It might be the thought that counts but when it comes to Valentine's Day, Kiwis are leaving such thoughts to the last minute.

Figures released by Countdown to the Herald on Sunday show we are a nation of last-minute buyers when it comes to the day of love. Most purchases are made the day before or on Valentine's Day itself.

Countdown merchandise manager Steve Sexton said: "This is unique to other occasion holidays such as Easter or Mother's/Father's Day, where people tend to buy in the weeks leading up to the date."

Nine out of 10 bunches of Valentine's flowers are bought on the day, with the biggest sales spike at 5pm. "This obviously shows that we're all really keen to have the freshest flowers possible - or that we are taking last-minute to a new level," Sexton said.


There is a 1000 per cent increase in the sale of red roses on Valentine's Day compared with any other day. About 120,000 rose stems will be sold in Countdown supermarkets.

Foodstuffs also sees a rush on flowers on the day before Valentine's Day, and on the day itself. Its New World and Pak'nSave stores reported a spike in speciality chocolate sales in the week before February 14.

Florist Kerry Bradburn from Wild Poppies said most flowers were ordered on February 12 and 13, although people still called on the day wanting deliveries in an hour.

She said that, compared to five years ago, there was more variety in what gifts people were buying. Presents such as cupcakes and candles were popular, and the price did not go up as much as it did for roses.

"Roses are supply and demand in terms of pricing. You can't turn the hose on a bit harder for more roses." Most people would spend about $100 on flowers or slightly more, she said. Wild Poppies would get four times its normal orders in the lead-up to Valentine's Day.

A spokeswoman for The Warehouse said most sales of flowers and confectionery happened after midday on February 14.

Cadbury Favourites and Ferrero Rocher were the top-selling Warehouse chocolate brands for Valentine's Day.

"More people are giving non-traditional Valentine's Day gifts , so we are also seeing increased sales in home decor items and apparel. Now that some of our fun new range of onesies have landed in store, we expect sales of these to lift as customers look for an alternative gift."

In the week leading up to Valentine's Day, 94,000 boxes of chocolate will be sold in Countdown stores - one-and-a-half times the usual amount. More than half of those will be sold on February 13 or 14. Sexton said three cities had, by a small margin, the most romantic Countdown shoppers. As a percentage of sales, Auckland, Hamilton and Palmerston North have the highest number of Valentine's Day purchases. In Auckland, the busiest supermarkets were Auckland Metro and Quay St. The most popular Valentine's gifts were red roses, Cadbury Favourites, Cadbury Roses, and the Ferrero Rocher and Hershey's Kisses ranges.

University of Otago marketing department associate professor Lisa McNeill said people probably left shopping to the last minute because of mixed feelings about the day. "A lot of people feel a bit pressured into Valentine's Day. They do the whole 'I'm not really into it' but then they feel the obligation as it gets closer.

"Or a lot of people who weren't going to do anything find the look on their partner's face in the morning changes their mind."

True romance goes beyond roses

Doing things together, or for each other, is more valuable for a relationship than spending money, says clinical psychologist Nic Beets.

"I think rituals can be helpful but when it becomes an empty ritual, or is taken over by having to prove things according to some sort of official societal expectation, that's not helpful," he said.

"Doing things that are about quality time together are far more valuable than expensive gifts or spending money in restaurants."

He said couples should take the chance to go for a walk, prepare a meal or sit and talk together.

"Particularly if you've been avoiding having a conversation that your partner wants to have ...

"Saying if you really want to talk about it, let's do it, that's more romantic than a big bunch of roses."

He said it was the sense of giving yourself that would be of value.

Single red rose price

Countdown: $3.99.
The Warehouse: $4.99.
Wild Poppies: From $25.
Best Blooms: $30.
New World: Long-stem $14, small stem $4.99.