Retailers have teased and rolled out online deals for days, even weeks, but the real Black Friday is here.
The number of online orders for the two-week period leading up to Valentine`s Day on Feb. 14 surged 55% this year, to over 25 million from 16 million last year, while the value of sales rose 30%, to $2.7 billion from $2.1 billion, BizRate.com reports.
The love of chocolate, flowers and diamonds that draws shoppers to spend for Valentine’s Day is spreading in large doses to the online world. “We tripled our sales from last year,” says Pinny Gniwisch, co-founder and vice president of marketing for jeweler Ice.com. “We also doubled our conversion rate, to 2% from 1% last year.”
Ice is not alone. According to BizRate.com, the number of online orders for the two-week period leading up to Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 surged 55% this year, to over 25 million from 16 million last year, while the value of sales rose 30%, to $2.7 billion from $2.1 billion.
At Shari’s Berries International’s Berries.com, sales of chocolate-dipped strawberries-which are often arranged to appear like a bouquet of roses-grew 15-20%. “Things were great this year,” says Chris Schipper, business application specialist, adding that a mailing of 70,000 promotional postcards elicited 3,000 orders.
Sales of flowers, always a strong category for Valentine’s Day, continued to do well even at small web site businesses like KCFlorist.com, which is operated along with a single flower shop in Kansas City, Mo. “My web sales were up 25%,” says owner Gregg Katz. Although his business is tiny-it expects to do close to $300,000 this year in online sales, about 30% of total sales-KCFlorist.com does 80% of its sales to buyers from outside the Kansas City area, says Katz, who channels online sales through FTD and Teleflora wire services.
BizRate said 40% of online Valentine’s Day shoppers this year were influenced by free shipping offers, up from 23% last year. It also noted that women accounted for more online sales this year (54%) than did men (46%), reversing last year’s percentages of 48% for women and 52% for men.
E-retailers say they are benefiting from the same passion for buying something special that has traditionally sent Valentine’s Day shoppers into stores. At Ice.com, Gniwisch attributes his tripling in sales volume this year to high-priced engagement rings and diamond heart pendants. “We saw a shift from our regular base of customers to mostly men,” he says. “Men must be getting more confident in buying jewelry, or maybe the women are forwarding them our promotional e-mails.”
At Berries.com, which attributes its growth in web sales to word of mouth as well as to effective marketing campaigns, customers have responded with enthusiasm to the site’s new section for customer comments, Schipper says. “They like to tell us their whole Valentine’s Day story,” he says.