Valentine’s Day is here, and retailers say it’ll be one for the record books.
A new survey touted by the Florida Retail Federation predicts Americans will spend upward of $26 billion celebrating the holiday — an increase of $2.1 billion over last year and the second-highest total since retailers began surveying in 2004.
The shopping spree will cut across several categories, including candy, flowers, cards, jewelry and more. Making sure shelves overflow with those Valentine’s Day necessities is a team effort, and many of the largest players have a footprint in the Sunshine State.
Those grabbing something sweet, whether candy hearts or a box of fine chocolates, will likely be doing Florida’s agriculture industry a favor. Sugar, after all, is one of Florida’s most prized exports.
U.S. Sugar is among Florida’s biggest businesses and, accordingly, they have many of the big-name lobbyists at the biggest firms on retainer.
Just as sugar is far from the company’s only export, the following is far from an exhaustive list of their lobbyists: Greg Black of Waypoint Strategies; Charlie Dudley and Cory Guzzo of Floridian Partners; David Browning, Mercer Fearington, Seth McKeel, Sydney Ridley and Clark Smith of The Southern Group; Richard Heffley and Kelly Horton of Heffley & Associates; Frank Mayernick and Tracy Mayernick of The Mayernick Group; Kirk Pepper of GrayRobinson; and Christopher Smith of Tripp Scott PA.
Flowers are another Valentine’s Day staple. While the Florida Wildflower Foundation may not play a hand in stocking stores with roses, they do a lot to ensure Florida’s native wildflowers stick around for all to enjoy. They no longer have lobbyists on retainer, but Floridians can help support their efforts by picking up a specialty license plate next time they’re up for renewal.
Flowers purchased for Valentine’s Day, however, are more likely to be cultivated than wild. As ever, roses are the No. 1 pick this year, but the Top 5 also includes lilies, tulips, carnations and alstroemeria, which is presumably the perfect flower for people who enjoy saying, “you’ve probably never heard of it.”
Where can you pick up flowers? Pretty much anywhere. Local florists are a good start, and that lines up with FRF’s “Find It In Florida” initiative. But if you haven’t pre-purchased a dozen already, you will need to roll the dice at the non-specialty retailer of your choice.
The first option for every true Floridian is Publix. The Lakeland-based chain relies on in-house lobbyist Thomas Culligan as well as Matt Bryan, Teye Carmichael, Jeff Hartley and Jonathan Rees of Smith Bryan & Myers.
While candy and flowers will account for more of the overall spend, retailers say the most-purchased Valentine’s Day gift this year will be greeting cards. That’s no surprise, given that every elementary school student in the state hands out a few dozen (or at least they did in the early 1990s).
For many, the most convenient place to pick one up is Target, especially since the national chain also will have plenty of candy and flowers on the shelf, allowing Floridians to work through their checklist without crisscrossing the town — thanks in part to Target’s team of lobbyists crisscrossing the Capitol Complex.
Their roster includes in-house advocate Molly Cagle as well as John Harris, Joseph Salzverg, Robert Stuart and Jason Unger of GrayRobinson.
Walmart is functionally the same when it comes to last-minute V-Day shopping. Their team includes Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Samantha Sexton Greer, Bethany McAlister, Will Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar of Corcoran Partners.
Of course, shoppers who’d prefer to avoid the lines at the big stores can check off most of their shopping lists at a corner store, such as CVS or Walgreens.
CVS is represented by in-houser Brooke Tiner working alongside a team of contract lobbyists, including Edgar Castro, Christopher Dudley, James McFaddin and Monte Stevens of The Southern Group, as well as Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Megan Fay, Maicel Green, Ashley Kalifeh and Scott Ross of Capital City Consulting.
Meanwhile, Walgreens has Jake Farmer on payroll and lobbyists Brian Ballard and Christopher Hansen of Ballard Partners on retainer.
About one in three consumers told the National Retail Federation they plan to celebrate with a night out. That likely means dinner, and the thousands of establishments — and 1.5 million employees — represented by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) are more than happy to oblige.
Hospitality is a nearly $112 billion industry in Florida, and FRLA likewise has a large presence in the Capitol, including President and CEO Carol Dover and in-house lobbyist Samantha Hunter Padgett on their side. Their contract lobbyists include Warren Husband, James Daughton, Douglas Bell, Leslie Dughi, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Aimee Diaz Lyon, Andrew Palmer and Karl Rasmussen of Metz Husband & Daughton, as well as French Brown of Dean Mead.
We usually close these rundowns by reminding our readers of the true meaning of the holiday in question.
There are three saints named Valentine or Valentinus, but the holiday’s origin stems from the one who was a priest during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II.
The Emperor, also known as Claudius Gothicus for his decisive defeat of the Goths at the Battle of Naissus, believed single men made the best soldiers and therefore banned young men from getting married. Valentine defied that decree and performed marriages for young lovers in secret, which led to Claudius ordering his execution.
St. Valentine’s Day was later established as an annual festival to celebrate romantic love, friendship and admiration. So, we’re pleased to report that, as far as we can tell, modern-day celebrations are in line with the spirit of the holiday.
Of course, if the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops or their lobbying team — Christie Arnold, Michael Thomas Barrett, Mary Camp, Michael Sheedy, Michele Taylor — have any corrections, we’re all ears.