Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday February 13, 2021
Lovers in dangerous times: Valentine’s Day winners, losers in pandemic
When it comes to romance in the age of the coronavirus, COVID-19 hasn’t entirely clobbered Cupid.
This Sunday will be the first Valentine’s Day since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic last March.
If you’re thinking of making the time-honoured romantic gesture of sending your beloved roses or a bouquet, you will have plenty of company.
“Since COVID, the flower industry has just gone through the ceiling,” said Sarah Watkin, a veteran of the floral industry who works at Jim Anderson Flowers.
While the retail side of flower shops has dried up, the delivery facet is blooming because the floral industry was already set up for pandemic conditions, even before the arrival of the coronavirus. “The flower business has always been very close to 70 per cent on the phone anyways,” she said.
“There’s been very little pivoting for the flower industry, let me tell you.”
Jackie Bell-Jones, who owns Burke Flowers, confirms it was “not a huge shift” to adapt her operation to the new reality. The majority of her business was already not done in person.
“Business is up (on the delivery side),” she said, although wedding orders have fallen off.
Watkin said over the years, her customers have had less need to make their orders at the counter.
Plus, competitors such as drug stores that stock a few flowers ahead of Feb. 14 don’t have the same delivery infrastructure as her shop. “This year, we don’t have them stealing our thunder,” she said.
If you are in the habit of wooing your love over a romantic meal on Valentine’s Day, you’ll have to supply the ambience yourself because restaurants haven’t been able to open their dining rooms. It will be Tuesday before the gradual reopening of the economy arrives in Middlesex-London and restaurant owners find out in which colour zone the city will be placed.
Tony Elenis, head of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, said Valentine’s Day — although not as important as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day for eateries — was still a big one in pre-pandemic times.
“Valentine’s Day is a busy day, absolutely,” he said. “Valentine’s is a day that restaurants are spotlighted.”
Marty Novak, marketing and communications manager for Palasad Social Bowl, said this year’s Valentine’s Day will be a “missed opportunity” for his facility that draws a lot of the first-date crowd and even prospective grooms proposing in the place’s escape rooms.
“We actually go all out for Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day is a fantastic day for us,” he said, but that won’t be the case this year, although staff are gearing up for the reopening a few days later.
“We would have gone completely all out for it” if restrictions had been lifted before Valentine’s Day, Novak said, with features such as live music.
Elenis points out you can still enjoy a romantic meal on Sunday — you’ll just have to have it delivered or pick it up yourself.
“It’s not even (just) the little guys. Even the big guys are hurting,” he said of the restaurant industry. (London Free Press)