'Double happiness' brings no joy to florists, eateries

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 February, 2010, 12:00am

A date with your wife or your mother-in-law? That is the strange dilemma facing romantically inclined Hong Kong men on Sunday.

For the first time in decades, Lunar New Year falls on the same day as Valentine's Day, meaning for many a tough choice between a traditional meal with extended family and a romantic dinner with the spouse.

The clash of dates is turning into a problem not only for lovers.

Valentine's Day is usually a big money-spinner for florists and restaurants, as lovers try to impress with bouquets, wine and food.

'We expect sales to drop about 50 per cent, as there will be no orders to send flowers to offices,' said Vince Chan, owner of Peanut Florists.

For her, Valentine's Day is the biggest day of the year and can represent two to three months of sales.

Chan has tried to encourage clients to order before Valentine's Day and offered to make office deliveries in the week leading up to the big day.

'The strategy failed, and we received very few orders for early deliveries,' she said.

Her shop will break Lunar New Year tradition and open on the day, and her team will be on hand to send flowers around the city.

Industry operators estimate that HK$150 million worth of cut flowers are imported into Hong Kong each year. Valentine's Day sales, which exceed those for Mother's Day, are estimated to represent about 5 per cent of all sales, or about HK$7.5 million.

Wholesale prices for cut flowers on Valentine's Day can be 50 per cent higher than for normal days and can run from HK$500 to several thousand dollars per bouquet.

Kennis Wong, a recently married beautician, said she would give up a romantic dinner to have dinner with her family but insisted on flowers.

'I have told my husband that it is a must for him to give me flowers on our first Valentine's Day after marriage,' Wong said. 'I know many flower shops are closed, but he may get some from the flower market on Lunar New Year's Eve.'

Rococo Flowers manager Suki Mak said orders for Valentine's Day had been cut in half.

Part of the reason may be bragging rights. Mak said many women want flowers sent to their offices to impress their colleagues and are not so keen on receiving flowers at home.

Meanwhile, restaurant owners that usually cash in on Valentine's Day are crying into their tablecloths, as people who would usually come out for a romantic meal will be at home or visiting their relatives for a Lunar New Year home-cooked meal.

While most restaurants will be closed, some still hope to pick up lovers seeking a night out alone. Amigo Restaurant says this year will be the first time in its 34-year history it will be open on Lunar New Year's Day.

Valentine's Day dinner is big business for restaurant operators, which can charge a big premium to provide candlelight, heart-shaped desserts and roses. At Amigo, couples can expect to pay about HK$1,300 per person for a four-course dinner - double the normal set dinner price of about HK$600 to HK$700 per head.

'We have already got a lot of bookings for Valentine's Day, and we expect to be booked out,' a spokesman for the restaurant said.

Some restaurants are trying to make the best of the situation. DiVino Group, which runs four Italian restaurants in the city, is running an extended Valentine's Day promotion from February 8 to 15.

Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Holdings, said it was 'double happiness' to have both festivals falling on the same day.

'We will decorate Lan Kwai Fong in a way to celebrate both the Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day, and restaurants will be open for lovers and for families,' Zeman said. His company will offer a special bartender service delivering flowers and cocktails to people's homes.

'I do not see this year to be a challenge, as it provides good business opportunities,' Zeman said.

Maxim's Group is also taking advantage of the clash of dates. Its cake shops will offer both Chinese puddings and Western-style Valentine's Day cakes.

Major hotels do not find the clash to be a problem, since most of their restaurants are open all year round.