festival when that time comes.”
As the holiday draws near, departments throughout the store stock things like chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate strawberry bouquets, heart-shaped cheesecakes, truffles, fruit pizza, colored Rice Krispies treats, red finger Jello, frosted cookies and a variety of pink fruit fluffs, added Schmidt.
“Whatever the promotion, the idea is to engage the customer and if they’re using social media, that’s what the supermarkets should be using too,” said Wisner.
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